Rome (Italy). From 18 to 24 May 2024, at the Fraterna Domus of Sacrofano, Rome, the 2nd General Assembly of the World Anti-Trafficking Network Talitha Kum was held, with more than 150 participants from 71 countries, representing the 60 networks of Talitha Kum, religious and lay delegates, experts, supporters, Members of partnership networks, youth, and religious. Among them were two Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Elena Rastello, of the World Coordination, and Sister Ayumi Clara Nagase, of the Japan Coordination.

“On the road together to end human trafficking: compassion in action for transformation” is the theme on which the Assembly has focused since the preparation.

The objectives of the days were:

  • Listen to and share the experiences of the various continental and regional networks and ways. In this regard, it was possible to visit in the exhibits of the different continents the richness and variety of the historical and geographical path accomplished in the last 15 years;
  • deepen the identity and beauty of the diversity of this international network, as a pastoral project of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) for over 25 years. Sister Paticia Murray, UISG executive secretary, expressed gratitude and amazement for the journey accomplished: “We are very proud of the work done, but we know that much more needs to be done to really fight this scourge on the body of humanity;”
  • strengthen networking and collaboration with civil society movements and individuals – religious leaders, government, and politicians – engaged in this work at global and local levels, regardless of faith, politics or culture;
  • review and update the network’s action priorities in the light of emerging realities;
  • celebrate the 15 years of Talitha Kum which, as Sister Abby Avelino, International Coordinator of Talitha Kum, said, “It seems that in its members lives the transformative power of hope, compassion, and mercy, which defines the mission of our global network.”

The power of Pentecost filled the Assembly with hope to find the courage to persevere in the commitment and struggle to put an end to the trafficking of persons, to build a future in which “all can have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10:10). The same Spirit has opened hearts to the touching stories told by the wounded, stories in which Jesus’ call was truly life-generating: “Talitha’ kum, rise!” (Mk 5: 41).

Through the well-prepared liturgy, we prayed intensely for eyes that discover the reality of trafficking, hands stretched out to those who bear the wounds, compassionate hearts and feet to walk on new ways of promoting transformative processes.

Stimulated by the synodal methodology of discernment through “conversation in the Spirit”, a strategic plan was developed with specific and concrete decisions and the elaboration of a Final Declaration outlining the priorities for action of the Talitha Kum Network for the five-year period 2025-2030.

During the assemblies and group work, the radical changes of the last 5 years were recognized – by the General Assembly of 2019 – with the consequences for the lives of ‘trafficked’ persons. The different cultural contexts are marked by rapid changes, the effects of globalization, the strong growth of migratory movements, the impact of the climate emergency and the ecological crisis, exponential growth of the use of technologies, armed conflicts, which have followed the crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new context demands from Talitha Kum a stronger and bolder commitment to systemic change in the face of new vulnerabilities; an integral and also preventive approach to the scourge of trafficking, putting at the center the survivors and those at risk; the expansion of collaborations and partnerships, because only together the numerous actions will have the power to transform the lives of those who are affected and trafficked.

Pope Francis made himself present at the Assembly by sending a discourse. Thanking them for what has been done to “defeat the trafficking of people, one of the most terrible plagues of our time,” he invited them to continue “in the wake of what you at Talitha Kum have always done: standing by the victims, listening to them, helping them to rise up, and, together, acting against trafficking. To be really effective against this criminal phenomenon so odious, it is necessary to be a community. [… ]

It is not easy, but in these fifteen years you have shown us at every latitude that it is possible to do this. Talitha Kum has become a global and capillary network, and at the same time, well-rooted in the local Churches. It has become a point of reference for victims, their families, people at risk, and the most vulnerable communities. Moreover, your appeals are a strong call to responsibility for national and local governments and institutions. I encourage you to continue along this path, carrying out prevention and remedial actions and weaving many valuable relationships, indispensable to counter and defeat trafficking.”

In the long journey of the Talitha Kum network since the end of the nineties, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians has always been present, especially through the commitment to prevention at various levels and networking, to address the situation of women and children who are abused and exploited.

Currently, some FMA in more than ten countries are part of the national Talitha Kum Coordination, holding seminars and raising awareness of the Educating Communities and young people about the challenge of trafficking in their own country and in the world. In anticipation, there are online meetings with other religious Institutes and NGOs with the intention of helping to competently raise awareness of this global problem and to form young people ready to become ‘ambassadors of liberation’ for their peers, bearers of compassion, able to say with life-giving gestures and actions those two little Gospel words – Talitha Kum – that can still perform the miracle of putting them back on their feet.

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