Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for February 2019: For the Victims of Human Trafficking


“Although we try to ignore it, slavery is not something from other times. Faced with this tragic reality, no one can wash their hands of it without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity. We cannot ignore the fact that there is as much slavery in the world today as there was before, or perhaps more. Let us pray for a generous welcome of the victims of human trafficking, of enforced prostitution, and of violence.”


No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters

Here are the highlights of Pope Francis’ message for today’s World Day of Peace:

The “Life of Communion” vs. Exploitation:

Since we are by nature relational beings, meant to find fulfilment through interpersonal relationships inspired by justice and love, it is fundamental for our human development that our dignity, freedom and autonomy be acknowledged and respected. Tragically, the growing scourge of man’s exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice and love. This abominable phenomenon, which leads to contempt for the fundamental rights of others and to the suppression of their freedom and dignity, takes many forms. I would like briefly to consider these, so that, in the light of God’s word, we can consider all men and women “no longer slaves, but brothers and sisters”.

One Human Family vs. Sin:

Tragically, between the first creation recounted in the Book of Genesis and the new birth in Christ whereby believers become brothers and sisters of the “first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29), there is the negative reality of sin, which often disrupts human fraternity and constantly disfigures the beauty and nobility of our being brothers and sisters in the one human family.

A Culture of Enslavement:

In the account of the origins of the human family, the sin of estrangement from God, from the father figure and from the brother, becomes an expression of the refusal of communion. It gives rise to a culture of enslavement (cf. Gen 9:25-27), with all its consequences extending from generation to generation: rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalized inequality.

Human Dignity is Intrinsic to the Person:

Differing origins and social status did not diminish anyone’s dignity or exclude anyone from belonging to the People of God. The Christian community is thus a place of communion lived in the love shared among brothers and sisters (cf. Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7).

Slavery Exists Today:

Yet, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.

The Exploitation of Workers:

I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labor regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights.

The Plight of Migrants:

I think also of the living conditions of many migrants who, in their dramatic odyssey, experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse. In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a grueling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions.

Sexual slavery:

I think also of persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves. I think of women forced into marriage, those sold for arranged marriages and those bequeathed to relatives of their deceased husbands, without any right to give or withhold their consent.

Other forms of Trafficking and Slavery:

Nor can I fail to think of all those persons, minors and adults alike, who are made objects of trafficking for the sale of organs, for recruitment as soldiers, for begging, for illegal activities such as the production and sale of narcotics, or for disguised forms of cross-border adoption.

Finally, I think of all those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups, subjected to their purposes as combatants, or, above all in the case of young girls and women, to be used as sex slaves. Many of these disappear, while others are sold several times over, tortured, mutilated or killed.

Slavery is Rooted in the Objectification of Others:

Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.

Other Causes of Slavery Today:

Alongside this deeper cause – the rejection of another person’s humanity – there are other causes which help to explain contemporary forms of slavery. Among these, I think in the first place of poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of access to education or scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities. Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking….

Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labour and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions.

A Global Effort to Eliminate Slavery is Needed:

There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. Moreover, since criminal organizations employ global networks to achieve their goals, efforts to eliminate this phenomenon also demand a common and, indeed, a global effort on the part of various sectors of society.

Businesses Must Play a Critical Role:

Businesses have a duty to ensure dignified working conditions and adequate salaries for their employees, but they must also be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain. Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers. Every person ought to have the awareness that “purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act”.

Reject the Globalization of Indifference:

I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity….

The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

International aid can’t arrive soon enough for the Central African Republic by Washington Post: “More than 630,000 people in a nation of 4.5 million have fled their homes, and tens of thousands are living in miserable and dangerous conditions at the airport in Bangui, the capital, or in other improvised camps. Just 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops provide what passes for protection and order in a country where the state has collapsed. The U.N. force, which will consist of 10,000 troops and 2,000 police, is not due to deploy until September.”

U.N. Considering Sanctions Over South Sudan Massacre by AP: “The U.N. has said hundreds of civilians were killed in the massacre last week in Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state. The top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, has said ‘piles and piles’ of bodies were left behind. Security Council members watched a video showing bodies lining a street and the interior of a mosque where civilians had sought shelter from rebel forces taking control from government troops amid ethnic tensions in the world’s newest country.”

Sacrament of Fiction: On Becoming a Writer and Not a Priest by Nick Ripatrazone: “I write for many of the same reasons that I wanted to become a priest. I want to bear witness to a sacramental vision. I want to admit my life as a sinner. Rather than judge others, I want to use empathy to sketch their imperfect lives on the page, and find the God that I know resides within them. Similar to the life of a priest, there is a space for silence in my writing life, but also a time of engagement with both reader and place.”

The Leadership Emotions by David Brooks: “Certain faculties that were central to amateur decision making — experience, intuition, affection, moral sentiments, imagination and genuineness — have been shorn down for those traits that we associate with professional tactics and strategy — public opinion analysis, message control, media management and self-conscious positioning.”

Does America need a raise? by Charles Clark: “Catholic social thought and its preferential option for the poor also offers strong support for increasing the minimum wage. The Catholic claim that workers deserve a just wage as a matter of justice, and not as charity, is based on the argument that wages should provide sufficient resources for meeting the material and spiritual needs of workers and their families. It is this teaching that the U.S. Catholic bishops have pointed to in their recent efforts to call on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.”

The World’s Toughest Job by Amber Lapp: “In a mobile society where family is often far away and friends don’t have enough time to become much more than acquaintances before the next big move, how do parents manage? As Senior documents, parenting expectations and pressure are at an all-time high. And yet community support is at an all-time low. There is no village to raise the child. And parents are struggling with the demands.”

Working with the Vatican against modern slavery by John Kerry: “When we embrace our common humanity and stand up for the dignity of all people, we realize the vision of a world that is more caring and more just — a world free from slavery.”

Joint canonization encourages politicized Catholics to bridge divides by John Gehring and Kim Daniels: “If Catholics who vote differently lower our defenses and learn from each other, we can find common ground when it comes to urgent moral issues like poverty, abortion and immigration. If we speak together as Catholics first, we will offer an important and enriching voice to the American political conversation.”

Francis encountering curial opposition, cardinal says by Joshua McElwee: “”Expressions like ‘What can it be that this little Argentine pretends?’, or the expression of a well-known cardinal who let slip the phrase, ‘We made a mistake,’ can be heard,” Rodríguez said, making an apparent reference to a cardinal who regrets the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope.”

The Case for Divorce Reform by William J. Doherty: “Modest, common-sense divorce reform is something all Americans can support.”

Pope John saw off the prophets of gloom by Cardinal Turkson: “Pope John XXIII locates peace in the dignity of every human person and in persons in relationship – where justice governs relationships and people embrace the dignity of every person, there peace begins to reign.”

Sharing the Vision of Saint John XXIII by Randall Rosenberg: “John XXIII significantly broadened the Catholic imaginary, and this broadening is illuminated by the metaphor of friendship. He helped to reframe in significant ways the Church’s relationship to modern economic, political, social, and cultural developments; the way we think about the papacy in more evangelical and less bureaucratic terms (along with a healthy dose of humor); the way we tacitly understand our relationship to other Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.; the way we think about social justice in global terms; the way, indeed, we think about the church in global terms. At the heart of his deepening of the Catholic imaginary, I suggest, is his loving, yet critical, friendship with the modern world.”

A Catholic push for a higher wage by Richard Trumka and J. Cletus Kiley: “Economic policy making that keeps with the Catholic tradition prioritizes those who struggle the most. The Fair Minimum Wage Act set to be debated by Congress this month is a common-sense proposal that will help working families, expand the middle class and reflect our nation’s best values.”



Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Nation of Takers? by Nicholas Kristof: “However imperfectly, subsidies for the poor do actually reduce hunger, ease suffering and create opportunity, while subsidies for the rich result in more private jets and yachts. Would we rather subsidize opportunity or yachts? Which kind of subsidies deserve more scrutiny?”

The pope’s message to the president by EJ Dionne: “But the pope’s main job is to pose a radical challenge to our complacency and social indifference. In doing so, he should stir an uneasiness that compels all of us — and that includes Obama — to examine our consciences.”

There are many reasons why Assad is stronger than ever by Michael Young: “A closely-related strategy pursued by the Assad regime has been to allow religious or political extremism to proliferate, in such a way as to portray itself as a foe of the extremists. This it has done in the Syrian conflict, releasing jihadists from prison, putting much less military pressure on them than on the more moderate opposition, and allowing them to control oil-rich areas to finance themselves. The objective has, again, been two-fold: to create dissension within opposition ranks and provoke conflict between opposition groups; and to entice Western public opinion into believing the Al Assads are a barrier against extremism, therefore should not be overthrown.”

Three refreshing gifts of Lent by Robert J. Wicks: “Don’t miss this Lent. Greater inner freedom, a richer sense of compassion, and a deeper sense of our relationship with God are waiting.”

Smuggled, Trafficked, Violated by Nicholas Sawicki: “Whether they’re sold as child sex slaves, harvested for organs, or forced into farm labor, the denial of  the basic human right to freedom for millions is a sad reality that our society has to deal with today.”

Closed City by John Carr: “Washington is not corrupted by secret gifts, but by the legal purchase of access and influence that come with endless fundraising and politics as usual.”

Burma’s Muslims Are Facing Incredibly Harsh Curbs on Marriage, Childbirth and Religion by Time: “Proposed regulations will restrict religious conversions, make it illegal for Buddhist women to marry Muslim men, place limits on the number of children Muslims can have and outlaw polygamy, which is permitted in Islam. More than 1.3 million signatures have reportedly been gathered in support of this plan, which is spearheaded by a group of extremist Buddhist monks and their lay supporters.”

Ukrainian Catholics flee Crimea to escape threats of arrest by CNS: “Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, a priest told Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalized the region’s annexation.”

Political skills for divine purposes by Michael Gerson: “Francis has a feel for powerful symbols of simplicity, humility and compassion, such as carrying his own suitcase, washing the feet of Muslim prisoners, inviting the homeless to his birthday party, touching the disfigured. In this case, old Coke is pretty old — the example of a wandering preacher who touched lepers and consorted with a variety of sinners and outcasts. As in that ancient example, Francis has combined traditional moral teachings with a scandalous belief that people are ultimately more important than rules.”

Under a Barrel by Lama Fakih: “These unguided, high-explosive bombs — which are cheaply produced locally and filled with explosives, scrap metal, nails, or other material to enhance fragmentation — are pushed out of helicopters, dropped on densely populated areas by the Syrian army. Used in this way, the bombs are incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, making the attacks unlawful under international humanitarian law.”

The Very Real Prospect of Genocide in Burma by Romeo Dallaire: “The international community must take early preventive action now in order to reverse Burma’s current trend towards catastrophe and possibly genocide.”

Shadowed by Tragedy by Kerry Weber: “Rwanda is a country that longs to be known for something other than the genocide, and over the past 20 years, the nation’s government has worked hard to replace that reputation with a more positive one. In many ways, it has succeeded. Rwanda has made dramatic advances and now ranks among the cleanest, safest and least corrupt countries in Africa. Yet its deepest wound is one that cannot be healed by superficial changes.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Bring on the Dogma by Michael Sean Winters: “The mercy of God, the love of God, the human dignity of all, these are the core doctrines that we must embrace and defend, but our defense must be characterized by utter humility in part because we all so easily and so often offend against them!”

Going Home Again by David Brooks: “Sting’s talk was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past.”

How Bashar al-Assad created the feared shabiha militia: an insider speaks by The Telegraph: “A former Assad regime insider has given the first direct account of how Syria’s ruling family created the feared shabiha militia that is blamed for some of the worst atrocities of the civil war, and gave it orders to kill or torture anti-regime protesters.”

Emerging Adulthood: A Luxury Good by Anna Sutherland: “As Kendig, Mattingly, and Bianchi conclude, their findings imply that young adults from lower-income families need more support as they pursue a college education or job training, and they could benefit from earlier training in financial literacy as they contribute to their families’ income at younger ages.”

The Central African Republic has become a nightmare for Muslims by Peter Bouckaert: “The Catholics’ humanity, courage and leadership stand out amid the slaughter. They are virtually alone in trying to protect the vulnerable. France and the African Union have deployed thousands of peacekeepers; the United States and other governments have provided support to the peacekeeping mission. But their efforts to protect civilians pale next to the bravery exhibited by these clergy.”

Europe’s bishops: Politics needs to focus its attention on the common good by Vatican Insider: “The bishops ended their statement with a direct appeal: ‘We, Catholic Bishops, would plead that the European project not be put at risk nor abandoned under current duress.’”

Abby Huntsman wants to lead her own generation into poverty by Michael Hiltzik: “Huntsman has stitched her spiel together out of scraps and tatters of misinformation, of a sort we’ve heard from the older generation for years. They’re no more accurate coming out the mouths of a “millennial.” But it’s tragic to see that what she’s learned from her elders is how to mislead her public.”

Christians, Muslims join anti-slavery campaign by AP: “Christians and Muslims have joined to try to help free millions of men, women and children held in modern-day slavery, forced to work as maids, prostitutes, child soldiers and manual laborers. The Global Freedom Network launched Monday at the Vatican aims to eradicate slavery by encouraging governments, businesses, educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labor.”

Best practices for charity and justice by Jack Jezreel, US Catholic: “Those in our parishes who work on issues related to human trafficking, for example, should celebrate—not diminish—the work of those dedicated to issues related to mental illness. Those focused on environmental care should celebrate—not diminish—the work of those focused on reducing abortions. Those who work on domestic issues in partnership with Catholic Charities should celebrate—not diminish—those who work on international issues in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.”

Love vs. Pornography by Bishop Paul Loverde: “Very often, a key factor in one’s descent into pornography addiction is a lack of affirmation, acceptance, and trust in one’s relationships. An important part of the ascent, then, can also be the sharing of this struggle with others, allowing their love and concern to aid in the healing.”

A Genius for Friendship by John Padberg, SJ: “Peter began to help Ignatius in his studies; Ignatius slowly became a dear friend and counselor to whom Faber unburdened his troubled inner life. Ignatius could understand it well; he had experienced the same trials of scruples, temptations, uncertainties that had long bedeviled Peter. These burdens never completely left Faber, but he learned from Ignatius both how to deal with them and how to help others in the same circumstances.”

Pope Francis: Style, substance and a man for others by Stephen Kent: “His remarks — critical of the “throwaway culture” and his skepticism about “trickle-down economics” ever reaching the poor — have captured headlines, as has his demand for a direct encounter with the poor.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Separation Anxiety by Anna Nussbaum Keating, America: “We spend our lives accruing honors trying to prove that we have value, when what truly makes us happy is to contribute to our communities in a meaningful way, to love and be loved.”

UN report on Vatican and sex abuse may hurt reform cause By John L. Allen: “Over the years, the Vatican sometimes has been accused of being spectacularly tone-deaf in its response to the abuse crisis, and God knows there’s merit to those perceptions. Now it may be the UN that’s off-key, restocking what had been the diminishing ammo of those inclined to defend the status quo.”

“Your brother’s blood cries out from the ground!” by Carol Glatz , CNS: “Pope Francis often holds up Cain’s cynical words and attitude of indifference as a rallying cry against the apathy and outright complicity shown in today’s world to the crime and horror of human trafficking. At least 21 million people have been forced into modern-day slavery and many of those were caught in the snares of traffickers. Some experts believe human trafficking will soon overtake drug and arms trafficking as the most lucrative criminal activity in the world.”

How to Spot a Paranoid Libertarian by Cass Sunstein: “As a general rule, paranoia isn’t a good foundation for public policy, even if it operates in freedom’s name.”

Nurture these attitudes to form basis of real love by James Sheridan: “Love that consists of caring, understanding, respect, appreciation, acceptance and trust needs to be intentionally nurtured by married couples. Husbands and wives bring different perspectives, different histories, and different attitudes to a marriage. They have a great deal to learn from and give to each other.”

Pope says relativistic ideas of marriage lead to divorce by Francis X. Rocca: “Pope Francis said contemporary ideas of marriage as an arrangement defined by personal needs promote a mentality of divorce, and he called for better preparation of engaged couples as well as ministry to Catholics whose marriages have failed.”

Farm bill hurts hungry Americans by John Stoehr: “With this bill, the Republicans have said loudly that corporations with billions in revenue are more important than children.”

Woody Allen, nihilist by Damon Linker: “There is no justice. From Plato’s sociopathic sophists to Friedrich Nietzsche’s ambition to ‘sail right over our morality,’ this has been the conviction and the insight of the nihilist. These are Woody Allen’s philosophical compatriots.”

Elizabeth Warren To Obama: Stop Putting Forward So Many Corporate Judicial Nominees by Jennifer Bendery: “Seventy-one percent of his nominees have practiced primarily for corporate or business clients, which means that among Obama’s judicial picks over the last five years, corporate attorneys outnumber all other kinds of attorneys by three to one.”

Saint Josephine Bakhita, Witness of Hope for Victims of Human Trafficking by Cardinal Donald Wuerl: “Our Catholic teachings on social justice, human rights and the God-given dignity of all human life offer a moral and philosophical foundation for confronting the modern evil of human trafficking.”