Cardinal Peter Turkson [from Ghana and now President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace] spoke at a Vatican Press Conference to draw attention to the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.
To be celebrated on 8 February, the feast day of Sudanese slave St. Josephine Bakhita who, after being freed, became a Canossian Sister and was canonised in 2000. Cardinal Turkson stated that “millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery. For those who cry out – usually in silence – for liberation, St Josephine Bakhita is an exemplary witness of hope. We, victims and advocates alike, could do no better than be inspired by her life and entrust our efforts to her intercession”.
He continued, “the Holy Father invites us all to recognise that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilisation comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself”. This demands that we not only educate ourselves about this issue, nor only pray and express solidarity … we must move “from solidarity to concerted action, until slavery and trafficking are no more”.
On the occasion of this first day of prayer and reflection, all dioceses, parishes, associations, families and individuals are invited to reflect and pray in order to cast light on this crime, as indicated by the theme of the initiative. In addition, prayer vigils will be held in different countries, culminating in the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on 8 February.
On the day, we are invited to recite the following prayer:
“O God, when we hear of children and adults
deceived and taken to unknown places for purposes
of sexual exploitation, forced labour, and organ ‘harvesting’,
our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry
that their dignity and rights are ignored
through threats, lies, and force.
We cry out against the evil practice of this modern slavery,
and pray with St. Bakhita for it to end.
Give us wisdom and courage to reach out
and stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits
have been so wounded,
so that together we may
make real your promises to fill these sisters and brothers
with a love that is tender and good.
Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be
converted from this wickedness,
and help us all to claim the freedom
that is your gift to your children. Amen”.