The scandal of human trafficking, which affects millions of young people in the world, needs to be included in the Synod of Bishops’ final document, one synod father said.
It is estimated that more than 40 million people are held in some form of slavery “and the vast majority of those are young people,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster told the synod.
Traffickers and criminals often take advantage of the insecurity or poverty of young people as they seek to find employment or embark on “dangerous journeys” in search of a better life, he said in his talk.
The “horrific crime of modern-day slavery and human trafficking” is, as Pope Francis has said, “an open wound in the body of humanity,” said the cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Trafficking touches every country in the world and everybody, he said, explaining how the batteries powering the mobile phones in people’s pockets are manufactured using cobalt, which “children in forced labour in central Africa dig out of the earth with their bare hands.”
“The Catholic Church has a crucial part to play” in fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery, he said.
Traffickers are “a vast, international criminal network” while the Church is “a vast, international network committed to all that is good and just,” he said, praising the work of so many Catholics, especially women religious, who risk their safety helping victims.
The cardinal also mentioned the Santa Marta Group, an anti-trafficking initiative organised by his bishops’ conference, to bring together representatives of bishops’ conferences and top national and international law enforcement officials to promote co-operation, particularly in identifying and caring for victims of trafficking as well as aiding in the prosecution of criminals.
Because “the victim is always at the centre of our efforts,” the group is looking at ways to provide resources and opportunities for young people to dissuade them from leaving their home countries and risk slavery, he said.
“I hope that this topic of human trafficking, so crucial to millions of young people today, finds its place in our final document and that this important work can go from strength to strength,” he said, praying for the intercession of St Josephine Bakhita, a young Sudanese woman who had been sold into slavery.
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Picture: Cardinal Nichols.