By Rosanna Emenusiobi
(continued from the last edition)
5. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND HUMAN AND SEX TRAFFICKING
The Catholic Church has always condemned human trafficking and has developed social service programs to serve and protect its survivors. During Vatican II the Church reaffirmed its historic concern about forced labor, stating that “slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than free and responsible persons” are “infamies” and “an affront to fundamental values…values rooted in the very nature of the human person”. In the 2006 annual statement on Migration, entitled “Migrations: A Sign of the Times,” Pope Benedict XVI deplored the “trafficking of human beings — especially women – which flourishes where opportunities to improve their standard of living or even to survive are limited”. Similarly the Holy See’ emphasized related concerns in a recent address at the United Nations, stating, “(The treatment of woman), not as a human person with rights on an equal basis with others, but as an object to be exploited, very often underlies violence against women”… (a context in which) an increasing scourge is trafficking of women and girls, as well as various forms of prostitution. Pope John Paul II, in a letter on the occasion of the International Conference on “21st Century Slavery—the Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings,” stated that human trafficking “constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. In particular, the sexual exploitation of women and children is a particularly repugnant aspect of this trade, and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and human rights.” It describes the nature of prostitution, thus, “buying sexual services from a prostitute has nothing to do with love; instead, it is a serious offence against human dignity”.
Pope Francis could be said to be an apostle of compassion and mercy and the marginalized of society. His insistent teaching on human trafficking provides the foundation for the present pastoral orientations released in January 2019 – to help Church fight human trafficking. According to the text, the Guideline draws also from the longstanding practical experiences of many international Catholic NGOs working in the field and from the observations of representatives of bishops’ conferences. However, the Pastoral Orientations, which was approved by Pope Francis, do not pretend to exhaust the church’s teaching on human trafficking; rather, they provide a series of key considerations that may be useful to Catholics and others in their pastoral ministry, in planning and practical engagement, in advocacy and dialogue, says Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service.
Pope Francis’ continued laments on human trafficking, is an indication of the Church crying against this horror. For instance, during his greeting to the Second European Assembly of RENATE, 7 November 2016, the Pope emphasised, “among so many open wounds in our world, one of the most troubling is the trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, which violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters….” Again, in his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace in 2014, he decried: “in many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking […] is but one unsettling example of this”. Also during the Wednesday Audience of 17 July, 2017, the Pope regrettably pointed out that “each year thousands of innocent men, women and children are victims of exploitative labour and sexual abuse, and of organ trafficking, and it seems that we have become so accustomed to this, as to consider it a normal thing. This is deplorable; it is cruel; it is criminal! I wish to remind everyone of the duty to combat this abhorrent plague, a form of modern slavery”.
As for the traffickers, the Pope condemned them and their hypocrisy in strong terms. Hear him,
If there are so many young women victims of trafficking who end up on the streets of our cities, it is because many men here — young, middle-aged, elderly — demand these services and are willing to pay for their pleasure. I wonder then, is the principal cause of trafficking really the traffickers? I believe the principal cause is the unscrupulous selfishness of the many hypocrites in our world. Of course, arresting traffickers is an obligation of justice. But the true solution is the conversion of hearts, cutting off demand in order to dry out the market.”
He then stressed that the whole world stands in need of concrete signs of solidarity, especially as it is faced with the temptation to indifference. For Pope Francis, [Prostitution] is torturing a woman. Let’s not confuse the terms. This is criminal, sick mentality. And I want to […] ask forgiveness to you and society for all Catholics who perform this criminal act.”
8. THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF NIGERIA ON HUMAN AND SEX TRAFFICKING
The Catholic bishops of Nigeria is not indifferent human and sex trafficking, especially in Nigeria. In their Communique of September, 2018, they cited “human trafficking” among the evils experienced by young people. “We invite all to be attentive to the aspirations of the young people, especially those among them who are poor, internally displaced, victims of exploitation, orphans, and migrants. We are saddened by the evils of human trafficking, slavery, drug abuse, war, disease, disability … especially among our youth.”
Speaking at conference on human trafficking, John Cardinal Onaiyekan denounced “the most atrocious form of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children and minors, activities controlled by criminal gangs which make enormous profits to the detriment of helpless victims … He continued, “the Church and the government in Nigeria must work together to restore the dignity of victims of human trafficking.” Again, “our collaboration with the government must supply financial, spiritual and legal assistance for the victims”, says Archbishop Augustine Akubeze. He added that “pursuing those responsible for the crime of human trafficking is also a way to restore the dignity of the victims. Our laws must ensure that those directly responsible for human trafficking are brought to justice”, as “no few members of the nation’s security forces compromise with traffickers in committing this ferocious crime against fellow Nigerians”, Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso, also pointed out.
Accordingly, the major superiors of Nigerian religious congregations, who often travel to Europe, were deeply troubled whenever they found women from their home country waiting for clients on Italy’s streets. Determined to combat the rising rate of trafficking in women and forced prostitution, the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious (NCWR) formed the Committee for the Support of the Dignity of Women (Cosudow) in 1999, headquartered in Benin City, a major trafficking hub in Nigeria.
Although some countries have legalized prostitution and count it as one of the human rights, the fact remains that prostitution is intrinsically evil – nothing can justify the practice. In itself it is wrong, and its practice it is wrong. Women’s bodies [and men] are not meant to bought and sold but to be reference as the temple of the Holy Spirit.