The increase in trade in human beings represents a serious threat to the security of individual nations and a question of international justice which cannot be deferred, according to the Vatican Speaking on behalf of Pope John Paul II at the International Conference on Twenty-First Century Slavery earlier this week, Vatican secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran told delegates from all over the world that such a trade constituted a shocking offence against human dignity and a grave violation of human rights. Reading from a Papal letter, in which human trafficking and slavery was described as "a plague", the archbishop went on to say that this week's conference in Rome reflected the growing international consensus that the issue must be addressed by promoting effective juridical instruments to halt the trade, punish those who profit from it and assist the reintegration of its victims. In his letter the pope made specific reference to sexual exploitation which he described as "particularly repugnant". He continued: "The disturbing tendency to treat prostitution as a business of industry not only contributes to the trade in human beings, but is itself evidence of a growing tendency to detach freedom from the moral law and to reduce the rich mystery of human sexuality to a mere commodity. "The Conference offers a significant opportunity for sustained reflection on the complex human rights issues raised by trafficking. Who can deny that the victims of this crime are often the poorest and most defenceless members of the human family, the least of our brothers and sisters?" As the conference began on Wednesday, hundreds of former prostitutes who had come to Rome for the conference, attended the Pope's general audience at St. Peter's Square. According to the UN some 700,000 people, mostly women and children, are forced into slavery every year, most of them obliged to prostitute themselves and face physical violence. The great majority of trafficking in humans involves immigrants who are fleeing poverty or violence in their own homes in the hope of better jobs and new lives in richer countries.
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