January 1, for Catholics, is celebrated as the World Day of Peace. For January 1, 2015, Pope Francis’ message is a reflection on the horror of human trafficking.
Entitled No Longer Slaves But Brothers And Sisters, the pope’s message calls trafficking an “abominable phenomenon” which cheapens human life and denies basic human rights to those enslaved. Taking his theme from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, Pope Francis reflects on human dignity and true fraternity among all peoples.
Pope Francis prayerfully mentions migrants who have been lied to regarding jobs in foreign lands, adults and children held captive in labor trafficking and debt bondage, those caught in the snares of sex trafficking, and those who have suffered (and often died from) organ trafficking. The pope knows that human trafficking is not simply another money-making venture.
Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, 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.
Pope Francis calls for an end to indifference and tolerance of human trafficking, not only on the part of nations, but on the part of each individual. Many organizations besides governments have a role to play to ending trafficking.
Intergovernmental organizations, in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, are called to coordinate initiatives for combating the transnational networks of organized crime which oversee the trafficking of persons and the illegal trafficking of migrants. Cooperation is clearly needed at a number of levels, involving national and international institutions, agencies of civil society and the world of finance.
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”.
Organizations in civil society, for their part, have the task of awakening consciences and promoting whatever steps are necessary for combating and uprooting the culture of enslavement.
The pope calls for end to the “globalization of indifference,” and a greater emphasis on fraternity and solidarity with all our brothers and sisters.