2022 Assembly




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Women held in domestic slavery for 30 years


Three women have been “rescued” from a south London house as police investigate claims they were held as slaves for about 30 years.

Last month officers were contacted by Freedom Charity after it received a call from a woman saying she had been held against her will for decades.
A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30, were rescued from the house on 25 October.
A 67-year-old man and woman were held in Lambeth and bailed until January.
Read more on BBC News: Women ‘held as slaves for 30 years’

Report from the Vatican Workshop


Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery.

Destitute Peoples and the Message of Jesus Christ.

2nd – 3rd November 2013 Casino Pio IV (Vatican City)

The initiative for this awareness raising workshop on Trafficking in Human Persons was taken by Pope Francis who called on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences together with the FIAMC (The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations) to organise, in this initial stage, a preparatory workshop.  This workshop examined human trafficking and modern slavery in order to establish the real state of this phenomenon and to follow an agenda to combat this heinous crime. The overall coordinator was Very Reverend Marcel Sanchez Sorondo who worked painlessly to keep each person attending the workshop in constant communication with all necessary information before the event. We thank him for the acceptance of our application and for his extraordinary care to the detail in every manner required.

Vatican, Nov. 2013
The Assembled Group meeting with Pope Francis

Approximately 100 people attended this event of whom 20 presented papers and represented the organisations mentioned above, whilst the others had registered as observers. It was encouraging to know that on arriving at the assembly room, all observers were called participants, all had a voice and all had the opportunity to submit proposals for the conclusion of the days together.
Three members of RENATE attended this workshop, Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, (Good Shepherd – Paris), Sr Patricia Mulhall, (Brigidine – UK), and Sr Imelda Poole (IBVM – Albania). The ‘observers’ were mainly from grassroots non-profit organisations, NGOs or mission groups, working in the field of anti-trafficking, representing a variety of organisations such as social services, the police, law and the justice system, people working in shelters (safe houses) in direct action with victims. Among them were Members of Parliament desiring to make changes in the law, on the side of the victim, NGOs working in the field, and bishops and clergy from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
Every continent in the world was included and all continents reflected on their experiences of trafficking in human persons within their own cultural differences.  It really exposed the manner in which traffickers are sharp in using conditions of poverty, the ‘culture’ of vulnerability and weaknesses in the law are prevalent, thereby enabling the exploitation and trafficking of people to maximum effect.
Many statistics were shared regarding the extent of this evil. Many millions have been identified as trafficked in the EU yet the number of victims declared as trafficked in the courts had fallen in the recent past by 32%.  The issue of corruption was explored both at the level of government and within other statutory systems. Global poverty and a breakdown of values were seen to be the root causes for the increase in the trafficking in human persons.  Many of the vulnerable succumbed to the deceits of traffickers with promises of ‘a way out’ of poverty, leading to a better life for their families and for themselves.
The conference reflected on the phenomena of migration and movements of peoples around the globe, which has reached momentous proportions and which is truly historic in this 21st century. Globalisation and the issues of cross border protection laws are impacting on the journey taken by the migrant.  The migrant is also suffering from a global culture that rejects the migrant and which has lost the concept that all people are made equal and all are created in the image of God. The ‘commodification’ of the human person has forced the migrant person into the underworld of the illegal market and often into the hands of traffickers. In addition, the secularisation of many societies and the challenge for the people on the edge of society, facing an inhuman and undignified life has created an ambience ripe for the traffickers to be successful in their trade. The change in the numbers living below the poverty line plus this explosion of secularisation in many countries has led to a growth in the culture of individualism. This culture has replaced a fair and just society which emphasises care of the vulnerable and which puts the community at its heart.  The belief that we have a global crisis of values was discussed at length. Many would see this as being one of the prime reasons for the growing phenomena of human trafficking today.
Many questions were asked, including: Where do we stand in the midst of this evil practice?  Are we on the side of the victim?  Do we look for compensation for the victim?  Has every country, including the Vatican State, signed the European Convention Against trafficking?  How do we view the immigrant? Are we aware that the only way forward is to build partnerships to combat this crime? Are we in partnership with others in the field, networking with them or are we working in isolation?  Are illegal employment agencies operating in our vicinity?  Who is making checks and who cares about the exploitation of the migrant worker? What about the question of ‘Demand’ – the engine that fuels the ‘supply’ of people who can be easily exploited and manipulated into the ‘trade in human persons’ (to use Pope Francis’ words)? The trafficking in organs was also an important issue discussed during these two days.
Several organisations were represented and some shared the fruit of their work in prevention or direct action against trafficking.  Two examples of organisations attending the conference DNA Prokids and Walk Free Foundation gave input on their work
DNA-Prokids (, an international project on human trafficking prevention and fight using genetic identification of victims and their relatives. DNA testing ensures ‘lost’ children can be reunited with their families and taken out of ‘risk’ of being stolen or adopted for profit. One case story from ProKids related to Haiti at the time of the Earthquake in 2010. Twenty-five children told their parents had perished in the Earthquake, were stolen from the Haiti, taken by bus and found in Columbia. Of the twenty-five, 18 were reunited with their families. The remaining 7 children, whose parents could not be traced, were given legal protection by the Columbian government to be adopted by Columbian families.
The ‘Walk Free Foundation’ launched in 2012, Perth, Western Australia, is making a scientific analysis of those trafficked, the countries from which they are trafficked, the routes they take and the destinations they reach in ‘The Gobal Slavery Index 2013’. This document was made available to the conference. Their website encourages joining in a world-wide campaign to end modern day slavery. Over a million have joined to date. (cf websites for both organisations)
Professor Suarez-Orozco (University of Los Angeles, California) presented a paper examining the devastating psychological and cultural effects on trafficked children who are deprived not only of their present, but also of their future as many of them do not have the mental, physical or psychological means to overcome such trials. Describing the phenomenon of human trafficking, Suarez-Oroaco said it amounts to a $30 billion enterprise – larger than the GDP of Jordan.    It is the third-most profitable global criminal enterprise, after drugs and armaments. The professor highlighted the fact that up to 75 per cent of all detected trafficked people are women and children. (an estimated 27 million trafficked people in the world today) He noted that the percentage of children is increasing, saying: “In the U.S., it is estimated that of all the detected trafficked people, 50 per cent are under age.”
(  of the Vatican Radio website).
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, presenting the Mosaic to Pope Francis

An added privilege during the weekend was meeting with Pope Francis – the lead person for this event. Sr  Marie Hélène Halligon had bought with her a mosaic made by girls who were trafficked in Paris. She presented this mosaic to Pope Francis. Sr Patricia Mulhall and Sr Imelda Poole also had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis and asked for his blessing on the work of RENATE.
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Imelda Poole giving greetings from RENATE with Sr Patricia Mulhall in the background

Several proposals were submitted at the end of this workshop and all were collated into one single document. This document was accepted by the participants. No proposal was omitted.  The conclusion reached was that all proposals should be submitted to Pope Francis as an outcome of the workshop with an introductory paragraph to be written after the workshop had been concluded. This paragraph would be agreed by the participants of the conference before submission. The workshop closed on Sunday evening, 3rd November. The networking achieved by the members of RENATE is still having effect as we return to our various countries of work. We feel very grateful that we were welcomed into this forum.
Marie Hélène Halligon (Good Shepherd), Patricia Mulhall (Brigidine), Imelda Poole (IBVM)

Be a Light in Their Darkness: Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking


Be a Light in Their Darkness
Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking

There are days that you cannot forget, they remain deep within you and shape your present. There are meetings, after which nothing remains the same as before; the new is unknown and unmanageable, filled with tension and stretched between giving and receiving, losing and gaining.
When leaving my mission in Osnabrück (Germany), where I had worked among victims of human trafficking and had run a shelter for them, I did not understand why God was arranging things in such a strange way. I could not grasp it and it seemed to be illogical; my feelings were telling me that I did not want to leave that mission. But in the perspective of faith, to say AMEN appeared to be the only possible thing to do. I did not understand … and yet, even then, somewhere deep inside, I sensed that this was not the end. And so it wasn’t. So it isn’t!
I worked for Solwodi, the international organization “Solidarity with Women in Distress”, where I met young women seduced, deceived, sold and forced into prostitution. Their longing for love, happiness and a better life was badly misused; they were dragged into hell on earth. Constant fear, threats, psychological and physical abuse, rape… all that was only a part of a nightmare they had to undergo. When our paths crossed, those I met had been already freed from the hands of the oppressors; they were safe in our house, but their hearts’ pain and hurt continued. At that time, their struggle was to rebuild faith and a hope that their lives could be regained. I accompanied them through those difficult moments in their feeling of being lost, towards a beginning of a new life. I journeyed with them and witnessed their tears, their joys and success, both great and small. I tried to tell them in many different ways that God, in his love, has the power to make all things new. For me, it was a challenging and yet a beautiful mission… I do not mention it only with sentiment, as now I know more… it was really thanks to the women (I wish I could name their names here) that God let me to find my mission in life. Their broken lives and their effort to look with hope to the future sank into my heart and played an important role. It was those real people and their tragedies that opened my heart to see the pain and suffering of so many modern slaves, robbed of dignity and treated as a commodity, as an object of one’s desires and fancies, as a source of profit, where the fact of what they feel and go through, is utterly disregarded. There where money and consumerism rules, some do not hesitate to go further than we can imagine.
I do not know how God, who is still surprising me, will lead me on, but I can say with St. Francis, “The Lord Himself led me among them”. Or perhaps it might be better to say, “The Lord Himself led them into me”. And He still shows me that there are many possibilities to be close to them and serve them. In God’s perspective, there are so many different ways of being and doing.
It is the memory of heart which becomes a prayer and develops the concern to find different ways to help, that have led me to something new: a prayer vigil, prepared for the European Anti-Trafficking Day, on the 18th of October this year. I had been thinking about what we could do for our suffering brothers and sisters on that occasion and one of my first inspirations was: let us replace the helplessness, which often accompanies us while facing the problem of human trafficking, with… THE POWER OF PRAYER! This is what the world needs so badly.
Poster encouraging to join in prayer on European Day against HT in Poland
Poster encouraging to join in prayer
on European Day against HT in Poland

With the help of my sisters (something I experienced to such an extent) and in collaboration with others, we decided to have a prayer vigil. An evening of prayer for the intention of all people who are abused, forced into prostitution and slave labour, stripped of dignity and basic rights. This was organised in several cities of our Province: Lublin, Zamość and Warsaw (Poland), as well as in Budapest (Hungary) and St. Petersburg (Russia).
Doubtless, raising public awareness on human trafficking, knowledge, prevention and understanding of specific life-stories of victims is a very important part of fighting against modern slavery and helping those who have been affected. Therefore our program associated with the European Day against Human Trafficking, included activities such as articles in the press, radio, educational banners and informational forums in the media. However, most importantly for me and for us on that day, was not to remain at the level of knowledge, discussion or action. We wanted to stay close to the victims and their traumas and to embrace them with our presence and prayer. We wanted to touch their wounds with compassion and care, to look for concrete forms and methods of help, and at the same time to believe that God is able to lead them out of their profound suffering, to redeem what seems to be lost and unrecoverable.
A lot of people answered the call “Be a light in their darkness.” I am pleased and grateful to everyone who joined the common call for the intention of the victims of trafficking of human beings – those who planned to spend the night in prayer and those who spontaneously responded to the invitation of volunteers met in the city. It is the volunteers, young people full of enthusiasm and convinced of the rightness of this matter, who committed themselves in the preparation and co-creation of the evening.
Our work led us to different places…  Here’s our sharing
In Lublin a few hundred people participated in the event. We started with the Eucharist at 8 pm in the Holy Spirit Church. Then until midnight there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which was led by FMM sisters and a Gospel Team. The singing was really beautiful, deeply moving and helped us to pray. At the same time, in the streets of the Old Town, volunteers (organized into several groups) approached passers-by and after a short conversation about the problem of human trafficking, handed a leaflet with prayer and information on the subject. They also encouraged people to go into the church and through prayer and a lighted candle express their solidarity with all those who suffer as a result of modern slavery. Many passersby responded very positively to this invitation and joined in the prayer. People lingered at the tables with stories of individual victims and their faces were visibly moved. We finished the prayer at midnight placing all our trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the One who has the power and the final word, even over the powers of evil. To Him we entrusted ourselves, the victims of trafficking, as well as those who perpetrate this evil. We firmly believe – the last word belongs to God, to Love!
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland

In the Diocese of Zamość preparing for that day started much earlier. In August more than a thousand young people gathered at EXODUS, a diocesan meeting of the young, and for the first time heard the invitation “Be a light in their darkness.” The subject of Human Trafficking and Prevention has also appeared in three rounds of retreat for young people run by the FMM sisters and the week before the event 56 classes in three high schools received catechesis on the subject. The volunteers called through Facebook, rushed in crowds to the streets of cities with the invitation and leaflets. The event took place in Zamość, in the church of the Franciscan Fathers. Many people of different ages – young, old, as well as whole families participated in the prayer. We also had the joy of the presence of Bishops and many Priests of the local church. The celebration of the Eucharist by the Bishop was the highpoint. After Mass, many remained to share in the next part of the evening which included a presentation on modern slavery combined with the testimony of a Sister who worked directly with women forced into prostitution. The evening ended with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Lighted candles brought before the Blessed Sacrament lit up the darkness of the church. We were praying and singing together, united in a common cry to God, who knows the way to the hearts of all who live in anguish and darkness. Words of one of the people will remain long in my mind: “I was very touched that night! Despite the distance, despite the fact that I do not know these people or their faces and names, I experienced a special communion with them. I felt in myself their pain and loneliness in the struggle for life. I have not heard of it before, but … after this evening they will be in my prayers”. Someone else said, “It’s such an important time to be together. God can see their tears as, I believe, He has seen mine today.”
On the 18th of October we were also united with Budapest. FMM Sisters, in collaboration with the Franciscan Brothers, were able to hold an evening of prayer for the victims of trafficking in the center of Budapest. Thanks to this, a lot of people could take part in the prayer of the Rosary, as well as participate in the Eucharist and Adoration. The youth were involved in animation of the prayer. It was unusual to see so many prayerful people, staying such a long time in silence… They asked us, what else they could do for our brothers and sisters who are sold and abused. After the Adoration, a woman who is a member of the Ecumenical Relief Society against Prostitution handed a sister her business card with a note: “I would like to pray with you once again.” Budapest keeps the hope that it will come true.
In Russia, where the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has not yet been implemented, there are no social initiatives related to this topic. However, on the 18th of October, a group of young people gathered to pray for the victims of trafficking and for their persecutors. In St. Petersburg, in the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Holy Mass for the intentions of victims of trafficking, the film “Black Swan” was screened. The film, based on facts, tells the story of a missing girl, whose body was found years later. The film is dramatic, tragic- and yet it so much reflects the reality of Russia. Background information about contemporary forms of slavery and an invitation to prayer uttered by Father Cyril (Greek Catholic priest) resounded strongly. At the time of Adoration we were accompanied by a symbol of light – young people, saying their intentions, lighing candles next to the altar. A great hope for a better world was loudly expressed in our prayer, a hope that God’s mercy is greater than human evil. Finally, saying the Rosary, we turned to Mary – Comforter of the Afflicted, asking her to take into her heart all the anguished and the deprived of dignity, so that the wounds of their hearts could be healed.
In addition to the above-named cities, we know that also in other places our FMM sisters and different Congregations held a similar prayer. Other places, other people, but it’s the same experience… Experience of a special communion with those that our world tends to forget in everyday life, not hearing their cry. That day they became close to us in the spirit. The power of prayer lit up probably more than one life in darkness and gave courage and faith that life can be regained!
We ourselves have also gained much – this experience has extended our eyes and hearts.
I hope that this event will not be confined to this one day but will continue in daily prayer and remembrance of contemporary slaves and will become a stimulus to find ways of how to deal with human trafficking and how to help the victims.
Give us, O Lord, the imagination of mercy and to lead us on…
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland
Prayer Card in Polish for the Victims of Human Trafficking
Prayer Card in Polish for the Victims of Human Trafficking