The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines over the weekend pushed for efforts by the state and society to thwart human trafficking, even as he echoed Pope Francis’ concern on the scourge.
CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said it is a Christian duty to do everything to prevent anyone from being trafficked, and to make sure those who fell into the trap are set free.
But he also called on Christians as well to make all efforts to “free human traffickers from the motives and attractions of their illicit trade and to draw them back to genuinely good and beneficial pursuits.”
“To drown evil in an abundance of good and convert the wrongdoer into a source of good is the ultimate triumph we should aim for in this fight,” he added.
Villegas lamented there could be about 150,000 Filipinos among some 30 million presently enslaved.
He added about 800,000 children, women and men are trafficked across international borders around the world every year.
He said trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, “not less dehumanizing and cruel than any old form of slavery.”
With trafficking, he said men and women are exploited physically, sexually, psychologically, morally, and spiritually for the traffickers’ material gain.
Echoing Pope Francis’ thoughts on the issue, Villegas said it is a “disgrace” that people are treated as objects, “deceived, raped, often sold many times for different purposes and in the end killed or in any case, physically and mentally damaged, ending up thrown away and abandoned.”
Yet, he said it would be a more terrible disgrace if people were indifferent and feel no compulsion to mitigate or curb the victims’ sufferings.
“The Holy Father describes human trafficking as an ‘open wound on the body of contemporary society,’ a ‘scourge upon the body of Christ,’ a ‘crime against humanity,’ and a ‘grave violation of fundamental human rights,’” he added.
Villegas lamented that the sufferings of victims are compounded by “the negligence, indifference and downright abuse of those who are otherwise tasked to provide solace and help.”
“Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity,” he quoted Pope Francis as saying.
“It is therefore our Christian duty to do everything we can to prevent anyone in our midst from being trafficked, and to make sure that those who have fallen into the traffickers’ trap are set free and are able to come home and resume their normal lives with their families, friends and community,” Villegas said.