By Sarah Mac Donald - 31 October, 2015
Pope Francis has pledged his support for the efforts of the Santa Marta Group, an international alliance of religious leaders, police officials and social organisations set up to combat human trafficking.
In a message on Friday, the Pope promised his continuing support for the network’s efforts to “free the victims of new forms of slavery, rehabilitate them, along with the imprisoned and the marginalised, unmasking the traffickers and those who create this market.”
The Santa Marta group, which Pope Francis set up last year, is currently gathered at San Lorenzo del Escorial in Spain, at a meeting inaugurated on Friday by Queen Sofia and attended by cardinals, bishops, social activists and around fifty heads of police from around the world.
In his message, the Pontiff said that in the short time of its existence, this worthy group has made significant achievements and is called upon to play a decisive role in the eradication of human trafficking and modern slavery.
He recalled that during the last year there have been important institutional changes that have supported its activity, starting with the meeting of mayors in Vatican City on 21 July, in which key figures signed a declaration expressing their commitment to eliminating the new forms of slavery that constitute a crime against humanity.
The Pope also mentioned the recent approval of the Agenda 2030, with the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include the adoption of immediate and effective means for eradicating forced labour, putting an end to modern forms of slavery and human trafficking and ensuring the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers, with a view to putting an end to all forms of child labour by 2025.
Recalling his address to the UN in New York on 25 September, where he affirmed that the world demands of government leaders “a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences. …”
He said such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to “fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences”.
“Today the 193 states of the United Nations have a new moral imperative to combat human trafficking, a true crime against humanity,” the Pope said.
Collaboration between bishops and the civil authorities, each in accordance with his own mission and character and with the aim of discovering best practice for the fulfilment of this delicate task, is “a decisive step to ensuring that the will of governments reaches the victims in a direct, immediate, constant, effective and concrete way”.
Speaking to the members of the Santa Marta group he said, “For my part, I pray that God Almighty grant you the grace of carrying forward the delicate, humanitarian and Christian mission of healing the open and painful wounds of humanity, which are also Christ’s wounds.”
“I assure you of all my support and my prayer, and the support and prayer of the faithful of the Catholic Church. With God’s help, and your collaboration, the indispensable service of the Santa Marta Group will be able to free the victims of new forms of slavery, rehabilitate them, along with the imprisoned and the marginalised, unmasking the traffickers and those who create this market, and provide effective assistance to cities and nations; a service for the common good and the promotion of human dignity, able to bring out the best in every person and every citizen.”