2022 Assembly


Catholics must ensure their supply chains are ethical, speakers say


ROME — Church institutions and all Catholics can fight against modern-day slavery by making sure the products and services needed for their homes, parishes, schools and organizations adhere to ethical standards, a panel of anti-trafficking advocates said.

“We have to lead by example” for the rest of society, said Ivonne van de Kar, who is part of the RENATE network in the Netherlands of women religious fighting against human trafficking.

As an example, she said, when the church needs to employ outside workers — everything from bus drivers and landscapers to construction workers — it must be guaranteed “that we do not use slave labor.”

“So many people are exploited,” the church must make sure it does not inadvertently support those who exploit them, she said.

Van de Kar was one of several experts who spoke to the press online Feb. 9 at the end of the first European Regional Conference of the Santa Marta Group, which was held online Feb. 8-9.

Inspired and endorsed by Pope Francis, the Santa Marta Group was founded in 2014 to end the global web of trafficking and slavery with its own global network of senior law enforcement officers, bishops, members of religious orders and other partners.

About two dozen experts spoke at the online conference, which had more than 100 participants from 23 countries, to look at ways to eradicate trafficking and labor exploitation and improve care for victims in Europe.

The conference, co-sponsored by the German bishops’ conference, was developing an action plan with recommendations for European political representatives and other stakeholders.

A top priority, speakers at the final news conference said, is helping people see this crime exists in their own backyard.

Archbishop Stefan Hesse of Hamburg said ethical supply chains must be developed in church institutions and personal purchases.

“Take a look at what you wear, what you buy, where it is produced,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Ansgar Puff of Cologne said people are more likely to change their behavior if they are aware of the extent of the problem and how they can help.

For example, he said, plastic bags are no longer available in stores in Germany. The change came after people learned how much they harm the environment “and this is why people said, ‘We don’t want them anymore.’”

“This change in mindset also has to happen in the field of human trafficking,” he said, so people will change the way they look at, consume and demand products and services.

Since so many traffickers have gone online because of the pandemic, the bishop said, the group should partner with Internet providers, and get them to block sites found to be recruiting people.

Hesse said other recommendations in their call to action include providing the resources and “exit strategies” victims need to escape their traffickers and making it easier for those rescued to get into rehabilitation programs to start a new life.

Victims need easier access to the criminal justice system, he said, and there must be stiffer punishment including confiscating illegal profits and financial penalties levied for all forms of human trafficking so that it is no longer profitable or worth the risk.

Trafficking ensnares an estimated 40 million people worldwide and generates roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers.

“This is a true scandal. We need to put an end to this,” said the archbishop. “Human trafficking must not pay off anymore.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, and president of the Santa Marta Group, said their work is a priority for Pope Francis.

The group, named after the pope’s residence, “was born out of the conviction that bringing together decision-makers, building partnership and cooperation, particularly between law-enforcement and the resources of the church, brings huge benefits in fighting this crime and caring for its victims,” he said, opening the conference online Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.

“It is a battle that at this present time is being lost,” made worse by the effects of the pandemic, which has increased “the vulnerability of millions of people who thereby become ready targets for the traffickers,” he said.

“We emerge from this pandemic, chastened, aware of weakness and systematic factures, and realizing that partnerships of so many types are essential,” Nichols said.


National Referral Mechanisms Practical Handbook: New edition launched on 24th Jann


The OSCE and ODIHR launched the new edition of the NRM Practical Handbook on January 24th, with an online event at which the authors and panel of experts presented various aspects of the work.


The handbook is a very important resource for the OSCE countries which has the potential to bring about a more uniformed approach across borders.


During the launch event participants heard from a panel of experts about the current realities and facts where the vast majority of victims are not identified and taken to safety, with very poor conviction rates throughout the world.  


An NRM is a co-operative, national framework through which governments fulfil their obligations to protect and promote the human rights of victims of trafficking, and co-ordinate their efforts in a strategic partnership with civil society organizations, survivor leaders and the private sector. 


The purpose of the updated NRM Handbook is to provide essential ‘know-how’ of the working methods, procedures and services required to fulfil NRMs objectives , centering all communications and actions on the protection of victims and the overall prevention of trafficking in human beings.


The Handbook also identifies the various stakeholders involved in executing NRMs and their roles across different institutions, and stresses the need for a multi-disciplinary approach.


Innovations in this updated handbook include guidance on dealing with trafficked children and a section on healthcare. In addition, this handbook is accompanied by a series of practical adult and child assessment guides, a selection of promising practices gathered from individual participating States, and a list of 57 recommended standards to assist the participating States seeking to introduce or improve their NRMs.

January Update from Amaranta Spain


The comprehensive care of adolescent victims of trafficking, the reduction of social exclusion rates, access to rights, psychosocial integration and the empowerment of women are the objectives of the interventions that have the financial support of the Governments of the Balearic Islands and La Rioja and the City Councils of Madrid and Valencia.

Madrid, January 20, 2022.

More than eight hundred women and minors will be direct beneficiaries of the international cooperation programs that the Amaranta Solidarity Foundation will develop throughout this year, continuing its work to improve protection and access to rights of women in situations of vulnerability and/or in contexts of violence in impoverished countries through its Cooperation area.

Specifically, these are 6 projects, which will be developed during the 2022-2023 period in South American countries (Colombia, Bolivia and Peru); Africa (Togo and Cape Verde) and Asia (Cambodia). The actions are financed by the governments of the Balearic Islands and La Rioja as well as the Madrid and Valencia City Councils.

Through these interventions, the Amaranta Solidarity Foundation supports its local partners in aspects such as the empowerment of women for their physical and psychological recovery and social and labor insertion, as is the case of the project that is being developed in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), on the Asian continent. A total of 49 women and 18 minors are direct beneficiaries of this initiative, which is financed by the General Directorate for Cooperation of the Government of the Balearic Islands.

In South America, the Foundation currently has three projects. Thus, since 2020, actions have been carried out aimed at reducing the rates of poverty and social exclusion of women in prostitution environments, victims of violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation through the use of new technologies and integrated itineraries and personalized in Colombia. It is an intervention of which 250 women from the Colombian cities of Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Pereira and Virginia are direct beneficiaries. The Government of La Rioja, through its International Cooperation and Agenda 2030 area, finances these actions.



Throughout the world there are millions of people who are experiencing conflict, famine and desperation. News is coming out of Afghanistan from humanitarian organisations on the ground who are working to alleviate the suffering and hunger that has gripped the country since the Taliban regime took over. It is estimated that there are now 22.8 million Afghans who are not consuming enough food, and the country is on the brink of economic collapse.

Acute malnutrition is above emergency thresholds in 25 out of 34 provinces, and is expected to worsen, with almost half of children under 5 and a quarter of pregnant and breastfeeding women needing life-saving nutrition support in the next 12 months.
It has been reported that some mothers have the horrific and impossible situation of having to sell one of their children in order to feed others, or where men and women are selling their kidneys to buy food. “This is the part of the world which the United Nations now says is fast becoming the centre of the globe’s worst humanitarian disaster. Afghanistan was poor and in difficulties before the chaotic withdrawal of foreign troops last August.

Now, with the Taliban in power and the rest of the world still not officially recognising the legitimacy of their government, it’s the Afghan people who’re having to resort to ever more extreme measures to survive.”

“First they lost their father… then their mother died. So the eight kids were left to fend for themselves, alone in Afghanistan. Neighbours tried to help, but they were hungry, too.  The eight children starved to death. The youngest wasn’t even 2 years old.  Afghanistan is starving: 23 million people are on the edge of famine and one million children could die this winter. Some are barely surviving on nothing but dry flour.”



A line for food assistance in Kabul – without urgent assistance 

children are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of hunger. 




The 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United states established in 2015 aims to end the undignified forms of exploitation of the most vulnerable populations: child labor, forced labor, human trafficking, and modern slavery (target 8.7 of the SDGs). This challenge is compounded by the economic and social effects of the pandemic crisis. Without additional efforts, the international community would not be able to meet it.

By adopting a National Strategy to accelerate the fight against these scourges, Albania, Côte d’Ivoire, France and Germany*, Morocco and the Netherlands, have become “pathfinder countries” of the 8.7 Alliance, a global partnership aiming at the achievement of target 8.7 by 2030. Our countries are thus demonstrating that zero tolerance of the worst forms of human exploitation is a shared responsibility.

The high-level virtual meeting on March 2 & 3, in the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, will serve to promote the exchange of best practices between governments, NGOs, social partners, companies, independent authorities, European institutions and international organizations. It aims to formulate public policy recommendations at the end of the exchanges.

This meeting, organized with the assistance of ILO, Secours catholique-Caritas France, coordinator of the Collectif ensemble contre la traite des êtres humains, the Comité contre l’esclavage moderne, and the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme, will be an opportunity to strengthen the identification and protection of victims and survivors, and to enrich the social component of the European initiative for a European due diligence**, as well as the social clauses in the sustainable development chapters of trade agreements. It will fulfill one of the EU Council Conclusions on Human Rights and Decent Work in Supply Chains of 01/12/2020 calling on Member States to join Alliance 8.7.

To participate, we invite you to email, mentioning in the message I TAKE PART and signing with your first name, last name and institutional title.


Day 1 – Wednesday, March 2, 2022
10h –12h (CET) High-level opening session with the Ministers of the six participating States 14h00-15h30 – Session 1 – Prevention all along supply chains through training and diligence 16h00-17h30 – Session 2 – Detecting, accompanying, protecting
Day 2 – Thursday, March 3, 2022
9h30-11h30 – Session 3 – Leading an ambitious and effective action in Europe and in the world 11h30-13h – Session 4 – Public policy recommendations
13h- 13h30 – Conclusion


* Germany is currently completing its application process.
** Il s’agit d’une obligation faite aux entreprises multinationales d’assurer une activité de production respectueuse des droits humains et de l’environnement.

International Day of Prayer: Bakhita Day 8th February 2022


Join the International Day of Prayer to celebrate the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking survivors, next Tuesday 8th February 2022.
Anti-trafficking network Talitha Kum will host a marathon of prayer and reflection which will be live-streamed from 09:00 CET on the 8th February.
RENATE organisations have contributed to the marathon with short films, offering contemplation and insights into the fight to free and empower trafficked women.
The prayer event can be accessed in five languages from the following links:

Saint Josephine Bakhita sculpture displayed in St. Peter’s Square


By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City, Feb 3, 2022 / 10:15 am

A statue of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron of human trafficking victims, will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Feb. 6.

The bronze sculpture, a piece by Catholic artist Timothy P. Schmalz, is dedicated to trafficking victims and to all women, especially the religious sisters who work to free women from modern day slavery.

The artwork depicts the saint, herself once a slave, freeing a mass of people from underground. It will arrive at the Vatican ahead of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on Feb. 8.

The 10-foot model is identical to multiple 20-foot versions of the sculpture, which will be installed in Europe, Canada, and the United States. After Feb. 6, the smaller Bakhita statue will be displayed in the Diocese of Rome.

Feb. 8 was chosen for the day of prayer because it is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was born in Sudan in 1869. She was kidnapped at the age of seven and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders. During her time as a slave, she was beaten, tortured, and scarred.

Bakhita discovered Christ and the Church in her early 20s, and after she was freed from slavery, was baptized into the Catholic faith. She also joined the Canossian Sisters in Italy.

A close-up of “Let the Oppressed Go Free,” a sculpture of Saint Josephine Bakhita by artist Timothy Schmalz. Holy See Press Office.

Schmalz created his sculpture of the saint in 2019. He has named it: “Let the Oppressed Go Free.”

The Canadian artist is also the creator of another sculpture in St. Peter’s Square, “Angels Unawares,” which depicts migrants throughout history crammed on a boat together with the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

The 20-foot-tall bronze statue was brought to the Vatican by Pope Francis in 2019.

Schmalz is also known for his “Homeless Jesus” sculptures, one of which was created for Vatican City in 2016.

CNA spoke with Schmalz in Rome in 2019. The interview can be read here.

Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz poses next to his sculpture, ‘Angels Unawares.’ . Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The artwork of Saint Josephine Bakhita will be placed in St. Peter’s Square ahead of Pope Francis’ address and recitation of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Feb. 6.

The eighth International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking and Bakhita’s feast day will be marked with an online prayer marathon, which will move across different time zones, beginning in Oceania, Asia, and the Middle East and moving across the globe before finishing in North America.

Members of religious institutes, trafficking survivors, activists, volunteers, economists, and entrepreneurs will participate in the prayer marathon, which was organized by Talitha Kum, an international anti-trafficking network of Catholic women religious, along with other Catholic groups. The Vatican’s migrants and refugees office is also a partner in the Feb. 6 and 8 events.

This year’s theme is “The power of care: Women, economy and human trafficking.”

The coordinator of the Talitha Kum initiative, Sister Gabriella Bottani, said “the pandemic has caused an increase in trafficking, has heightened the vulnerability of those most at risk and has led to a rise in gender inequality.”

“This day provides an opportunity to reflect on the causes of trafficking and to identify possible paths to a solution,” she said. “The violence caused by exploitation can be transformed with gestures of care and solidarity. We are all called to care about the dignity of each person.”

Pope Francis, who created the day of prayer and reflection for human trafficking victims in 2015, will also release a message on Feb. 8.

While she was a slave, Bakhita was sold to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani, in 1883. He took her back with him to Italy, where she was given to a family to work as a nanny.

Later, the family left her with the Canossian Sisters, a women’s religious order, in Venice, while they traveled to Sudan for business.

Bakhita was cared for by the Canossian Sisters during the legal battle that ensued for her freedom from slavery. Eventually, an Italian court ruled that since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan prior to her birth, she was not legally a slave.

With her newfound freedom, Bakhita chose to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first holy communion in 1890. Three years later she became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity, taking the name Josephine Margaret “Fortunata” — a Latin translation of her Arabic name, Bakhita, which means “lucky.”

Bakhita was beatified in 1992 and canonized in 2000 by Saint Pope John Paul II. She is the first canonized saint from Sudan, and is the country’s patron saint.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has highlighted Bakhita’s example of holiness, and invoked the saint’s intercession for victims of trafficking.

“St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; Intercede with God on their behalf so that the chains of their captivity can be broken,” Pope Francis prayed in 2019.

This story has been updated to say that the sculpture of Saint Josephine Bakhita will be only temporarily displayed in St. Peter’s Square.


Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency’s senior Rome correspondent. 

A close-up of “Let the Oppressed Go Free,” a sculpture of Saint Josephine Bakhita by artist Timothy Schmalz. Holy See Press Office.


EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings


Gazmir Memaj is the RENATE representative on the European Civil Society Platform.  The following report has been written by him to share with you his reflections on the meetings he has attended online over the last year.

‘’There have been two meetings of the EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings during 2021. Both of these meeting were virtual meetings in Cisco Webex online platform. 

The first meeting was organized on 6th of May 2021 and it was a meeting where the EU Anti Trafficking Commission (ATC) and the staff of the EU ATC presented the EU strategy. In the second part of the meeting the results of 4 projects funded by EU were presented to the participants of the platform.  During this meeting unfortunately there was no time given for discussion or contributions from participants. The 2hour meeting was mainly used for the presentation of the above mentioned topics. 

The second meeting was organized on 30th of November 2021. 

During this meeting a presentation was given on the evaluation of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, followed by discussion on the challenges linked with the implementation of this Directive.

I offered some suggestions in the chat and I received feedback that the suggestions were considered and supported by members of the platform and by the EU ATC. It was good that RENATE was able to have a voice through member representation on the EU Civil Society Platform.

Below I am listing the suggestions which were made by me on behalf of RENATE:

  1. Do not relate the crime of human trafficking only to that of the movement of the trafficked through means of transportation. We know that trafficking happens even without travel, transport and cross border movement. Sometimes victims are not recognized or given justice because there has not been this element of transportation in the human trafficking processes. Some national laws do not embed this reality.
  2. Add to the already written EU definition for the people at risk of trafficking, the fact that services should be offered to P/VOT as well as to people at risk. 
  3. It is highly recommended that the directives from the EU encourage migration services and the national state services in general, produce special updated EU and National State laws on Trafficking in human beings(THB). 
  4. The Directive suggest that migration policies should be reviewed and made more relative for trauma informed and protection of Potential/VoTs and people at risk of THB. 
  5. To avoid the punishment of P/VoTs for prostitution, (in countries where prostitution is prohibited by law), there should be considered exclusion of prosecution as criminals, Human Trafficking Victims, forced to work in the sex trade. ‘’

Gazmir Memaj (Mary Ward Loreto Albania)