What is the Catholic Church doing to fight human trafficking?

The Santa Marta Group

Following Pope Francis’ call to end Modern Day Slavery a series of conferences have been held under the banner of the Santa Marta Group. The Santa Marta Group website (UK) is well worth a look.  You can access news and media reports on what the Catholic Church is doing in the UK and worldwide.

The Bakhita Initiative

The Bakhita Initiative is the UK response to Santa Marta.



We regard our local Caritas/Medaille initiative as a bottom up approach to the Bahkhita Initiative in so much as it embraces: working with the Police; education and awareness raising; and victim support.


The Catholic Church and the United Nations

An article in the Crux, Taking the Catholic Pulse April 20 2016 is also useful reading and an abbreviated version is below.

[Note that the article refers to 27 million people in slavery today, a figure taken from Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham, UK.  He was a Co-Founder of Free the Slaves in Washington, D.C. and is Lead Author of the Global Slavery Index27 million is a figure that has been perpetuated by Matt Redman in his rap song of the same name but the truth is that nobody has any idea of the real figure and the Global Slavery Index has come in for considerable criticism about its accuracy.  Having said that,  the number could be a lot higher than 27 million.  Walk Free has put the figure at 45.8 million.].

On April 7, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations co-sponsored a landmark summit on the issue of ending human slavery in our lifetimes. It featured senior Church leaders alongside key players in international development and diplomacy. Co-sponsoring the event was the “Santa Marta Group”, an organisation that Pope Francis founded to abolish human trafficking.

 From the start, Pope Francis has made human slavery – this “plague on the body of contemporary humanity” – a priority in his papacy.

 In April 2015, he convened a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences for the sole purpose of finding ways to use the Church’s influence to combat human slavery. He has taken the topic head-on in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, and in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

 He dedicated his entire speech for the 2015 World Day of Peace to the issue, and it was a central theme of his address to the United Nations in New York City last fall. Beyond all this, Pope Francis has made combating human slavery a top diplomatic priority for the Holy See.

As a result, the Holy See played a critical role in lobbying behind closed doors at the UN to have the eradication of human slavery added to the Sustainable Development Goals. These are the international body’s top priorities for the next fifteen years, an expansion on the millennium goals laid out at the dawn of the new millennium.

Thanks to Pope Francis and the Holy See, Target 8.7 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals reads: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”

 The Church’s driving role in fighting human slavery is wholly consistent with Pope Francis’ emphasis on reaching out to the margins of society, to seeking out and helping the “least of these” trapped in the darkness of injustice and oppression.

 The Church has always been at the forefront of the most important social justice fights of the day. Thanks to its efforts on human slavery, there is reason for hope that many millions will be brought out of the darkness and experience, as President Abraham Lincoln said back in the 19th Century, “a new birth of freedom.”