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2022 Assembly

 

International ONLINE PILGRIMAGE of Prayer – 8 February 2024 (catch-up recording available) 

 

Congratulations to Abby Avelino and the team at Talitha Kum and the UISG Rome, on a wonderful international online pilgrimage of prayer and awareness against human trafficking, Thursday, 8 February. The online Pilgrimage of prayer and awareness against human trafficking took place, across all continents and time zones. It began at 9:30 am from Oceania, followed by Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, and finally concluded at 4:30 pm with North America.

Over 50 countries participated and the central block, for the second consecutive year, was entrusted to young people engaged against trafficking.

As in recent years, at noon, a message from Pope Francis was read by Sr. Patricia Murray, IBVM. The full message is available at: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2024

The event was broadcast live in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian) on www.prayagainsttrafficking.net

 “Trafficking is around us, in our cities, but is often invisible to our eyes. With this Day, we want to increase awareness of trafficking, reflect on the situation of violence and injustice suffered by the victims of this global phenomenon, and propose concrete solutions. We invite everyone to listen and observe attentively, to dream together with the young people of a better world and to act for change, starting from personal, community, and institutional commitment to effectively counter the causes of trafficking and exploitation,” said Sister Abby Avelino, MM, coordinator of the Day.

 THE NETWORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY

The initiative is coordinated by Talitha Kum, the international anti-trafficking network with over 6000 sisters, friends, and partners. It is promoted by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG), in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the Dicastery for Communication, the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Caritas InternationalisCoatNet, the Focolare Movement, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the International Union of Catholic Women’s Associations (WUCWO), JPIC- Anti-Trafficking Working Group (UISG/UISG), The Clewer Initiative, the Community Association Pope John XXIII, the International Federation of Catholic Action, the Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts Association (AGESCI), the RENATE Europe network and the Santa Marta Group, together with numerous other organizations worldwide.

Watch the full day’s recording below:

 

Talitha Kum Launch of ‘Walking in Dignity’ App:

 

On Tuesday 30th January, Talitha Kum, the international anti-trafficking network of more than 6000 sisters, friends and partners, presented a new initiative: the ‘Walking In Dignity’ App. The walking application invites individuals to walk on this journey toward awareness of human trafficking and its prevention.

The launch served as an invitation to all, particularly young people, to download the App and engage. The application is designed to teach, engage, and care about the people facing human trafficking and to care for, heal, and empower survivors. A creative and innovative tool application offers features such as a virtual journey for collecting tokens in tandem with real-life steps. Simultaneously, users can gain insights into various perspectives on human trafficking while earning steps.

The creation of this application was made possible through the collaboration and support of Misean Cara, the Embassy of Ireland to the Holy See, the Embassy of the United States to the Holy See, the Galileo Foundation and the Global Solidarity Fund.

RENATE would like to extend its heartiest congratulations to Talitha Kum on the success of their launch and to all who contributed to the development of the Walking in Dignity App.

You can read more about the App and its launch by clicking on the link below:
https://www.talithakum.info/en/news/talitha-kums-walking-in-dignity-app

OLA Sisters and SMA Fathers host webinar on “The Weaponisation of Cultural Beliefs in Human Trafficking”, 13th February 2024.

 

You are invited to join the SMA Fathers and OLA Sisters as they explore the intersection of cultural beliefs and human trafficking, learning how traditional oath-taking rituals and the influence of juju (magic) become insidious ‘control mechanisms’, ensnaring victims in bondage and leaving them at the mercy of traffickers.

“The Weaponisation of Cultural Beliefs in Human Trafficking”, 13th February 2024, 7.00pm – 8.15, Via Zoom.

Registrations are open here: https://subscribepage.io/februarytrafficking2024

RENATE Co-President, Ivonne van de Kar, Key Speaker at The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) Conference on “The role of Churches and faith-based organisations in fighting trafficking in Human Beings: Catholic initiatives.”

 

This event aims to foster dialogue and collaboration in the fight against human trafficking, as well as discover the invaluable insights and experiences of Catholic actors in combating this heinous crime both in Europe and around the globe.

The conference is co-organised by COMECE and the Santa Marta Group, an anti-trafficking charity launched in 2014 to act as a catalyst for law enforcement, civil society and the Church to work together to combat this global crime. The Group is supported by Pope Francis, who described human trafficking as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society; a crime against humanity.”

Read more:

Medaille Trust: New partnership crosses borders to support survivors of modern slavery and their families

 

To mark the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, on 8th February,  two organisations working together to support survivors of modern slavery, The Salvation Army and Medaille Trust, are celebrating a new partnership to provide end to end support to survivors and their family members through global networks. 

The Salvation Army welcomes Medaille Trust to its Beyond Programme which was established in recognition that international support systems for survivors of modern slavery are underfunded, constantly changing and highly varied. Deploying its existing international network, working in 134 countries across the globe, The Salvation Army’s Beyond Programme supports survivors wishing to return to their home country to reintegrate safely and with support. It also provides support to their family members when separated by borders.  

 Medaille Trust is one of the largest Catholic charities confronting modern slavery. CEO Garry Smith said:

“We are delighted to be participating in The Salvation Army’s Beyond programme. Confronting the global crime of people trafficking requires better international collaboration, particularly in supporting survivors who wish to return and reintegrate into their home countries. We have already seen the benefit of this partnership supporting a survivor to go home and begin the process of rebuilding their life and we are excited to see what could be possible in the future.”

The Beyond Programme already operates with colleagues from The Salvation Army’s specialist support services in England and Wales. Through a government contract they help adult survivors of modern slavery with their recovery. Other partner organisations include Causeway and most recently Hestia who, like Medaille Trust, work with The Salvation Army on this contract.

Since February 2023 the Beyond programme has:

  • received referrals from more than 30 different nationalities;
  • worked  with more than 50 different organisations across the world
  • supported more than 80 survivors needing help for their own recovery and reintegration or support for families members from whom they are separated.

Medaille Trust worked with The Salvation Army to help one survivor of modern slavery in the UK fulfil her wish to return to her home country. Her specialist support worker from Medaille Trust said:

“I am very thankful to The Salvation Army’s Beyond Programme who made it possible for her to return to her home country. She had been wanting to go back home ever since she was first trafficked to the UK but has unfortunately not had any safe place to go. It was so great to be able to work together with the Beyond Programme to support her to have a safe house to live in her own country who also offer her support in her own culture and language to move forward positively with her life there. I saw a huge difference in her mental health and wellbeing once she knew she could go home and still be safe and receive support.”

Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, Kathy Betteridge said:

“It is vital to have end to end help for survivors who want to return home safely and with everything in place to build a successful future. We are privileged to be on the frontline working directly with survivors and witnessing first-hand the impact this kind of support can have on transforming lives. We cannot do this alone and so it is wonderful to be working with partners like Medaille, Causeway and Hestia and to receive support from the public to help us meet the needs of many more people. We would also encourage people to join us in prayer not only for survivors and the staff and volunteers who work with them but also for a change in heart for the traffickers who trick trap and trade in the lives of vulnerable people.”

SOLWODI Hungary prepares for St. Bakhita Day commemoration in Budapest

 

Agnes Martony

During January 2024 SOLWODI Hungary had a busy period.

We have been called out to give an awareness raising lecture for girls between age 14-18 in a state-run institution. We were jointly invited by the institution and the Franciscan sisters who help with the girls.

Sr. Gabriella and Sr. Judit were talking about Bakhita Josefina, her life, and her journey from slavery to freedom. They also gave a motivational talk about the value of each person and there was a Q&A session afterword. Small, donated notebooks were presented to the girls as a gift from SOLWODI Hungary. We think it was a successful visit as not just the teachers and the leaders of the institution were very keen to get more information about trafficking, but some girls also wanted a follow up from us. We hope that this was not a once-off visit in the institution but that we could keep the contact with them.

At the moment, we are busy preparing our St. Bakhita day in Budapest. We will have our yearly commemorative mass at 18:00 CET on Thursday 8th February 2024 in the Jesus Szive Templom (1085 Budapest, Mária utca 25). Mass will be celebrated by Fr.Gabor Bellovics SJ and will be an hour of adoration afterwards.

Everyone is welcome!

25th ANNIVERSARY OF PROJECT MIRIAM IN PADOVA

 

We carry out many initiatives for the girls welcomed in the house, but what makes me grow is doing something with them, walking with them.

On December 16, 2023, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our shelter for women victims of trafficking in Padova. The event began with a solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by Bishop Claudio Cipolla at the parish of San Giovanni Battista in Pontevigodarzere. An appointment that shows how much the “Miriam Project” is dear to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and that in this quarter of a century, has involved about twenty nuns who have succeeded each other in serving women, young and old.

The event then featured a presentation of images and testimonies from those who organized, followed, helped, and lived in this precious project. All, although different in experiences and sensitivities, tell the same feeling: that of “living in a family, in a real home, made of care and Franciscan simplicity.”

About 300 trafficking victims have been guests of Project Miriam in these 25 years, but many more have been supported in their path to emancipation and autonomy even without becoming guests. The Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, a congregation founded in the mid-nineteenth century in Germany by Franziska Schervier and present in Italy since 1947, arrived in Padova in 1988 and immediately began caring for the poorest, disabled, and young people in search of the meaning of their lives. It was almost spontaneous for them to respond to the call of then-Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo in 1994, who appealed to the consecrated women of his diocese to help the numerous women on the streets, exploited for sexual reasons.

At that time, exploitation was evident and dangerous, but there were no laws, so nothing could be done. Paradoxically, these women were invisible. It was an absurd condition: foreign women convinced to come to Italy to find work but instead forced into prostitution, treated like slaves. They had no money and, above all, no documents; it was necessary to break the bond with the exploiter to emancipate themselves.

Only in 1998 did the then-Minister Livia Turco include an article – number 18 – in the new immigration law desired by the Prodi Government. This article provides a residence permit for social protection for trafficking victims who choose to leave their situation and report their exploiters. Moreover, the law also guarantees a protection path in a suitable structure. So, in 1998, we finally managed to implement this project: the house, owned by the Diocese of Padova, has a secret address to ensure adequate protection for those who ask for our help.

In recent years, the phenomenon of trafficking has changed, and new ways of assistance are being sought. However, from the beginning, what has determined the start and life of the Project is a strong spirit of collaboration and network among many local services. This has allowed and still allows the possibility of providing these girls with multidisciplinary and qualitative help to reintegrate and integrate with dignity into Italian social life.

Another word that expresses what we have tried to live every day is CARE. The women we welcome, sometimes minors, have needed to bring order to their lives, to take control of them, to direct them towards their own well-being. It has been a long journey for all of them to become aware and savour their dignity, a path of self-determination gained day after day. They needed to be accompanied in the choices that slowly led them to autonomy: self-esteem, trust, work, home, self-care, and care for their loved ones. This care involves attention, listening, welcoming, presence, sometimes words of encouragement and correction, and sometimes just silence. It’s a care that involves waiting, the certainty that the little seed will sprout and grow like a seedling.

Inside the house, there is a beautiful handmade object workshop for favours and small decorations for the home. It plays an important educational role in the women’s journey. There, they have the opportunity to rediscover beauty in general, but above all, their ability to create beautiful things, to realize new things, to be protagonists and creative.

Finally, Project Miriam involves several volunteers and young people who help us create positive relationships among people. Increasingly, we realize how important it is to raise awareness about this phenomenon, still so present and little known.

We would like to share the testimony of one of our guests (whose name is invented), who after a long time has found trust in herself and others. This story and many others give us strength and hope to continue this service.

Sr. Carla and Sr. Gabriella

Sisters and operatives in Project Miriam with our Congregation Minister and Councilor.

Testimony of Olivia

When I arrived at Project Miriam, I was just 18 years old. I arrived at night, accompanied by the carabinieri. I was very scared because I didn’t know where they were taking me. At first, I thought I was going to one of those places where everyone wears a uniform, like some kind of reform school… and that scared me a bit.

The morning after when I woke up, I realized that I wasn’t in a reform school but rather a kind of convent. We didn’t have to wear a uniform; the sisters were regular people, and I was undoubtedly in a safe place. However, I kept to myself and avoided everyone.

In the beginning, I often cried. I felt disoriented and insecure. I missed my things; I couldn’t bring anything with me, no clothes, books, or anything that reminded me of home. I remember that in the early days, I spent a lot of time by the window in my room, watching people pass by, counting cars, and daydreaming. I imagined how my life would be after experiencing such terrible things.

I didn’t talk about my past with anyone. It took almost six months for me to trust the people around me and be able to tell my story. After a few days, I started working in the workshop, and there I gradually discovered that I could create something beautiful, new, and entirely mine. I slowly began to change, to transform.

Now I am truly different—I am more outgoing, positive, joyful, and above all, open to the future. I fondly remember my first birthday celebrated at Project Miriam: it was the first time I had a birthday party. Together with the sisters, we prepared the celebration with balloons, a poster, and I cooked some typical dishes from my homeland.

Project Miriam has been a family, a safe place. Here, I have grown, and now I am appreciating the opportunities that this place has given me. For example, I have been integrated into the workforce, and now I can support myself.

I feel that the important thing is never to give up, to continue walking on the right path, even if there are obstacles, but never to go back. And to believe that one can change, become better, and start anew!