VATICAN CITY- During the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking and the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis stressed that each year, thousands of women and girls are exploited and humiliated by relationships based on “discrimination and submission.”
The Pope said in a video message “that human trafficking in particular, as well as domestic and sexual exploitation, is a method by which women and girls are violently relegated to subordinate roles as providers of domestic and sexual services and as sources of care and pleasure, which again perpetuates a relationship model reliant on the dominance of men over women.”
In his remarks, Pope Francis said, “Violence suffered by women and girls alike is an open wound on the body of Christ, on the body of humanity as a whole; it is a deep wound that affects all of us.”
According to the pope, “the thousands of women and girls who are trafficked each year denounce the dramatic consequences of family models which promote discrimination and submission, and it’s not exaggerated — there are thousands of them!”
As he praised the women and women religious around the world dedicated to fighting human trafficking, forced prostitution, forced marriage, and slave labor, Pope Francis called for men to join their fight, “opposing with all our might every form of exploitation in human trafficking.”
St. Bakhita’s feast day Mass was celebrated at the Domus Australia in Rome.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said, “We like to think slavery is an ancient practice limited to Egypt, Rome, or America at the time of Josephine, but in reality, it is happening today in our own cities. He asks us to pray and to take action to prevent the exploitation of people, especially women and girls.”
Against this backdrop, he noted that international organizations estimate that “over 40 million people, mainly women, and children, are trafficked in the world today; they are controlled, treated as property, exploited sexually, for their organs or their labor, or forced into service as beggars, drug mules, even combatants.”
The problem is not confined to a few countries or regions, he said, pointing out that there are thousands of victims in both Italy and Australia.
Despite this, he said, “I’m proud to say that the Archdiocese of Sydney has taken the lead in Australia by slavery-proofing its supply lines, informing our people and the public about slavery, lobbying for government protections, and providing assistance to survivors.”