From August 17-20, I had the opportunity to participate, together with 17 Daughters of Charity (DCs) from all provinces of the Americas, in the seminar to stop human trafficking in Bogota, Colombia. Those gathered at the seminar included women, men, consecrated, and lay companions in the mission from the Americas and the Caribbean. The Latin American network of the DCs against new slaveries is interested in creating an operating relationship with our Vincentian Family at the United Nations. In this summary, I want to share with you some of the conclusions from this seminar.
We are called to be aware of the dignity of the human person, the complex reality that produces slavery of all kinds, our commitment to the defense of life, and the urgent care of our common home. Human trafficking is the consequence of economic systems that benefit only a handful of people our society. Poverty and inequality are root causes of modern day slavery. In a global economy, where products can cross borders unhindered, traffickers often dehumanize and commodify people, forcing them to become products of the market.
After these days of encounter and discernment, we feel that God is calling us to hurry, without delay, to meet these sisters and brothers of whom the system has made merchandise. While studying the numbers and the statistics of human trafficking, we never lost sight of the fact that they represent people who have names, whose history has been violated, and who never cease to be full of dignity.
The dynamic nature of this seminar led us to move from a global understanding of the phenomenon of trafficking, especially from the perspective of migration and childhood, toward a theological understanding. Through this process, we aim to continue re-defining our charisms around the cries of those who suffer in any modern slavery.
We are immersed in and influenced by a global process of dehumanization, marked by a crisis of coexistence, the exacerbation of individualism, and the progressive rupture of the social fabric and human fraternity. From this reality, we feel moved to walk toward the ethics of common care and extend special attention to those who have been left behind in our society (UN 2013 Agenda).
With the strength of the Spirit, we commit ourselves to rethink our consecrated life, sharpening our senses and recovering the prophetic words and actions of our charisms. These encourage us not to abandon those who have been forced into modern day slavery by unjust systems. Following the invitation of Pope Francis, we commit to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” the victims of human trafficking and others who have been enslaved by this system that dehumanizes, alienates and humiliates them.
We recognize the importance of conducting interdisciplinary training for people on the ground to accompany those affected by trafficking and all kinds of modern day slavery, always doing so with the dynamism of hope. We would like to help our charismatic families—consecrated and lay people—experience ethical indignation in the face of modern day slavery and respond with the founding mercy of all charisms. We want to be a new consecrated life, a “prophetic vanguard and not just a work force” (Joan Chittister).
The fundamental objective of this seminar was to strengthen our networks, acting in the defense of life against a culture of death that causes so much pain and hopelessness. We are also pleased with the new coalitions created to stop human trafficking. These old and new networks will continue to create awareness, educate, work directly with the victims, advocate, and communicate. Together, we can join other people and organizations already doing this work in order to stop the trafficking in persons.
If in our service as Vincentian family we go in the direction of modern slaveries we will be faithful to the voices of the Spirit who is always calling us to go to all those places where life (humanity-earth) is claiming. We are invited to do this in collaboration with other consecrated families, civil society and any person-organization of good will.