At the end of July, representatives of our parish Combating Human Trafficking Group will meet the Bishop to agree how he might best add his voice to our work.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that requires continued global and local cooperation between the Catholic Church and law enforcement. The twin strategies of police cracking down on the criminals behind trafficking, and Church and social workers aiding victims, must go together. These were the words of Pope Francis at the second international conference on human trafficking in Rome in April 2014.
In the UK, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Bakhita Initiative are putting the Pope’s words into practice down to parish level. Our Parish group is a bottom up approach in the same spirit.
So how does a parish group like ours fulfil a twofold aim of aiding victims and cracking down on criminals?
Firstly we work with the Medaille Trust which provides safe housing for victims rescued from trafficking. The Trust has government funding for a limited period only, after which victims will be without any form of benefit and many will become street homeless. Without charitable donations we shall fall short of the Church’s aim of aiding victims. Last October we raised over £2,200 for the Medaille Trust at the Traffik Jam concert in the social centre and in the last 6 months people have taken hundreds of Medaille magazines. The magazine is free, though it invites readers to donate money.
Secondly we are working with the Police via parishioner DCI Sion Hall who has the lead on trafficking and child sexual exploitation in East Lancashire.
Pope Francis has said: “Every Citizen of every country must be made aware of human trafficking and join the fight against it.” Through talks to adults and in schools, the Parish website, emails within the Group, and the media, we can become the eyes and ears of the Police. Major opportunities for awareness raising will arise with Ant-Slavery Week in October. For the Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis to begin in December, our Deanery is to adopt trafficking as its Social Justice activity.
On 21 July we meet at 7.30pm in the Presbytery to formulate plans for our meeting with the Bishop later in the month. All parishioners are welcome.
Anthony and Mary Brown