The FRANCIS Factor in Abating Human Trafficking
by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA – La Crosse Task Force to Eradicate Modern Slavery
This is a compendium of references about the efforts of Pope Francis to end modern slavery.
Commentators have attributed the term “the Francis Factor” to our current pope in describing his leadership in a world of transmigration, diversity, and violence. His approach encourages dialogical processes and a global response. Pope Francis frequently is hailed as prophetic, scientific, activist, and pastoral. However we wish to view it, we cannot doubt that he has broken the papal mold of leadership. Almost immediately after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis wrote this little note to the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
I think it would be good to examine human trafficking and modern slavery.
Organ trafficking could be examined in connection with human trafficking.
That’s how it all started at the Vatican. Under the auspices of the Pontifical Academies of Science and the Social Sciences, the Holy See launched a multi-pronged attack on human trafficking never undertaken by church leadership prior to this time. This Pope has dedicated more attention to the discussion of human trafficking than any other Pope or world religious leader before him.[ii] One year later he would again take up the specific theme of organ trafficking in Brazil[iii] and again make a strong reference to it in his World Day of Peace Message in 2015.[iv]
Naming the problem[v]
With a penchant for incisive vocabulary Pope Francis names the reality of human trafficking in the world. Among various major addresses and writings he called it . . .
- “a real scourge . . . throughout the world”[vi]
- “a hidden form of exploitation”[vii]
- “common coin.”[viii]
- “an infamous network of crime”[ix]
- “a social scourge . . . a true form of slavery”; “a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community. . . shameful” . . . 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”[x]
- “predatory and harmful . . .the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants . . .”[xi]
- “[merchandizing] in human flesh” [xii]
- “a plague on the body of contemporary humanity; scandalous and politically incorrect; a regression of humanity”[xiii]
- “a crime against humanity . . . a disgrace”[xiv]
- “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ[xv]
- “a vile activity, a disgrace to our societies that claim to be civilized!”[xvi]
- “subversion of values” [xvii]
- “means to an end. . . the rejection of another person’s humanity. . . the scourge of the exploitation of human persons”[xviii]
- “another kind of war”[xix]
What to do about it
Pope Francis not only names the issue, he gives us specific and particular ways that we can do something about it either personally, corporately, and/or politically. For example:
- I ask my brothers and sisters in the faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat the trafficking in persons in which ‘slave labor’ exists.[xx]
- Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience both in the first person and before God! [xxi]
- What is called for, then, is a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front. Responsibility is required towards those who have fallen victim to trafficking in order to protect their rights, to guarantee their safety and that of their families, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from escaping justice and having the last word over the lives of others. Suitable legislative intervention in the countries of origin, transit and arrival, which will also facilitate orderly migration, can diminish this grave problem.[xxii]
- Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed . . . marked by reciprocity, forgiveness, and complete self-giving . . .[xxiii]
- . . . we need to make a good examination of conscience: how many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product or to satisfy an immoral desire? The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of injustice.[xxiv]
- Love your neighbor as yourself.[xxv]
- The United Nations really needs to take a very strong position on climate change with a particular focus on the trafficking of human beings as a problem that has been created by climate change. . . We cannot separate man from everything else. There is a relationship which has a huge impact, both on the person in the way they treat the environment and the rebound effect against man when the environment is mistreated.[xxvi]
- . . . our communities of faith are called to reject, without exception, any systematic deprivation of individual freedom for the purposes of personal or commercial exploitation[xxvii]
- Globalize fraternity, not slavery or indifference . . . There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement.[xxviii]
- I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ, revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren”[xxix] (Mt 25:40, 45). (12/8/14)
- Society is called to form new legislation that penalizes traffickers and help rehabilitate victims.[xxx]
- These realities serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the international level.[xxxi]
- . . . we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. . . Today the 193 states of the United Nations have a new moral imperative to combat human trafficking, a true crime against humanity. Collaboration between bishops and the civil authorities, each in accordance with his own mission and character and with the aim of discovering best practice for the fulfilment of this delicate task, is a decisive step to ensuring that the will of governments reaches the victims in a direct, immediate, constant, effective and concrete way.[xxxii]
- . . . strengthen the bonds of cooperation and communication which are essential to ending the suffering of the many men and women and children who today are enslaved and sold as if they were a mere commodity . . . [xxxiii]
Major Efforts led by Pope Francis
Pope Francis began his anti-human trafficking efforts by calling three international conferences to study the issue and make recommendations. The first preparatory workshop was held in November 2013 with the purpose to examine the status quo and develop an agenda to fight the problem. Early in 2014 a Vatican conference was designed for law enforcement agencies, and a third in July 2015[xxxiv] with mayors from around the world. Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Science, hosted the first of three international gatherings on trafficking and the marginalized. He said the pope’s focus on the issue is driven by a deep desire to be close to those who suffer, recognizing that Christ himself can be found in their wounds. “He really has always had this ‘nose for’ the people of the Beatitudes, those who are poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, and so on . . . this is his instinct.”[xxxv]
The Global Freedom Network convened on March 17, 2014 involved seven religious leaders (Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Orthodox) commonly willing to eliminate the underlying networks of human trafficking and related endemic issues. In collaboration with the heads of the Muslim faith, the Anglican Church, and the founder of the Walk Free Foundation, a resolution was proclaimed to end modern slavery by 2020. Nothing with such specific focus had ever been undertaken by any other pope or religious group. It outlined six necessary steps to accomplish the goal.
- Awareness: Mobilizing faith communities
- Ethical purchasing: Supply-chain proofing
- Services/facilities for victims and survivors of forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking
- Lobbying: Law reforms and enforcement
- Prevention: Education and awareness
- Funding: private donors along with national and international organizations
Not only does Pope Francis speak about human trafficking in many venues, he has also written authoritatively about it in both of his encyclicals — the 2013 Evangelii Gaudium ¶211[xxxvi] and in the 2015 Laudato si ¶91, 92[xxxvii]. He continues to keep this grave evil and crime on the agenda of the nations of the world. As recently as April 7, 2016, Cardinal Vincent Nicols on the pope’s behalf addressed the special conference on combatting human trafficking and modern slavery at the United Nations in New York.[xxxviii]
Promoting continuity in prayer and awareness by faith communities around the world, Pope Francis endorsed an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking by several Vatican congregations and global leaders of men and women religious on February 3, 2015[xxxix] – another example of Pope Francis’s empowerment of others.
Now, what do we do? Some suggested radical acts to end modern slavery
Some of these ideas are related to developing communities of trust. They are adapted here with reference to human slavery prevention and support for trafficked survivors.
- Befriend a survivor who needs support.
- Volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club and thereby provide friendship to youth who may at risk.
- Get to know a registered sex offender in your neighborhood.
- Connect with a group of workers for farmers who grow your food and visit them. Ask what they get paid.
- Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Each time you eat that food, pray for those who helped make it possible to come to your table.
- Become a pen pal with someone in prison.
- Participate in a worship service where you will be a minority.
- Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask them to pray for you.
- Share the costs of your health care through a network to assist human trafficking survivors.
- Start conversations in your community with whom you need to deepen trust – law enforcement, troubled teens, a different political party, a different faith tradition.
Pope Francis knows that ultimately converting hearts and minds is what will determine whether people of all faiths, economists, businesses, police and politicians take action. Each of us needs to take action in some way.
[i] Copy of original chirograph at http://www.endslavery.va/content/endslavery/en/who.html See the sidebar.
[ii] Ashley Feasley. “Pope Francis and Human Trafficking”. Human Trafficking Search: The Global Resource & Database. (September 1, 2015) http://humantraffickingsearch.net/wp/pope-francis-and-human-trafficking/
[iii] Message on the occasion of the annual Lenten “Fraternity Campaign” in Brazil with the theme of “Fraternity and human trafficking,” March 5, 2014. http://www.wucwo.org/sites/default/files/pictures/07032014%20NC%20-%20THE%20POPE%20URGES%20ACTION%20AGAINST%20HUMAN%20TRAFFICKING.pdf
[v] See http://www.globalfreedomnetwork.org/catholic-resources/ which lists and describes the various Catholic resources about slavery and in particular the papal documents regarding slavery.
[vi] General Audience. St. Peter’s Square. June 12, 2013; Zenit Staff. (April 8, 2016) To conference at U.N. in New York Ending Human Trafficking by 2030: The Role of Global Partnerships in Eradicating Modern Slavery. April 7, 2016. https://zenit.org/articles/pope-presses-for-greater-cooperation-to-end-human-trafficking/
[vii] General Audience. St. Peter’s Square. June 12, 2013 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130612_udienza-generale.html
[viii] World Day of Migrants and Refugees. August 5, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/papa-francesco_20130805_world-migrants-day.html
[ix] Evangelii Gaudium No. 211. November 24, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html
[x] To New Ambassadors Accredited to the Holy See. Clementine Hall. December 12, 2013. The entire address is devoted to this topic. https://mafrsouthernafrica.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/pope-francis-human-trafficking.pdf.
[xi] World Day of Peace. January 1, 2014. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20131208_messaggio-xlvii-giornata-mondiale-pace-2014.html
[xii] Angelus. January 19, 2014. http://www.news.va/en/news/angelus-19-january-2014
[xiii] General Audience. April 18, 2015. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-human-trafficking-is-a-plague-on-huma
[xiv] Conference held at the Vatican for law enforcement, church workers and charity representatives on April 10, 2014; To New Ambassadors Accredited to the Holy See. Clementine Hall. December 12, 2013; To the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 13, 2014; To Delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, October 23, 2014: L’Osservatore Romano, 24 October 2014, p. 4; Declaration on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, December 2, 2014; UN conference in New York on April 7, 2016.
[xv] Conference for Law Enforcement Officers and religious leaders. April 2014. https://www.yahoo.com/news/pope-meets-ex-sex-slaves-denounces-trafficking-135936521.html?ref=gs
[xvi] To the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. May 24, 2013. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=10241
[xvii] To the Participants in the World Meeting Of Popular Movements. October 28, 2014.
[xviii] World Day of Peace Message. January 1, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20141208_messaggio-xlviii-giornata-mondiale-pace-2015.html
[xix] To the United Nations General Assembly. September 25, 2015. http://www.popefrancisvisit.com/schedule/address-to-united-nations-general-assembly/
[xx] General Audience, St. Peter’s Square. May 1, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130501_udienza-generale.html
[xxi] To the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. May 24, 2013. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=10241
[xxii] To the New Ambassadors Accredited to the Holy See on the Occasion Of The Presentation of the Letters of
Credence. Clementine Hall. December 12, 2013. https://mafrsouthernafrica.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/pope-francis-human-trafficking.pdf
[xxiii] World Day of Peace Message. January 1, 2014. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20131208_messaggio-xlvii-giornata-mondiale-pace-2014.html
[xxiv] Message on the occasion of the annual Lenten “Fraternity Campaign” in Brazil with the theme of “Fraternity and human trafficking,” March 5, 2014. . http://www.wucwo.org/sites/default/files/pictures/07032014%20NC%20-%20THE%20POPE%20URGES%20ACTION%20AGAINST%20HUMAN%20TRAFFICKING.pdf
[xxvi] Kirchgaessner, Stephanie in Vatican City and staff. “Pope laments ‘meaningless lives’” in tying human trafficking to climate change.” THE GUARDIAN. July 21, 2015. Remarks by Pope Francis following conference with mayors. Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of Cities. July 16, 2015 in Rome.
[xxvii] Declaration on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Dec. 2, 2014. http://ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/pope-s-quotes-end-modern-slavery
[xxviii] World Day of Peace Message ¶5. January 1, 2015.
[xxix] Ibid. ¶6
[xxx] To Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. April 18, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/april/documents/papa-francesco_20150418_plenaria-scienze-sociali.html
[xxxi] To the United Nations General Assembly. September 25, 2015. http://www.popefrancisvisit.com/schedule/address-to-united-nations-general-assembly/
[xxxii] Radio message to Santa Marta Group at San Lorenzo del Escorial in Spain on October 30, 2015. http://www.endslavery.va/content/endslavery/en/getinvolved/partners/santa_marta_group.pdf
[xxxiii] To conference at the U.N. in New York on April 7, 2016. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/04/08/pope_francis_encourages_anti-trafficking_conference/1221250
[xxxiv] See #EndSlavery http://www.endslavery.va/content/endslavery/en/who.html that describes all the ways in which the pontifical academies of science and social sciences have been involved. #EndSlavery is an initiative of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Sciences for their work to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking, a task Pope Francis assigned to them in 2013.
[xxxv] CNN, Staff and other sources. “Pope Francis: ‘A Crime against Humanity’”. AMERICA. April 28-May 5, 2014 Issue. http://americamagazine.org/issue/pope-francis-%E2%80%98-crime-against-humanity%E2%80%99
[xxxvi] Evangelium Gaudium 211: I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “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 labor? 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.
[xxxvii] LAUDATO SI 91, 92: A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted . (May 24, 2015) http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
[xxxviii] Independent Catholic News. Address of Cardinal Vincent Nichols to UN on Human Trafficking. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29811
[xxxix] Joshua McElwee. Vatican, religious orders launch international day against trafficking. Feb. 3, 2015