HUMAN TRAFFICKING- “A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY”
On the 18th March IMBISA participated at a Regional Conference to combat Human Trafficking at the Arrupe Jesuit University in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Conference was organised by the African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching (AFCAST) and brought together various actors in the area of human trafficking including the Governments of Zimbabwe and the United States, Survivors of trafficking, Faith Bodies including Muslims and members of Civil Society.
The meeting took place in the middle of the disruptive effects of the corona virus. Everything possible was done to protect participants from being infected with the virus.
As the conference was opened, Sr. Janice McLaughlin of the Maryknoll Sisters, being one of the founders of AFCAST, welcomed all present. In her welcoming remarks she indicating that on the 17th of March the Church had celebrated the feast of St. Patrick who had been a slave in Ireland. Having worked for six years in Ireland as a slave, he managed to escape and head back to Britain, his homeland, subsequently receiving the vocation to the priesthood and going back to Ireland as a missionary. In this way, Sr. Janice expressed that there was still hope for many people who had been trafficked or sold into slavery to lead a good and productive life and thus contributing positively to society.
The conference aimed to raise awareness on the evils of human trafficking which is destroying many people, especially young lives and even more so young women. Stories from survivors who had been tricked that they were lucrative job opportunities in Kuwait and other countries of the Middle East were shared by survivors of human trafficking. There was also a certain awareness that human trafficking also happens in the Southern African Region as well as within the borders of each country.
All were aware that there is a lot of ignorance in the area of human trafficking and thus the need for ongoing formation and awareness on its dangers. Moreover, this ignorance is visible even among Christians and educated people. There is a need to work towards stopping this terrible scourge that is destroying many young lives.
The pain of trafficked person is not only felt in the period when they are enslaved by their captors. On occasion they are also rejected by their own relatives and communities once they escape from human traffickers. The emotional and psychological scars may remain for a long time as they are sometimes also failed by law enforcement agencies.
The Church has a duty to embrace all people and this is especially true of the little ones who are victims and survivors of human trafficking. Members of the Church need to be informed on the scourge of human trafficking. We recall the words of the prophet Hosea (4:6) speaking of the people of God who perish for lack of knowledge. For this reason the Bishops of IMBISA have committed themselves to work harder in the dissemination of information on the protection of minors and vulnerable people. Efforts in combatting human trafficking are part of the protection of vulnerable persons.
The Holy Father never gets tired of reminding us of taking care of enslaved persons. In the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Number 211) he exhorts as follows: “‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.” May we never be complicit in this crime which has been rightly labelled as a modern day slavery.
Fr. Dumisani Vilakati
Director of the IMBISA Secretariat
19 March 2020