Pope Francis to a group of ambassadors on the occasion of the
presentation of their Letters of Credence
12 December 2013
I am very pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of your respective countries to the Holy See: Algeria, Iceland, Denmark, Lesotho, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Burundi, Malta, Sweden, Pakistan, Zambia, Norway, Kuwait, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Jordan.
(…) In meeting you my first thought goes to the international community, to the many initiatives that are carried out to promote peace and dialogue, and cultural, political, and economic relations, and to try to help populations troubled by various problems. Today I wish to speak to you about an issue that concerns me very much and that is currently threatening the dignity of people: human trafficking. This is a real form of slavery which unfortunately is increasingly common and concerns every country, even the most developed, affecting the most vulnerable members of society: women and girls, children of both sexes, the disabled, the poor, and those who come from situations of family and social disintegration. In them, in a special way, we Christians recognize the face of Jesus Christ, who identified with the little ones and the needy. Others, who do not belong to a religious faith, share our compassion for their suffering in the name of our common humanity, and are committed to freeing them and soothing their wounds. Together we can and must strive for their freedom in order to put an end to this horrific trade. We are talking of millions of victims of forced labour, slave labour, and human trafficking for the purpose of labour and sexual exploitation. This cannot continue: it is a serious violation of the human rights of the victims and an affront to their dignity, as well as a defeat for the world community. People of goodwill, whether they profess a religion or not, cannot allow these women, these men, these children to be treated as objects, deceived, raped, often sold multiple times, for different purposes, and in the end killed or, at the very least, damaged in body and mind, and finally discarded and abandoned. It’s a disgrace.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must join forces to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens, in addition to individuals, the founding values of society as well as international security and justice, and the economy, family structure and social life itself.
However, in order to win on this front we need to recognise our common responsibility and show stronger political will. We must be responsible toward those who have fallen victims of trafficking and protect their rights, ensure their safety and that of their family members, and prevent crooks and criminals from evading justice and having the last word on these people. An appropriate legislative intervention in the countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination, also in view of facilitating regular migration, can reduce the problem.
Governments and the international community, which are primarily responsible for preventing and stopping this phenomenon, have not failed to take measures at various levels to block it, and to protect and to assist the victims of this crime, which is often linked to the selling of drug and weapons, transportation of illegal migrants, and the Mafia. Unfortunately, we cannot deny that sometimes even functionaries and members of contingents engaged in peacekeeping missions have been infected. But to obtain good results it is also necessary to fight this crime at the level of culture and communications. And this requires a profound examination of conscience: how many times have we tolerated that a human being was regarded as an object, displayed to sell a product or to meet immoral desires? The human person should never be bought and sold like a commodity. Those who use people and exploit them, even indirectly, are accomplices in this oppression.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wanted to share these reflections with you on a social evil of our times, because I believe in the value and strength of a concerted effort to combat it. I therefore urge the international community to make the strategy against human trafficking even more harmonious and effective, so that men and women all over the world are never used as a means but are always respected in their inviolable dignity.