Fraternity and Human Trafficking
Alexandre A. Martins, MI
I want to present an enormous issue in the whole world that the Catholic Church in Brazil has called all Brazilian Society to reflect on and act in order to address this issue and protect the vulnerable ones. I am speaking about the human trafficking that, according to the United Nations, has annually more than 800 thousand victims and involves a profit of approximately $32 billion dollars, and, with drugs and weapons trafficking, is one of the most profitable black market.
Only a few numbers are enough to show the dimension of human trafficking. According to the International Labor Organization (2012), around 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation. 4.5 million (22%) are women who are exploited in sexual activities. 14.2 million (65%) are victims of forced labor. And 2.2 million (10%) are exploited by their own States (governments). 11.4 million (55%) of victims are women and 9.5 million (45%) are men. 15.4 million (74%) are adults and 5.5 million (25%) are children and adolescents. 9% of all victims are from Latin America. That means 3.1 cases per 1000 inhabitants. According to studies by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), between 2003 and 2012, 62.802 people were victims of slave-work in Brazil and nowadays approximately 866.000 children between 7 and 14 years-old are victims of some kind of human trafficking, such as forced labor, sale and traffic of people, illegal activities, drug trafficking, and labor that is dangerous to children’s health. In 2004, the Brazilian Federal Police discovered a route of trafficking of human bodies between Pernambuco (a State in the Brazilian Northeast) and South Africa that commercialized 30 bodies in a market that involved around $4.5 million dollars. With these few numbers, we can realize how horrendous is the human trafficking in the world.
Aware of this huge problem in Brazil and its international dimensions, the Catholic Church in Brazil decided to make the theme of the Fraternity Campaign (FC) 2014: Fraternity and Human Trafficing and present this issue to the whole society motivated by the motto: It Is to Freedom that Christ Liberated Us (Gal 5:1). Every year since 1962, the FC has been promoted by CNBB during Lent, as its beginning and maximal moment, and that extents through the whole year. The double goal of the FC is to awaken Catholics and Brazilian society to social issues that have hurt the country, especially those who are most vulnerable and poor, and to encourage personal, ecclesial, communal, and sociopolitical actions to address these issues.
CNBB publishes a document about FC’s theme which presents an issue grounded in social and scientific studies, reflects in it in light of the Word of God, and suggests actions to address the problem. This document, known as texto-base (basic-text) and written in a pastoral language, is spread throughout the country. So that all dioceses, parishes, and basic communities can study it and are encouraged to act as a Church that denounces injustice and announces the good news of the Kingdom of God. This year the texto-base beings by saying: “We are invited to have our eyes turned to Jesus Christ who, in the cross, became one with those among us who suffer, especially because of injustices. Our Lenten journey cannot be insensitive to situations, such as human trafficking, that hurt the dignity of human persons and their fundamental rights” (no. 1).
The FC 2014 presents four kinds of human trafficking: 1) labor exploitation; 2) sexual exploitation; 3) trafficking of human bodies for transplants of; 4) trafficking of children and adolescents. The Catholic Church cannot be indifferent to this crime and “social evil”, as Pope Francis defined it in his message in Lampedusa.
The general objective of the FC 2014 is:
“Identifying practice of human trafficking in its several ways and denouncing it as a violation against human dignity and freedom, mobilizing Christians and Brazilian society to eradicate this evil in order to rescue the lives of sons and daughters of God” (no.6)
This objective is supported by specific objectives that will lead to actions against human trafficking. They are:
- Identifying causes and ways of human trafficking and the faces of those who suffer with this exploitation;
- Denouncing the structures and situations responsible for human trafficking;
- Demanding that public bodies find politics and promote ways of reinserting into family and social life those who have been victims of human trafficking;
- Promoting methods of prevention and return to safety those who have been victimized;
- Awakening, in the light of the Word of God, to a conversion that leads to a transformative commitment to struggle against this inhuman reality;
- Celebrating the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by sensitizing us to be in solidarity with those those who have been victims of this evil (no.7).
Rooted in Jesus Christ who reveals that the revelation of the mystery of God is also the revelation of the human vocation to freedom (cf. GS 41), we are invited to engage in the world against all forms of exploitation and actions that hurt human freedom and dignity. If Jesus liberated us to live our vocation to freedom (cf. Gal 5:1), and Christ’s freedom is freedom to service (cf. Rom 6:22) and to commitment to promote the justice of the kingdom of God (cf. Rom 5:16), we cannot be indifferent to the evil of human trafficking and the social and global mechanisms that promote it. Jesus was anointed in the synagogue of Nazareth to set free the oppressed and bring the good news to the poor (cf. Lk 4:16-18). In Pentecost, the Christian community was anointed to continue this mission in history. Therefore, it is our mission, as missionary-disciples of Jesus, to set free those who are victims of human trafficking and proclaim to them the good-news of freedom and opportunity for a new beginning.