Trafficking in human beings, a real form of slavery which affects all countries, including the most developed, was the theme chosen by Pope Francis in his address to sixteen new non-resident ambassadors and one diplomatic representative to the Holy See. These were the ambassadors to Algeria (Boudejamaa Delmi), Iceland (Martin Eyjolfsson), Denmark (Lars Vissing), Lesotho (Lineo Lydia Khechane Ntoane), Sierra Leone (Ibrahim Sorie), Cape Verde (Emanuel Antero Garcia da Veiga), Burundi (Edouard Bizimana), Malta (George Gregory Buttigieg), Sweden (Lars-Hjalmar Wide), Pakistan (Aman Rashid), Zambia (Paul William Lumbi), Norway (Thomas Hauff), Kuwait (Bader Saleh Al-Tunaib), Burkina Faso (Yemdaogo Eric Tiare), Uganda (Marcel R. Tibaleka) and Jordan (Makram Mustafa Al Queisi) and the diplomatic representative of Palestine (Isa Jamil Kassissieh).
The Holy Father spoke about the numerous initiatives undertaken by the international community to promote peace, dialogue, cultural relations, politics and economics, as well as aid to populations affected by difficulties of various types, and went on to consider the question of trafficking in human beings which “affects the most vulnerable people in society: women, children, the disabled, the poorest and those who come from situations of family or social disintegration”.
In these persons, in a special way, Christians recognize the face of Jesus, who identified with the smallest and the neediest among us. Others, who do not refer to a religious faith, in the name of our common humanity share our compassion for their suffering and the commitment to free them and to tend to their wounds. Together we can and must take action to free the victims of human trafficking and to put an end to this horrible trade”.
Francis commented that there are millions of victims of forced labor, of the trade in persons for the purposes of manpower or for sexual exploitation, and exclaimed, “this cannot continue; it constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of the victims and an offence to their dignity, as well as a defeat for the global community. All persons of good will, whether they profess a religion or not, cannot allow these women, these men and these children to be treated as objects, deceived, violated, often repeatedly sold, for various purposes, and at the end either killed or ruined physically and mentally, to end up discarded and abandoned. It is shameful”.
“The trafficking of persons is a crime against humanity. … It is necessary to accept our common responsibility, and demonstrate more decisive political will to be victorious on this front. Responsibility towards those who have fallen victim to trafficking, to protect their rights, to ensure their safety and that of their families, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from eluding justice and having the last word. Adequate legislative action in the countries of origin, transit and arrival, also in order to facilitate the regularity of migration, may reduce the problem”.
“Governments and the international community, who are the first to be responsible for preventing and impeding this phenomenon, have not failed to take measures at various levels to block it and to protect and assist the victims of this crime, not infrequently linked to trade in drugs, arms, the transportation of illegal immigrants and the mafia. Unfortunately, we cannot deny the involvement, at times, of public officials and members of peace missions”.
However, to effectively combat this scourge, it is necessary for action to extend to the fields of culture and communication, and for us to examine our consciences, asking ourselves “how many times do we accept that a human being is considered as an object, displayed to sell a product or to satisfy immoral desires? The human person must never be bought and sold like merchandise. Whoever uses and exploits human beings, even indirectly, becomes complicit in their oppression”.
“I wanted to share with you my reflections on a social wound of our times, because I believe in the value and the strength of concerted commitment in combating it”, the Pope explained. “Therefore, I exhort the international community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected”.