Today (January 1) is the World Day of Peace. Each year the Pope issues a special message for this day. This year’s message is titled “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters” and centers on the theme of human trafficking. I suggest reading, and praying with, his entire message, but here is a summary of what I see as the most important points.
Pope Francis directly applies the church’s understanding of the human person to the problem of human trafficking. He asserts that because human persons are “by nature relational beings … it is fundamental for our human development that our dignity, freedom, and autonomy be acknowledged and respected” (no. 1). This relational reality of the human person is denied through the “negative reality of sin” (no. 2). The original “sin of estrangement from God … and from the brother [and sister] … gives rise to a culture of enslavement” (no. 2).
This culture of enslavement exists today, with millions of people held in slavery-like conditions, despite the adoption of laws, agreements, and strategies “aimed at ending slavery in all its forms” (no. 3). Pope Francis believes that the contemporary reality of human trafficking “is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object” (no. 4). “Alongside this deeper cause—the rejection of another person’s humanity,” Pope Francis also identifies other root causes of the problem of human trafficking, including poverty, underdevelopment, corruption, armed conflicts, violence, criminal activity, and terrorism (no. 4).
Finally, Pope Francis believes it is necessary “to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country” (no. 6). Therefore, he calls for a mass mobilization against human trafficking “comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself” (no. 6).
If you’d like to become part of the global movement to end human trafficking, you can take the same pledge that 11 leaders of the world’s major religions (including Pope Francis) signed in December at the Vatican.
Human trafficking is not inevitable – we can resist.