At an ecumenical consultation held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, called human trafficking a criminal activity, on rapid increase in the world.
Ms Ezeilo said that not a single country or agency has yet been able to stop this practice, and the magnitude of the problem is enormous.
She added that the “responsibility of faith-based organisations in addressing human trafficking, together with governments, UN agencies and civil society, is paramount”.
Ms Ezeilo shared these views at a consultation entitled “Migration and Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery?”, organised by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia. The event, held from 4 to 8 April, was hosted by the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.
The consultation gathered participants from Africa, Asia, the Arabian Gulf, Australia and Europe.
In her inaugural address, Ezeilo said that the increasing trend of “human trafficking is adding shame to humanity.” In many parts of the world human trafficking is organized by criminal syndicates for organ transplantation and sexual exploitation of women and children, she noted.
Bishop Philip Huggins, chair of the Migrant and Refugee Working Group of the Anglican Church of Australia, stressed the urgency of addressing the issue of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis causing immense suffering. Addressing this issue effectively requires unprecedented cooperation between religious leaders, their organisations, along with UN agencies and governments,” said Bishop Huggins.
Dr Chibuzo Raphael Opoko, bishop of the Methodist Church in Nigeria and member of the WCC’s Executive and Central Committees, spoke about the situation of child trafficking in Nigeria. He said that, in Nigeria, cases have been reported from hospitals, orphanages and clinics where teenage and single mothers were often forced into illegal bonding agreements.
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA, addressed the thematic plenary on “Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking: Towards an Ecumenical Global Advocacy”. Mathews George said that human trafficking is a phenomenon intimately linked to transnational migration. The rights and security of migrant workers require special protection as they continue to face blatant human rights violations and exploitation by organised criminal groups.
“Faith-based organisations in many countries are taking leading roles in preventing human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Therefore, there is a considerable scope for developing an ecumenical advocacy to address human trafficking more comprehensively,” he added.
Sophia Wirsching from Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World, Germany) shared “best practices” in addressing human trafficking. She said that it is “necessary to de-link trafficking in human beings from cross-border irregular migration.”
“Anti-trafficking engagements should contribute to de-stigmatisation and de-criminalisation of victims of trafficking in order to improve their legal status and well-being,” she said.
The Vatican is holding its own consultation on human trafficking from 9-10 April 2014 at the Academy of Sciences in Rome.
* WCC statement on asylum seekers and human trafficking in the Sinai Desert: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/executive-committee/2012...