Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy addresses Pope Francis’ February Prayer Intention regarding human trafficking.
You may not see the problem, but it’s there. It’s estimated there are more than 21 million human trafficking victims worldwide. This is not something that only occurs in dark alleys in the far corners of the Earth, though. It’s happening around the world every day. Human trafficking is considered modern-day slavery, and there are more slaves today than at any time in history.
“They are hidden from view. You don’t recognize them in the back kitchens, shops, gas stations and in hospitality. They are also tucked away in fields. They don’t come out and ask for help. It’s a different kind of slavery than long ago,” says Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Catholic Relief Services senior technical advisor for protection. “They are not in shackles or on plantations. People are coerced into harsh employment under horrible conditions, and then have no freedom to leave. They are beaten, violated and told they are worthless—that no one else wants them anymore.”
The above quotation is taken from the Catholic Relief Services website, www.crs.org/stories/stop-human-trafficking. This is an excellent source for information on the many faces of human trafficking as well as suggestion for action.
Pope Francis asks us this month to pray “For a generous welcome of the victims of human trafficking, of enforced prostitution and of violence.”
Notice that the Holy Father does not ask us simply to pray for an end to these practices nor for the salvation of these suffering souls. He asks us to welcome them and further, to welcome them generously!
In Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis cautions us against finding suspect the activism of others. He writes, “There are those who see social engagement as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life…Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery and every form of rejection.”
He goes on to say, “Those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness, are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the works of mercy. Saint Teresa of Calcutta clearly realized this: ‘Yes, I have many human faults and failures…But God bends down and uses us, you and me, to be his love and his compassion in the world. He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. If we are too concerned with ourselves, we will have no time left for others.’”
Let us see the face of Jesus in these suffering ones. Let us make room for them in our prayer, in our awareness and in our compassion.