More than 40 million people today worldwide are considered to be “trafficked,” according to U.N. Crime Research Section data. Seventy percent of them are women and children.
A group of religious sisters is meeting this week in Rome to address the issue. They described human trafficking as a bane that is as widespread as it is resilient, stoutly resisting the broad and concerted efforts by the international community to put an end to this modern form of slavery.
“We must reframe the harsh realities of trafficking in our day and give it a hopeful future,” said Sister Gabriella Bottani, international coordinator of the Talitha Kum anti-trafficking network of Catholic men and women’s religious orders, during her opening speech Tuesday (Sept. 24) at the gathering in Rome.
At the meeting, the sisters made the case that it’s the small gestures, the private conversations and the whispered prayers that have the power to usher meaningful change, as they celebrated the 10 year mark of Talitha Kum’s fight against what they describe as an “ancient form of slavery in modern guise.”
“We are, in a sense, disciples of hope, knowing we can break through wherever there is despair and discouragement and bring life and light and a new future,” Bottani added, calling for a “worldwide network of tenderness, compassion and grace” to combat “the scourge of human trafficking.”
Created in 2009, Talitha Kum is the brainchild of the International Union of Superiors General and leverages the day-to-day work of religious women and men in 92 countries, across five continents.
While the nuns themselves describe their work as small, a drop in the ocean that is the reality of the trade of human beings, it has garnered the attention of big players. In June, the U.S. State Department honored Bottani as a “hero” in the fight against human trafficking.
Pope Francis, a powerful advocate for the plight of immigrants and trafficked people, will meet with the 86 Talitha Kum delegates from 48 countries in a private audience at the Vatican on Thursday.
Human trafficking is often most associated with stories like that of Maryam, a Nigerian woman who was conned into coming to Italy for a job opportunity and instead found herself forced into prostitution and a victim of sexual and psychological abuse. She was one of the 10 witnesses who came forward to tell their story at the gathering.
But the testimonies also included stories that take place closer to home, such as that of Sophia, from Belarus, who thought she had a ticket out of poverty when she fell in love in an online chatroom with a man living in the United States and decided to marry him.
“I slowly learned that ours was not a real marriage but a way to obtain money, a full-time housekeeper and a body on which to unleash aggression and anger,” she said in her testimony.
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Source: Religion News Service