Rome (Italy). On Monday, February 12, 2018, Clementine Hall in the Vatican hosted the encounter of Pope Francis with the participants: women, men, young and less young people, and families with children, for the World Day of Reflection and Prayer against the Trafficking of persons. Also present were young people who have traversed the painful and violent roads of the Mediterranean route and are now inserted in journeys of welcome, protection, promotion, and integration.
For the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, five FMA and three young people participated: Sr. Elena Rastello, reference person for the Youth Pastoral Sector and member of the coordination committee UISG-Talitha Kum; Sr. Gabriella Imperatore and Sr. Celine Rajendran of the Social Communications Sector, Sr. Cecilia Castro Gomes and Sr. Rita Mascarenhas, for their animation experience on the network against trafficking in Brazil and in India, three students of Mary Help of Christians High School in Rome, via Dalmazia.
The fourth World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, celebrated on February 8, 2018, on the occasion of the memorial of St. Bakhita, highlighted the relationship between ‘Trafficking and Migration’. The Pope answered some questions posed by the young people.
“Do you think that silence about the events of trafficking is due to ignorance of the phenomenon?” Pope Francis stressed the fact that there is “a lot of ignorance. But sometimes, it seems there is little willingness to understand the weight of the problem, because it touches our consciences closely…”
“Then there are those who, despite knowing it, do not want to talk about it because they are at the end of the consumption chain, as a user of the ‘services’ offered on the road or on the internet. There are those who do not want to talk about it, because they are directly involved in the criminal organizations that derive their profits from trafficking. Yes, it takes courage and honesty – continued the Pope – in going to meet people who are injured because they are prostitutes, abused, sold, enslaved, and also when we choose products that could have been made through the exploitation of other people “.
The Pope, affirming that “I have never lost the occasion to openly denounce trafficking as a crime against humanity”, launched a strong appeal to young people to sensitize themselves about this reality, to contagion communities with a serious commitment so that no human being will ever again be a victim of trafficking: “Your voice, more enthusiastic and spontaneous, can break the silence to denounce the nefariousness of trafficking and propose concrete solutions. Adults who are ready to listen can be of great help “.
The young people asked the Pope where to find hope, and he replied: “You young people can find hope in Christ, and He can also be found in migrants who have fled their homes and remain trapped in nets. Do not be afraid to meet them. Open your heart, let them in, be ready to change. The meeting with the other naturally leads to a change, but we must not be afraid of this change. It will always be for the best. Remember the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Enlarge your tent’ (cf. 54: 2) […] Be promoters of initiatives that your parishes can host. Help the Church to create spaces for sharing experiences and integrating faith and life. ”
Pope Francis expressed a great deal of trust in young people and invited them to “build their identity step by step and have a point of reference, a guiding light. The Church has always wanted to be at the side of people who suffer, especially children and young people, protecting them and promoting their integral human development. Minors are often ‘invisible’, subject to dangers and threats, alone and easy to manipulate; we want, even in the most precarious situations, to be your beacon of hope and support, because God is always with you. ”
To the question: “What space will be given in the Youth Synod to young people who come from the outskirts of marginalization caused by a model of development now outdated, which continues to produce human degradation? How can these girls and boys be the protagonists of change in society and in the Church? Pope Francis said: “I wish for those who are real witnesses of the risks of trafficking in their Countries of origin, to find in the Synod a place to express themselves, from which to call the Church to action. Therefore, it is my great desire that the young representatives of the “peripheries” be protagonists of this Synod. I hope that they can see the Synod as a place to send a message to the rulers of the Countries of origin and of arrival to request protection and support. I hope that these young people will launch a global message for world youth mobilization, to build together an inclusive and welcoming common home. I hope that they will be an example of hope for those who go through the existential drama of despair. […] My hope is that the Synod also be an opportunity for local Churches to learn to work together and become ‘a network of salvation’ “.
In conclusion, the invitation to prayer, citing St. Josephine Bakhita, a great Sudanese woman, exemplary witness of hope for the many victims of slavery: she can today “support the efforts of all those who are dedicated to fighting this scourge in the body of contemporary humanity, a wound in the flesh of Christ “.
Then there followed an hour of dialogue and profound harmony between Pope Francis and the participants, young and adults, which ended with the characteristic group photo, the cordial and fatherly greeting of the Pope to each person present, the offering of gifts prepared by the young, and welcomed by him. A meeting that challenges everyone, invites to encounter, and directs the realization of prophetic gestures of fraternity with all young people.