The crime of human trafficking is an issue that leaders must take very seriously. When Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, he immediately wrote me, in my capacity as Bishop-Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, requesting that we study modern slavery and its solutions.Nine months later, the Pope convened religious leaders from around the world to declare that trafficking in human beings, the sale of human organs, as well as forced labor and prostitution, are crimes against humanity. World leaders echoed his conclusion in September 2015, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals – including target 8.7 to end these practices. Pope Benedict XVI had already declared that prostitution is an incomprehensible discrimination against women and a serious crime against humanity.
For these and other reasons, it is a moral imperative for governments to work together to achieve the vision set by our religious and political leaders. With millions of people still victimized by modern forms of involuntary servitude, there is no time to waste.Abuse in all of its forms does more than cause physical damage. It strikes at a person’s soul, deeply wounding our self-confidence and ability to trust others.
To fully grasp the depravity of this type of “moral violence”, think of friends who love, approve, and affirm one another, and how important that is for their individual and collective existence. It is not easy for survivors of human trafficking to experience this type of friendship, because the degradation and humiliation they have suffered can lead them to believe they are worthless. As a result, they are often unable to offer or receive the support and affirmation that true friendship requires. This disability can prevent survivors from establishing meaningful relationships, including marriage and creating a family.
Christ’s message of fraternity and freedom, coupled with the anti-slavery movement that began at the end of the eighteenth century, eventually led to the abolition of legal human bondage around the world. International treaties – like the Slavery Convention of 1926 – made many forms of slavery illegal. However, slavery continues under new names, stirring less public outrage or attention than past violations of civil liberties. While human rights became a defining feature of the post-World War II era, victims of modern slavery still suffer. Slavery means not being free to live your life, and being partially or completely dependent on someone who does not respect human dignity and our desire for happiness. It is easy to imagine that the pandemic, with the financial crisis it has caused, has exacerbated modern slavery.
What are the solutions? Our Academy has identified two areas that need special attention.Firstly, supporting survivors more effectively means moving away from interfaith dialogue and toward collective action. Survivors must be rehabilitated and reinserted into society, providing them with the necessary tools, such as education and job training, that can help them become independent. A model I recommend is Metanoia Manor, a shelter for the rehabilitation of teenage sex trafficking victims in Louisiana, which is unique in that it is personally supported by the Governor and First Lady, as well as the entire community, including political and Church leaders. I have been able to witness its growth since the beginning.
Secondly, leaders across sectors must raise awareness about human trafficking and implement solutions and laws to criminalize consumers, following the Nordic and French models against prostitution. Legal professionals – including police, prosecutors, and judges – should make human trafficking a criminal-justice priority. Most importantly, these efforts must be coordinated to ensure that victims are never treated as criminals.
When Pope Francis met with leaders at our Academy in April 2014 to discuss human trafficking, he called the issue an “open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.” Therefore, abolishing slavery is the old and new moral imperative for every human being and follower of Christ.
END OF BISHOP SANCHEZ’S TEXT TODAY.
Si Yu’os Ma’ase (thank you in Chamorro - the indigenous language of Guam) for including us in this very important conference. It was very informative and the panelists provided excellent information. Stay safe everyone!
Thank you First Lady Edwards and all of the panelists and organizers! MS has learned a lot from you!
We will make sure all questions get answered and will send everyone contact information for the speakers today. Thank you!