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Pope Francis released a written message for the 10th World Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, celebrated each February 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita.
The Catholic Church’s annual observance of this World Day was first introduced by Pope Francis in 2015; the United Nations has a separate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, held on July 30.
The Holy Father has released a video message for the day since 2021, but this year, he released a written text, with the theme “Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act“
“St. Bakhita encourages us to open our eyes and ears to see those who go unseen and to hear those who have no voice,” the Pope said, “to acknowledge the dignity of each person and to fight trafficking and all forms of exploitation.”
The Holy Father has often spoken of trafficking as our modern-day slavery. He warns that it too often “goes unseen.”
The media, thanks also to courageous reporters, have brought to light modern forms of slavery, but the culture of indifference tends to desensitize us. Let us help one another to be more responsive, to open our lives and hearts to our sisters and brothers who even now are being bought and sold as slaves. It is never too late to take action.
Listen, Dream, Act
Pope Francis then went on to suggest three actions that need to be part of the work against trafficking. “We are called to listen, dream, and act in order to counter trafficking,” he said.
The Pope expressed his hopes that we might listen to the cries of the exploited, “and feel challenged by the stories they tell.”
“Together with the victims and the young, let us once more dream of a world where all people can live with freedom and dignity,” he added.
Then, sisters and brothers, by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, let us make this dream a reality by taking concrete actions to combat trafficking. Let us pray fervently and work proactively for this cause, the defense of human dignity, whether by prayer and action as individuals and families, or as parish and religious communities, as ecclesial associations and movements, and also in the various spheres of social and political life.
We have to find the roots
Pope Francis affirmed that the fight against trafficking can be won, “but it is necessary to get to the root of the problem and eliminate its causes.”
St. Bakhita, he said, “stands for all those men and women who, despite their enslavement, can still attain freedom.”
“If we close our eyes and ears, if we do nothing, we will be guilty of complicity,” the Pope warned.
Find out more about human trafficking here.