Uniting Forces And Energies
For The Peripheries
Pope Francis’ persistently calls on the Church to go to the peripheries and invites consecrated men and women to return to the roots of their charism and founding experience. This brings memories of our Founder’s bold and courageous action to fight against slavery in Africa. In confronting the horror of slavery, he cried out, “I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me. I am a man, and injustice towards others revolts my heart. I am a man, and oppression offends my nature. I am a man and what I would like people to do is to restore to me freedom, honour and the sacred bonds of family. I want to restore honour and freedom to the sons and daughters of this unhappy race” (Lavigerie, Chiesa del Gesù, Rome, 23rd December 1888). As his children, we cannot be indifferent to the face of modern slavery, where people are trafficked and enslaved through forced labour, prostitution, begging, the removal of organs for ritual sacrifices and to act as incubators for babies. When they are no longer useful for any of these services, they are disposed of. If we keep quiet in front of this inhuman treatment of persons that disrespects their dignity, the stones will cry out (Lk 19:39-40).
Prior to Pope Francis’ call, we celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Anti-Slavery campaign of Cardinal Lavigerie. It reminded us of one fundamental element of our charism: the freedom and liberation of the enslaved children of God. To translate this celebration into concrete action, our JPIC-ED coordinators and animators chose to put together a joint project against human trafficking. They chose 20th February as a common day of prayer against human trafficking. Later, Pope Francis declared 8th February as an International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. Rather than hold on to our date, we join this international day of prayer.
Other significant family events that took place and are taking place are the journey towards the 150th anniversary celebration of the foundations of our two Institutes, the General Chapter of the Missionaries of Africa and the meeting of the Enlarged Council of MSOLA. They are all occasions that bring us back to our roots. The last two events were significant moments when our two Institutes made certain apostolic choices: migrants, displaced people, encounter; care of the planet, modern slavery and human trafficking, all of which express our common concern to be present at the peripheries.
As no one group can deal with the complexity of modern slavery, we found it fruitful to collaborate with and to mobilize lay groups associated with our Institutes in order to undertake this venture. Consequently, at a meeting of our two General Councils on 28th November, 2016, we decided to take a step. Aware of our limited knowledge in this field, we invited Sr. Gabriella Bottani CMS, the Coordinator of Talitha Kum (a network of networks against human trafficking) of the UISG, in collaboration with the USG, to speak to us on this topic.
This led to a historic day, the 15th February 2017, for the Lavigerie family. The two General Councils, the Provincials and the canonical leaders of the Entities of our two Institutes spent a productive day at the Generalate of the Missionaries of Africa. The input of Sr. Gabriella helped us reflect on how to go about this ministry together. We became more aware of the alarming situation of slavery in our world today. It includes child-slavery. It forces more people into slavery than ever before in history and it is continuing to increase. There is a connection between the exploitation of nature and the exploitation of human life. There is also a direct correlation between migration and trafficking as 44% to 50% of people are tricked into being trafficked during the migration process. The biggest percentage of people trafficked takes place within the country itself or in neighbouring countries, compared to those trafficked at transnational or intercontinental levels. It is a booming business for criminals, with huge profits and with little or no risk. It is important not only to prosecute traffickers, but also to prevent trafficking.
To work against trafficking, we need to engage in networking, advocacy, prevention and protection. Enlightened by this input, we reflected in groups on the challenges and demands involved in working in these four areas. These were then spelt out in the letter sent out by our two Superior Generals. In fact, networking is a necessary means which helps groups and organisations unite their resources, forces, ideas, competencies and energies to provide protection, advocacy and prevention to those at risk and those caught up in this inhuman circle of suffering.
As the next step, the leaders then worked in geographical groups to draw up action plans in line with their surrounding conditions to help our communities work together for their implementation.
This meeting was also an opportunity to adopt the proposals of the coordinating committee for the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our Institutes and to adapt them to the different situations of our Institutes. It was seen that this celebration is a call to live our Charism together with passion by fighting against trafficking in today’s world.
The fact of choosing to fight against modern day slavery of human trafficking means that we are stepping into the shoes of our Founder who risked his life by confronting the slavery of his time. He brought slavery to an end through collaborating and networking with others. Thus, if we want to succeed in our fight to end human trafficking, we must collaborate and network with others since the human traffickers themselves trap their victims through sophisticated networking.
Maamalifar M. Poreku, msola