AMRAT is an organisation that brings together more than 100 nuns from across India. Founded in 2009, it has established a network of civil and social groups. Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Trafficking in Persons. At least, 18 million people live in slave-like conditions in India.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Trafficking in Persons. “It is fitting that the patron for the World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking is St Bakhita, the African slave who became a Canossian sister,” said Luke de Pulford, director of the Arise Foundation. “After all, women religious are the Church’s principal weapon against this evil.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, the director of the UK-based charity, which works closely with the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (AMRAT), said that in India nuns “are the ones often risking their security to denounce the operations of organised crime in areas where such endeavours are dangerous.”
In his view, “These are the people who, when there is a symposium or conference about this issue, should occupy the top table, and whose voices, together with those of survivors, should be heard loud and clear”.
In fact, AMRAT held its annual convention last November, bringing together 105 sisters from all over India.
Founded in 2009 by Sr Jyoti SB, the group seeks to protect and promote the human dignity of vulnerable people. It is committed to identifying and bringing together other associations and institutions to create a network to fight human trafficking.
For de Pulford, “India is a prime example of where women religious have networked to rescue and resettle thousands of survivors.” And what they “is nothing short of miraculous.”
The sisters “give their lives in service of those suffering, and yet are so often overlooked by those in a position to help. It is sustainable work done for the love of the person in front of them. They gain nothing from it. Working in partnership with them is an absolute no-brainer for Arise - this is one of our most privileged partnerships."
As an example of the challenges, he cited the case of “One of the sisters working in the North East [who] described how tens of thousands of children were flowing over the porous Nepalese border. She lamented that she was unable to give them the housing, hot meals and accompaniment they need”. Sadly, so “many of whom have suffered terrible exploitation.”
AMRAT also networks with government agencies to support safe immigration, and collects relevant data on human trafficking from reliable sources to counter the problem. It also organises campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of trafficking in schools and other places of interest.
“In terms of sheer numbers, India is reckoned to have the worst problem in the world,” de Pulford said. “Recent legislation has led to great progress in preventing sexual and labour exploitation, but enforcement remains a problem.”
According to the latest estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), at least 18 million Indians suffer under slave-like conditions.
At the same time, prosecutions are rare and employment agencies exploit workers across the country and remain largely unregulated.
Finally, for de Pulford, not all is bleak. "While this is a time to reflect on this modern evil, it should also be a time to celebrate the selfless devotion of those who try to stop it.”
For the first time, the role of women is highlighted as a key to prevent the new slave trade. Nearly 45 million people are victim of trafficking all over the world, nearly two thirds in Asia. For Sister Cecilian Espenilla of Talitha Kum, an organisation of Catholic women, modern slavery is opposed by all religious traditions. It is a crime against humanity and a serious offense against God.
Today marks the third international day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking, instituted by Pope Francis to fall on the liturgical memorial of St Josephine Bakhita. Sister Gracy belongs to the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking. Various initiatives are set to take place worldwide against slavery.
The sisters belong to the Drukpa order and are experts in martial arts. This is why they are called "Kung Fu nuns". They crossed the Himalayas cycling and arrived in India. After the earthquake of 2015, the exploitation of women and children has increased. On their journey the nuns distributed food and medical care.
In 1993 she founded Maiti Nepal, an NGO that has saved hundreds of girls from prostitution abroad. Every year, at least 5,000 women end up in India, China, as well as Arab and African countries. The Padma Shri is India’s fourth highest award.
Police detain Hindu holy man for deceiving and getting young people sold to human traffickers. They also arrest two Buddhists with 35 kilos of hashish hidden in sacred texts. This shows "how religion is improperly used in Nepal,” said Fr Ignitious Rai, pastor in Kathmandu, and how its dignity is being undermined.