In the keynote address at the Santa Marta Latin American conference in Buenos Aires on 9 February, Cardinal Vincent emphasised the centrality of upholding human dignity in the fight against human trafficking.
“Our commitment to the struggle against human trafficking, as we see developing here, lies in our commitment to those who need protection from becoming a victim,’ he said, adding, ‘we have to maintain at the centre of our motivation the person, the vulnerable person who is the target of the exploiter. The focus must be on the human lives and how we put an end to the suffering and marginalisation endured by 40 million people across our world.”
This is key to the conviction that the dignity of every human person must be upheld:
“Human rights, then, are not bestowed by states, nor by legislation, nor by family of origin, nor by wealth, status or power. Those rights arise from that dignity and that dignity, in the eyes of faith, comes from God alone.”
He also noted that “every day we come face to face with what is simply known as the mysterium iniquitatis, the presence of evil, which we struggle to understand and even to counter.”
Cardinal Nichols said:
“If our words and our work are to find credibility, then we have to have the courage to look this evil in the face and not hide or deny its features and the ways in which it touches us. This is true of human trafficking.”
Our task, he said, is “to hold together, every day, the brutal reality of evil, in all its forms, with the reality of our God-given human dignity.”
Victims of human trafficking, he said, “fall into the nothingness of dehumanising slavery, losing every shred of autonomy, every prospect or hope, enduring daily cruelty and the most demeaning of work. Yet the breath of God moves in them still and they long for the light. It is our determination to work for that to be restored to them. And to that end we must work together.
“This vision, of the true nature of human dignity and of the way in which we are to face the reality of this evil in our midst, has to be translated into practical steps.”
He outlined several steps beginning with “the person always remains at the centre of our action and awareness”.
From this, the other steps follow: prevention and the pursuit of perpetrators, rescue and rehabilitation of victims, educating communities to open their eyes to the “invisible reality of human trafficking and modern slavery in their midst”, and to work together to find resources needed to fight this evil.
Part of the work of the Santa Marta Group is to build trust among victims, law enforcement, governments and the Church.
You can read the full opening address by downloading this PDF.