Law enforcement officers, Bishops, religious sisters and international organisations from across the world gathered in the Vatican for the fifth Santa Marta Group conference to update and share good practice in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.
This year's conference focused on regional realities with tailored solutions to human trafficking in each continent. With input from every continent, each region discussed their experiences, both the successes and challenges they face, with growing collaboration identified as a priority in neighbouring countries where the challenges are similar.
Education and economic opportunity is the focus on the supply side from countries of origin and the need for a strong legal framework, accountability and active citizenship on the demand side in countries of destination. While there are significant similarities in approaches to combating human trafficking across regions, the need for local action was emphasised, recognising the significant levels of internal trafficking taking place.
The conference also featured contributions from international agencies, introducing the role of the private sector and the importance of transparency in supply chains. Practical ways to address difficult to track human trafficking, such as slavery within seafaring, were also discussed.
A challenge to the group was to increase their accountability through greater transparency with the media, both on work done and long term strategy. An example was shared from the UK, where Church and Law Enforcement partnered with a media outlet (the Evening Standard) to raise awareness of human trafficking, investigate cases of modern slavery and propose solutions through a round table chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Cardinal Nichols, President of the Santa Marta Group, in his address to Pope Francis, drew attention to the need to always remember the victim at the centre of this evil crime; the enslaved person who demands our action in combating trafficking. Cardinal Nichols said:
"Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour."
(See below for Cardinal Nichols' full address)
For more information on the Santa Marta Group go to www.santamartagroup.com
Address to Pope Francis
Santa Marta Conference, 9 February 2018
Holy Father, we thank you for this gift of a meeting and for the privilege of greeting you, so as to express our respect and regard for you in your ministry at the helm of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour. You constantly point to the face of our true humanity, a face reflecting the infinite goodness and compassion of God, made visible in Jesus.
We thank you for your leadership and encouragement in the fight against human trafficking. In these last two days, this meeting of the Santa Marta Group, the fifth we have held, has heard of this work from every continent of the growing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the resources of the Catholic Church. Achievements are considerable. The challenge is great. In all our efforts we try to keep before our eyes the faces of those who are enslaved, those who are rescued, those who are making the long road of recovery. It is they, our brothers and sisters, whom we wish to serve, as well as striving wholeheartedly to find, stop and prosecute the perpetrators of these evil and brutal crimes.
Holy Father, we are very conscious of so many who are involved in this world-wide campaign. Yesterday many of those people, present in Rome, gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St Peter, including many religious sisters, who are so often on the front-line of this work against modern slavery. We thanked God for their courage and we dedicated our work to the glory of God and to the service of the dignity which God gives to every person.
We have committed ourselves to deepen our cooperation, to promote truly local awareness and responsibility, to develop not only national partnerships, but also development them regionally in centres such as Argentina, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
We ask you, Holy Father, to continue to call Governments to a truly humane response to the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the support and protection they provide; to urge financial and business institutions to do all they can to eliminate slavery and its profits from their transactions; and to encourage all people of good will to become more alert to the presence of slave-labour.
Holy Father, we thank you from the depth of our hearts for the ministry and leadership you give in our world today. We assure you of our wholehearted support and promise you our prayers and prayers for all victims of human trafficking. We ask you to bless our work, our families and each one of us today.
Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster