For the 9th International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, held on February 8, 2023, Pope Francis released aexpressing his concern that this issue is “unfortunately growing at an alarming rate.” In 2022, nearly 25 million people were victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation around the world.
Pope Francis’ video was shown during an online prayer marathon organized by many Catholic bodies and organization for this year’s Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. The theme chosen is “journeying in dignity.”
“Human trafficking disfigures dignity,” Pope Francis said, addressing his message especially to young people involved in this struggle. He speaks of how exploitation and enslavement make people “objects to be used and discarded.”
The Pontiff called young people to be “missionaries of human dignity.”
“Guard this light and you will be a blessing to other young people,” he added.
Economic crises, wars, and the problems associated with climate change make people more economically fragile and thus more vulnerable to being trafficked. This phenomenon, which is “growing at an alarming rate,” mainly affects “migrants, women, and children,” the Pope said.
According to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), trafficking affects nearly 25 million victims worldwide. Trafficking “particularly targets vulnerable populations such as migrants and refugees,” explained French Ambassador Jean Claude-Brunet in July 2022, who is in charge of the fight against transnational criminal threats.
“One of the most disturbing trends is the growing proportion of children among the victims, which has tripled in 15 years according to the UNODC,” he explained. Trafficking is estimated to generate more than $150 billion in annual global revenues.