“Trafficking of persons is a crime against humanity…” said Pope Francis to a group of diplomats at a meeting at the Vatican in November last year. He went onto say: “It is necessary to accept our common responsibility and demonstrate more decisive political will to be victorious on this front.”
While governments and politicians have worked on this issue as they are the first to be responsible as the leaders of our countries, the reality is that we ourselves are responsible for this dreadful and unacceptable situation that exists in our societies around the world. It is a global phenomenon and none of us stand clear of it whether we know it or not. With over 29 million people being trafficked at this point in our history, this number touches all of us personally.
The Pope challenged all of us to think more about it, and said: “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.”
These are powerful words and speak to the heart of our consumer society where we are all bought and sold on a daily basis, with our advertising and marketing, the way we use people to get what we want, when we want it. Our need for instant gratification, for immediate services, for cheaper goods to be available below living costs, angry when our throw-away society doesn’t deliver what we want straight away without thought for where the goods come from nor how much others have had to pay to ensure our desires are met.
We complain when services are sent off shore to be done more cheaply, and we complain when jobs are lost and our families become unemployed.
Its worth reflecting on Pope Francis’ words: “There are millions of victims of forced labour, of the trade in persons for the purposes of manpower or for sexual exploitation….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 previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams also reminded us that there are no disposable people, no spare people, no-one who does not count. Every human being is worthy of dignity and respect.
It is time we looked to our own habits and expectations and those of our politicians and governments, to ask for a greater focus and deliberate intention to wipe out this evil trade that is so cruel and inhuman.
Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris, CEO