Pope Francis has already made it clear that he has a heart and mind for the poor. We’ve seen images of him washing the feet of AIDS patients, stopping traffic to bless a severely handicapped man in St. Peter’s Square, and reminding us from the first moments of his papacy to remember the poor.
Beyond that, there is a certain population of the poor that Francis wants us to remember: those caught in human trafficking and slavery. The White House conservatively estimates that 20 million men, women and children are trafficked globally. According to Charled Reid, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Pope Francis’ home is an epicenter for slavery:
According to the State Department, Argentina is a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to both forced labor and sex trafficking. Therefore, I was eager to discover what, if any, attention Pope Francis has paid to the issue. I was encouraged to see it reported that “[o]rganizations working against labor and sexual exploitation in Buenos Aires counted him as an ally. He often visited victims of trafficking, was moved by their testimonies and denounced those responsible for these forms of slavery in his homilies.” Even the New York Times reports that Pope Francis began an initiative to assist victims of human trafficking in 2008. This is significant because, at that time, Argentina was on the State Department’s watch list of nations in need of improvement in their response to human trafficking.
Clearly, Pope Francis is aware of the terrible and tragic circumstances of human trafficking. During a Mass for victims of this crime, he said,
For many, Buenos Aires is a meat grinder which destroys their lives, breaks their will, and deprives them of freedom…
In our city there are people committing human sacrifice, killing the dignity of these men and these women, these girls and boys that are submitted to this treatment, to slavery. We cannot remain calm.
It is hard to imagine a more horrifying crime against human beings that the crime of being torn from their homes, forced into labor and the sex trades, and be able to see no way out of the situation. It is heartening to know that Pope Francis is clearly aware of this global sin, and is ready to not only bring attention to it, but to call the faithful to action.