Some 40 million people are victims each year, including about 150,000 Filipinos. Catholics work closely with government agencies. For Mgr Ruperto Cruz Santos, education, outreach, and policy programmes are among their priorities.
Manila (AsiaNews/CBCPNews) – As it does every year, on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the Catholic Church of the Philippines yesterday marked the fourth International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Trafficking in Persons.
For the occasion, a forum was held in Manila, followed by an ecumenical service at Plaza Ferguzon, in Ermita district.
The event was organised by the Catholic Church and the Philippine Interfaith Movement (PIMAHT), who urged everyone to work together to end exploitation and slavery.
Worldwide, an estimated 40 million people are victims of trafficking and slavery every year. About 150,000 are said to be Filipinos, many of them suffering abuse and violence.
The Asian country has been fertile ground for human traffickers with most of their victims coming from poor families.
For several years, the Catholic Church has been closely working with government agencies involved in the fight against human trafficking and modern forms of slavery.
At least four agencies of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) – Commissions on Youth, Social Action, Women and Migrants – have led the Church’s response to end all forms of modern slavery in the country.
Mgr Ruperto Santos, bishop of Balanga and head of the CBCP Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI), said that education, outreach and policy programmes are among their priorities.
The Church’s efforts include a campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking and to expand its network to various dioceses and parishes to combat the illegal industry.
“In our ministry against human trafficking, we focus on 4 Ps,” the bishop said. They are: “prevention of humans being trafficked, protection for the victims, providing help and legal assistance, and to prosecute human traffickers”.
In addition, “We at CBCP-ECMI pray that through intercession of St Josephine, our migrants experience fair and just welcome to receiving countries, gracious and good employers and be strong and resilient to bear their cross and follow faithfully Jesus”.
Human Trafficking is a profitable business, involving a large network of organized crime associations. Women and children in indigenous communities and remote areas are the most vulnerable. The experience of the Visayan Forum Foundation and Sister Cecil Espenilla's commitment to fighting the phenomenon.
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.
The president of the Filipino bishops' Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People, Msgr. Ruperto Santos, responds to the new government that wants to include human trafficking in the list of crimes punishable with death. Trafficking "is a barbaric act that violates the very nature of man. But it is fought with serious investigation and severe punishment, up to life imprisonment. No man can kill another man in the name of the law".