Ever since he's been pope, Francis has talked about this problem often and called for specific action. His sense of urgency is clear.
And his determination undaunted. He has shown it time and again, like here when he addressed a group of ambassadors to present their Letters of Credence, something Francis wasn't about to allow to be merely ceremonial.
Today, there is one area I would like to consider with you which concerns me deeply and which currently threatens the dignity of persons, namely, human trafficking. Such trafficking is a true form of slavery, unfortunately more and more widespread, which concerns every country, even the most developed. It is a reality which affects the most vulnerable in society: women of all ages, children, the handicapped, the poorest, and those who come from broken families and from difficult situations in society. In a particular way, we Christians recognize in them the face of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the least and those most in need. Others, who do not profess a religious faith, in the name of our common humanity share our compassion for their sufferings and strive to liberate them and alleviate their wounds. Together we can and must employ our energies so that these women, men and children can be freed, thus putting an end to this horrible trade. It is believed that there are millions of victims of forced labour, victims of human trafficking for the purposes of manual work and of sexual exploitation. This cannot continue. It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community…
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.
What is called for, then, is a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front.
He goes further, calling out governments responsible for protecting…
…the victims of this crime, which, not infrequently is related to the narcotics and arms trade, the transport of undocumented migrants, and organized crime.
Here again, he called out the Mafia. And called on leaders and their ambassadors to confront anyone, even and especially the powerful, to use their influence for the protection of vulnerable human beings.
Your Excellencies, it has been my intention to share with you these thoughts regarding a social scourge of our time, because I believe in the value and the power of a concerted commitment to combat it. I therefore urge the international community to devise a more united and effective strategy against human trafficking so that, in every part of the world, men and women may never be used as instruments, but always be respected in their inviolable dignity.
Inviolable human dignity is the centerpiece of my new book , the center of gravity that should ground us all, no matter where different faiths and beliefs go from there.
I devoted Monday's radio show to this topic, and the hour flew before we got very far. Liz Yore was my guest, international child protection attorney, former General Counsel and Director of the International Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, presenter at conferences on human trafficking, including at the Vatican, and driving force being a website devoted to awareness and relief of the problem of modern human slavery.
This is happening across the world and in our hometowns. I learned from Liz on Monday that our hometown of Chicago is a major hub of human trafficking, with one 'safe house' for victims, once they're identified. There are two very obvious problems with that statement: one safe house in a major metropolitan, world class city, and the only one for victims once they're identified , because they mostly stay hidden in the darkness and shadows of the trafficking trade. "Victims don't disclose, so it goes unnoticed," said Yore. When authorities see weapons or drugs cross the borders, they confiscate them. When humans don't disclose that they are being smuggled, there is no detection and therefore not tip off to retrieve them from smugglers' control, she explained. They live among us, undercover, terrified to speak up because of the potential consequences.
Millions of dollars are spent on conferences about trafficking, just to talk about the problem, Yore told me. That thought is just mind-boggling, considering that nothing demonstrable comes from meetings. But when the meetings are with Francis, he sends attendees out with assignments, to report back to him on progress.
So here are ways to make a difference, Yore said. Of course, pray for victims, for justice, for an end to human trafficking. Support groups working to protect vulnerable human beings. At the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, the trafficking trade is expected to have a major uptick. Write FIFA and ask what they're doing about it. This article helps.
And finally, Yore said, befriend people you meet, show them a friendly face, someone caring, someone they might trust if they are in danger. Because the workers at a local nail salon, or on the cleaning crew in offices after hours, just may be enslaved in one of these dire situations and afraid to speak up. Give them an opportunity.
And by the way, before the radio show ended, one caller was a police chief in Minnesota who had been listening to the conversation and everything Liz Yore had been saying about all this. And he called to tell listeners that it was all true, it's all around us, and we must do everything we can to be present for people who desperately need protection, safety and trust.