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Nuns launch new effort in fighting human trafficking

Talitha Kum
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Super Nuns will help shed light on the problem and raise money to rescue the enslaved.

A march in Rome in support of victims of human trafficking was significant as much because of who was not there as who was. At the last minute, several women who had been saved from a life of human trafficking decided not to join the event, held on Saturday.

“They don’t want to be identified,” Sister Gabriella Bottani, the international coordinator of Talitha Kum, a global network of nuns that assists trafficked persons, told the New York Times. That decision highlights the extreme danger that exists for victims and those who have been saved from trafficking.

But the danger exists as well for those who try to rescue the trafficked, and those rescuers include a fair number of women religious.

Talitha Kum (the name — which means “Young woman, arise!” in Aramaic — is taken from Jesus’ words reviving the daughter of Jairus), an initiative of the International Union of Superiors General, operates in 92 countries and coordinates the actions of Catholic sisters who fight human trafficking. It supports women sold into prostitution, as well as the thousands of people sold into forced labor or slavery. It also lobbies for better laws to fight human trafficking.

Sisters affiliated with the organization are “out on the streets raising awareness, making contact with victims in dangerous contexts, sheltering them from traffickers and exploitation, providing a passage home and new skills with which to rebuild  shattered lives,” Vatican News said. Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, and out of respect to the survivors, Talitha Kum said it does not disclose the exact locations of safe-houses, celebrate success stories, or reveal the identities of our sisters on the ground.

“So, we must tell our stories in a new way: through art. Thus, SUPER NUNS was born,” it said.

On Saturday, Pope Francis activated the “Super Nuns” fundraising page on the Patreon platform with a click on a laptop. The project involves street artists and comic book artists who create new pieces focused on the sisters’ work with trafficked women.

“Each month, a legendary artist will create SUPER NUN fan art to celebrate our humble work, and the heroism of human trafficking survivors,” the website said. “Then, a limited number of signed prints will be given away at random to active supporters and followers of our Patreon community. We hope this will be a lighthearted way to support the fight against a very serious issue.”

We are calling them SUPER NUNS because what they do is extraordinary work: very hidden work, quite dangerous work at times, where they rescue victims, women, men and children, and then shelter them. And then there’s a process of rehabilitation and integration back into society,” said Sister Patricia Murray, Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General.

The march and meeting with the pope were part of the sixth World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action against Human Trafficking, which takes place each year on Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was enslaved before she became a sister.

There have never been as many slaves in the world as there are today, Bottani said. The International Labor Organization estimates that almost 25 million people are in forced labor worldwide; about a fifth of those are in forced sexual exploitation.

Murray said that funds raised will go toward rescuing trafficked persons, giving them shelter for an extended amount of time, treating them so they recover from the horrors they have suffered, and educating them so they can be integrated back into society.

 

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