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Human Trafficking

This is not a problem that exists merely on faraway shores and in developing countries. It exists right here in the United States, where thousands of persons are trafficked each year for purposes of forced prostitution or forced labor.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.

[W]hatever insults human dignity, such as… slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #27.


 

It is fitting to add that the aspiration to freedom from all forms of slavery affecting the individual and society is something noble and legitimate. This in fact is the purpose of development; or rather liberation and development, taking into account the intimate connection between the two.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”, Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987 #46


 

The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offence against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights…Such situations are an affront to fundamental values which are shared by all cultures and peoples, values rooted in the very nature of the human person.

Letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran on the Occasion of the International Conference “Twenty-First Century Slavery – The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings”, Pope John Paul II, 2002.


 

Who can deny that the victims of this crime are often the poorest and most defenceless members of the human family, the “least” of our brothers and sisters? In particular, the sexual exploitation of women and children is a particularly repugnant aspect of this trade, and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and rights.

Letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran on the Occasion of the International Conference “Twenty-First Century Slavery – The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings”, Pope John Paul II, 2002.


 

Attention needs to be paid to the deeper causes of the increased “demand” which fuels the market for human slavery and tolerates the human cost which results. A sound approach to the issues involved will lead also to an examination of the lifestyles and models of behaviour, particularly with regard to the image of women, which generate what has become a veritable industry of sexual exploitation in the developed countries.

Letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran on the Occasion of the International Conference “Twenty-First Century Slavery – The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings”, Pope John Paul II, 2002.


 

Both governments must vigilantly seek to end trafficking in human persons. The U.S. government should vigorously enforce recent laws that target traffickers both at home and abroad. Mexican authorities must strengthen efforts to identify and to destroy trafficking operations within Mexico. Together, both governments should more effectively share information on trafficking operations and should engage in joint action to apprehend and prosecute traffickers.

Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Conference of Mexican Bishops, 2003 #91.


 

The movement of people across boundaries is part of a collective human experience. There is an element of this experience that must be eradicated: the trafficking of human beings through the use of fraud, force, and coercion for the purpose of forced prostitution or forced labor.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

Human trafficking will never be truly defeated without eliminating the consumerism that feeds it and prosecuting those actors in receiving countries, including our own, that benefit because of the exploitation of vulnerable human beings.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

This is not a problem that exists merely on faraway shores and in developing countries. It exists right here in the United States, where thousands of persons are trafficked each year for purposes of forced prostitution or forced labor.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

Trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

The federal government, in cooperation with state and local governments, should increase educational efforts so that all Americans become more aware of this problem. Similarly, emphasis should be placed on the recovery and care of victims and on providing them with legal protection and social services as soon as possible. This is particularly true for child trafficking victims, who are most susceptible to the long-term horrors of this crime.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

Over the long term, the global community must work together to reduce the factors that make persons vulnerable to traffickers, such as the lack of economic opportunity in migrant-sending countries, especially for women.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

Catholics in our own country can help, particularly by educating fellow Catholics and others about the realities of this crime. Parishes can serve as a meeting place to discuss this issue and as a center for action to help identify survivors and provide them support.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person.

On Human Trafficking, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


 

In this regard, we must not overlook the question of irregular migration, an issue all the more pressing when it takes the form of human trafficking and exploitation, particularly of women and children. These crimes must be clearly condemned and prosecuted.

Message for the 2013 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI, 2012.


 

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 labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #211.


 

From the Christian standpoint, the reality of migration, like other human realities, points to the tension between the beauty of creation, marked by Grace and the Redemption, and the mystery of sin. Solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity and understanding exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death. Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement.

Message for the 2014 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis, 2014.


 

Today, as the result of a growth in our awareness, slavery, seen as a crime against humanity, has been formally abolished throughout the world. The right of each person not to be kept in a state of slavery or servitude has been recognized in international law as inviolable. Yet, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery. I think of the many men and women labourers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors…of many migrants who, in their dramatic odyssey, experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse…of all those persons, minors and adults alike, who are made objects of trafficking for the sale of organs, for recruitment as soldiers, for begging, for illegal activities such as the production and sale of narcotics, or for disguised forms of cross-border adoption. No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, Pope Francis, 2015 #3. Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.

No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, Pope Francis, 2015 #4.


 

Alongside this deeper cause – the rejection of another person’s humanity – there are other causes which help to explain contemporary forms of slavery. Among these, I think in the first place of poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of access to education or scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities. Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking.

No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, Pope Francis, 2015 #4. Often, when considering the reality of human trafficking, illegal trafficking of migrants and other acknowledged or unacknowledged forms of slavery, one has the impression that they occur within a context of general indifference. Sadly, this is largely true. Yet I would like to mention the enormous and often silent efforts which have been made for many years by religious congregations, especially women’s congregations, to provide support to victims…This immense task, which calls for courage, patience and perseverance, deserves the appreciation of the whole Church and society. Yet, of itself, it is not sufficient to end the scourge of the exploitation of human persons. There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. Moreover, since criminal organizations employ global networks to achieve their goals, efforts to eliminate this phenomenon also demand a common and, indeed, a global effort on the part of various sectors of society.

No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, Pope Francis, 2015 #5.


 

The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children…In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted?

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #123.

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