Slaves No More, but Brothers and Sisters
St. Josephine Bakhita
On the 48th World Day for Peace, Pope Francis challenged all of us to recognize every other person as a brother or sister with God-given dignity. Unfortunately, there are about 27 million people enslaved around the world today – more than any other time in history. The present rate of child trafficking is 10 times higher than all the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the 16th to 18th century.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery; it is the recruiting, harboring, obtaining or transporting of a person by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation of sex or labor. Victims do not need to be transported across international borders. They can be women or men, adults or children, undocumented immigrants or a citizen. Trafficking is a crime under international, U.S. and Wisconsin law, and has been reported in every state in the U.S. Cases have been brought to court in over half of Wisconsin counties, both urban cities and rural farming communities.
The annual profits from human trafficking are estimated at 32 billion dollars, second only to drug trafficking. To put this in perspective, this is higher than the total profits of the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and the International Soccer Associations (FIFA and UEFA) all combined (www.statista.com). The current price of a human today is about $90. One trafficker put it “if I sell drugs, I sell them once, but a person I can sell over and over again.”
If I sell drugs, I sell them once, but a person I can sell over and over again.
On December 2, 2014, for the first time in history, the leaders of the world’s major religions gathered together in the Vatican with the aim of eliminating modern slavery by signing the Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery. The Declaration was signed by Pope Francis, along with eminent Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives. “Inspired by our confessions of faith, we are gathered here today for an historical initiative and to take concrete action: to declare that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms. The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men, women and children that is currently inflicted on tens of millions of people constitutes a form of dehumanization and humiliation.”
Following initiatives by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW), the Santa Marta Group was developed by the CBCEW and first met in Rome during April 2014 when police chiefs and Catholic bishops came to together, in the presence of Pope Francis, committing themselves to a partnership to eliminate human trafficking modern day slavery. The Pope described trafficking as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society”.
In an effort to raise awareness and strengthen a society based on the equal dignity of every person without discrimination, the Diocese of La Crosse Office for Ministries and Social Concerns is promoting education and awareness about human trafficking. A special patroness in this effort is St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.
St. Josephine Bakhita Prayer Card