A Conference on working against Human Trafficking in Europe was held from 4th to 9th September 2011 in Trzebinia, Poland. It was organized by RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking against Trafficking and Exploitation). Seventy five sisters from 17 countries of Europe (East, West and Central) gathered at this conference whose theme was ‘When we hear the Cry’.
Present at the conference were Sisters Patricia Kenny, from the England/Scotland Province and Pereka Nyirenda from the General Leadership Team. Sr. Patricia Kenny also represents the congregation on the UNANIMA board.
During the four day conference we prayed and reflected on various issues surrounding the heinous crime of human trafficking; We reflected on the causes and factors that drive demand for trafficking, the situation of the people who have been trafficked and those that have managed to escape the dragnet of the traffickers, some of the responses being made in various countries. We listened to keynote addresses by experts in the the Socio-Cultural and Theology fields and what they had to say about Human Trafficking. Theologian Mary Grey from England reminded participants that they came to the Conference to listen to the cries for help from voices that cannot speak their own story, voices of women, children and men trapped in fear and danger.
In his keynote address a British Academician Ian Linden said researchers estimate that in 2010 the increase in the number of people trafficked globally could be as much as 250%. It is thought that 85% of this trade is for sexual exploitation. He acknowledged that while the problem of human trafficking had several causes, poverty and gender were two great powerful forces.
The problem of human trafficking is huge and the response by the Church to curbing and preventing this vice has been left to the women. The church has a long way to go in addressing the issue of Human Trafficking; bishops and priests were called upon to become involved and speak out.
Mary Grey called for a return of the prophetic dimension of the church. Seeking to develop a theology and spirituality that responds to the issue of human trafficking, she regretted that it is largely assumed in rich countries today that liberation theology has ‘had its day’. She emphasised that Liberation Theology and Spirituality teach us that people need to be empowered to move from being victims to becoming agents of their own freedom. The dimensions of a prophetic theology, she said, require a new focus for theology.
Mary Grey added that the trafficking of women and children needs to be named as sin by the prophetic Church. People need to hear the evil of trafficking named and preached against at all appropriate pastoral levels.
Part of the work of the four days therefore was planning the way forward. Various ideas and suggestions were discussed and agreed upon and people committed to furthering them either at congregational/national / regional or international level. We were sent forth from the conference challenged, energised and committed to continue the work of raising awareness about trafficking, educating for prevention and coming to the help of persons who fall victim to human traffickers.
Sr Pat Kenny giving a vote of thanks
Srs Pereka & Pat at the meeting