By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Pope Francis has launched an appeal to combat "the shameful scourge" of human trafficking, decrying that it "disfigures dignity."
The Pope's cry came in a video message for the ninth World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, released Wednesday, 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita.
The Catholic Church’s annual observance was first introduced by Pope Francis in 2015 when he invited women and men religious of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) to mark the day on the liturgical memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint for victims of human trafficking.
The United Nations separately marks its own World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July.
The Pope began by recalling this year's theme "Journeying in dignity," which involves young people as protagonists.
The Holy Father addressed young people in a special way, encouraging them "to care for dignity, yours and of every person you meet."
Being committed to protecting human dignity and against human trafficking, he said, "you can contribute to keeping hope alive, and I would also add joy, which I invite you to preserve in your hearts, along with the Word of God, because the true joy is Christ!"
“Human trafficking disfigures dignity. Exploitation and subjugation limit freedom and turn people into objects to use and discard. And the system of trafficking profits from the injustice and wickedness that oblige millions of people to live in conditions of vulnerability.”
The Holy Father acknowledged that those most easily recruited, are people impoverished by the economic crisis, wars, climate change and many forms of instability. He also decried the targeting of women, children, and migrants.
The role of young people
Even if we live in a difficult time, Pope Francis recognized, "all of us, in particular young people, are required to join forces to build networks of good, to spread the light that comes from Christ and His Gospel."
The Pope went on to urge young people to charge forth "as missionaries of human dignity, against human trafficking and every form of exploitation."
Preventing the 'shameful scourge'
The Holy Father acknowledged that this inaugurates a special year of involvement of young people, calling on them "to be a blessing for other young people."
“Never tire of seeking pathways for transforming our societies and preventing the shameful scourge that is human trafficking.”
The Pope encouraged them to promote anti-trafficking actions, and walk together "hand in hand," "to build a culture of encounter that leads to the conversion of hearts and inclusive societies, capable of unmasking stereotypes and protecting the rights of every person.”
Walking together against trafficking
The Pope urged them to be close to "those who are destroyed by the violence of sexual and labour exploitation," "migrants, displaced persons, those who are searching for a place to live in peace and family."
Inviting all people to courageously reaffirm the value of human dignity and go forward, Pope Francis concluded by giving his Apostolic Blessing.
“May Saint Bakhita pray with us and for us. I heartily bless all of you who work against trafficking, and every person you meet on this journey for dignity.”