Talitha Kum, the international network of Consecrated Life against human trafficking, invites joint action from governments, organizations and persons of goodwill to help prevent the scourge of trafficking in persons.
On Thursday, the organization hosted the launch of its “Call to Action” event, organized on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is celebrated annually on 25 November.
The online and in-person event gathered different speakers who spoke on justice for survivors, women’s empowerment, creating legal immigration pathways and the need for an economy of care for victims and survivors of human trafficking.
Joint efforts against trafficking
In her welcome address, Sr. Jolanta Kafka, RMI, the president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) said the "Call to Action" was the celebration of the fruit of a great work which will turn into a seed – a small seed akin to the kingdom of God - which, once planted, grows and flourishes and becomes a tree where even birds can find shelter.
She noted that Talitha Kum, which began discretely, has grown into a network present in more than 90 countries that takes care of victims of trafficking. Stressing that trafficking is a “crime against humanity,” she called for a “high-level” political and social commitment from everyone, including authorities, to work in order to combat trafficking.
Talitha Kum at the service of the vulnerable
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was present to give the opening remarks for the occasion after the welcome address by Sr. Kafka.
He highlighted that women religious and religious orders in general have had a long history of answering Jesus’ call to serve humanity in the concrete pursuit of mercy, justice and hope. One of such responses is Talitha kum which has grown in its reach in its mission to support victims, survivors and others at risk.
The Cardinal urged Talitha Kum to consider the inspiration for the “Call to Action” as a mission to carry the Good News of faith into the world. “Jesus has broken the bonds of slavery, He has truly saved man from sin and death,” the Cardinal said. “Your experience of redemption, restoration, Justice, mercy, and hope is for everyone.”
Joseph, Mary Magdalene
The Cardinal went on to recall two stories from the Bible to illustrate the importance of mercy and encounter with God.
He recalled the story of Joseph who, because he was the preferred son of his father, incurred the jealousy of his brothers. He was sold into slavery and later imprisoned. However, the Cardinal noted, “Joseph never lost hope or faith in the Lord.” When he became powerful and had the power to condemn his brother to death, he showed mercy inspired by his “experience of God’s mercy in his own life.”
“Our ability to look at those that offend us and to seek justice, but not at the expense of mercy, speaks to the prophetic voice of the church. In other words, what is otherwise impossible becomes possible through our encounter with God,” he said.
Cardinal Parolin then held up the example of Mary of Magdala who, encountered in Jesus, “the eyes of a loving father and brother.” While it is not certain that she was the prostitute identified in the Gospel of John, the Cardinal noted that tradition tells us that it was likely then that Jesus first met her and he defended her dignity as he would “his own child, his very sister.”
“His gaze on Mary that day not only changed her heart, not only affirmed her in all of her dignity, but it also changed the heart of the men that would have cast the first stone,” he said. She went on to become the “apostle of the apostles,” - the first to proclaim to them the “Good News of Christ's resurrection, because she herself had seen the resurrection and already had been restored by Him to new life.”
“This very message, which has been experienced by so many victims and survivors of the advocacy and care of Talitha Kom must be made known to the world,” the Cardinal said. “It is the heart of the prophetic voice of the Church. It is also the prophetic voice of all of those with whom they work in the shared vocation of service.”
A prophetic voice
Reflecting on the work of Talitha Kum, Cardinal Parolin noted that it is grounded in the belief that “the dignity of the oppressed can be restored through sororal and fraternal relationships marked by the presence of the holy spirit in the mysterious encounter with God.”
Talitha Kum, he continued, “addresses the systemic causes that leave people at risk of falling into the hands of trafficking networks, engaging families and local communities, together with key stakeholders at the national and international levels.”
“It is a prophetic voice that the world rightfully needs to hear”, he added. “It will bring necessary changes to the way in which the international community, including at the local level responds to the scourge of modern slavery.”
Call to action involves all
Cardinal Parolin concluded his speech, inviting everyone to leave behind every form of hypocrisy and to face the reality that we cannot look elsewhere and pretend to be ignorant or innocent.
Recalling Pope Francis’ words, he said that on the one hand, there are some people who are directly involved in criminal organizations and do not want about the scourge because “they earn high profits as a result of the new form of slavery.” On the other hand, there are some who do not want to talk because they are there where the chain of consumption ends, “ as consumers of the services offered by men, women and children who have been turned into slaves.”
He prayed that the “Call to Action” may “shake the conscience of the complacent and encourage those who would otherwise look the other way” to join in the efforts to break the bonds of sin and the slavery of human trafficking.
The event continued with interventions and speeches from representatives of the Talitha Kum network across the globe, inviting everyone to play a part in the fight against this new form of modern slavery.