2022 Assembly


ACTIVITIES AROUND ST BAKHITA DAY February 2023 in Republic of Serbia.


Report by Sr. Stanka Oršolić.

1. St BAKHITA DAY in my convent in Subotica, 8th February 2023

On the occasion of the 9th International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on 8th February 2023 I organised a prayer service in my convent “Anuncijata”, in town Subotica, in Republic of Serbia. On that day, every year, we have an Adoration of Holy Eucharist in our convent which is scheduled by Subotica Diocese. So, this year we took an opportunity to invite our close neighbours and friends and we pray for victims of trafficking. Our local priest and friend Vinko Cvijin also came and gave a blessing on the end of the prayer. Most of our friends did not hear about the problem of human trafficking and were astonished about that horrific crime and sufferings of victims. We believe that power of prayer can reach those who suffer and God can help and save them.

2. LECTURE about issue of Human Trafficking to the group of youth in our parish “Resurrection of Jesus”, Subotica, 9th February 2023

“Journeying in Dignity Against Human Trafficking” was the topic of the lecture that I gave to the group of youth (high school students) and also three local priests participated. Participants had opportunity to find more about the issue of Human Trafficking in the world and in their own country. I also share some activities lunched by Catholic Church and religious communities and my personal contribution.

Report about it was written by Mrs Emina Kujundžić and published in February 2023 for their local monthly catholic magazine “Zvonik”.

I gave a short statement about the importance of the 9th International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking for the National Croatian Television Station which was broadcasted by reporter Mr Josip Stantić in our religion program »Peace and All Good« on 12th February 2023 (it can be found on HRTi).

3. INTERVIEW “A reality from which we rather runaway” for weekly informative and political newspaper “Hrvatska riječ”, 24th February 2023, Subotica

An Interview held by reporter Mrs Željka Vukov about issue of human trafficking, my personal contribution, trends, how can media and anybody help to prevent human trafficking was published in their newspaper “Hrvatska riječ”, please find on: Stvarnost od koje bježimo | Intervju | Hrvatska Riječ (

4. ARTICLE “The journey of modern slavery and tireless walk of the Church that leaves no one behind on that path” for local monthly catholic magazine “Zvonik”, 25th February 2023, Subotica

I wrote an Article about the problem of modern slavery in the world and in Serbia, about their causes, types of exploitation, victims, some statistics and what Church had done so far to raise awareness to prevent human trafficking and help to the victims was published in their monthly catholic magazine “Zvonik”. The main topic for this issue of the magazine was the problem of human trafficking.

These activities were very important and significant because they reached lot of persons in Serbia so they had opportunity to find more about the problem of human trafficking and perhaps they can help to the potential victims. Furthermore, these initiatives included Catholic Church in Serbia for the first time in global initiative to suppress human trafficking. Lastly, the contribution and work of RENATE members was for the first time presented in the Republic of Serbia. In the future, it would be good to find a way to continue the cooperation with the Catholic Church in Serbia.

Sr Stanka Oršolić

Bakhita Day Reflections: Sr. Gabriella Mezinger, Solwodi Hungary


On 8th of February SOLWODI Hungary organized their 10th prayer event for all affected by Human Trafficking.

The event took place at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Church in Budapest, where those invited could also join online. The ecumenical prayer was followed by a short testimony of Fr. Peter Modga, former parish priest of Schio (the shire of St. Bakhita) who also brought us Bakhita’s relics.

The main celebrant was Fr. Szabolcs Sajgo SJ, who encouraged our Association from its beginning, to be the voice of the voiceless. His inspiring words echoed the message of the international prayer day, calling us to be transformed by God’s mercy to be God’s incarnate mercy for those suffering.

At the end of the mass, we received a special blessing with the relics of St Bakhita.

Bakhita Day reflections: Messina, Italy


Reflection by RENATE member, Sr. Tina Ventimiglia

In Messina, Italy, a prayer vigil was organized in the cloisters of the Archbishop’s Palace on the occasion of St. Bakita Day, with the following Italian article highlighting that there are many new forms of slavery, including human trafficking – a real crime against humanity.

Bakhita Day reflections: Spain


Report by Sr. Begoña Iñarra

“Weaving Networks” for the eradication of human trafficking organized a “circle of silence” (1 hour prayer)

Marifran Sánchez with the other members of “Weaving Networks”, a Spanish network at national level with: Caritas, Justice and Peace, the Conference of Religious (CONFER) and the department against human trafficking of the Spanish Episcopal Conference organized a “Circle of silence” online ( ) the 21st of January to pray for victims and perpetrators of Human Trafficking .

This was the poster to announce it:

The Vigil of St Bakhita in MADRID organized by the Madrid Diocesan Comission against Human trafficking of which Pilar González Cano, Maria Francisca (Marifran) Sánchez and Begoña Iñarra are members.

The Vigil on St. Bakhita day, 8 February 2023 was celebrated in most Spanish dioceses. The Commission against Human Trafficking of the Archidioceses of Madrid (of which both Pilar Gonzalez Cano and Begoña Iñarra are members), organized the prayer in St Cayetano parish in the heart of the traditional borrough of Madrid. There were about 80 people in attendance. It was very symbolic, with a young lady and a man representing the victims of human trafficking and two other women and twomen representing the perpetrators. These ones tied a big belt around the victims with pieces from where they hung different ribbons  that had written in big letters.

A beautiful image of St. Bakhita was at the center.

We put up four posters with the words “freedom and dignity”, “care paths and dignity”, “care pathways”, “inclusion” and “empowerment”, which we will use in the third stage of our journey.

Throughout the prayer service, we made a representation to help us better visualise and become aware of what “binds” the victims of trafficking, the chains that prevent them from living in freedom. In the first stage: eyes open, we met the victims and their perpetrators. A woman and a man put themselves in the “skin” of the victims, while three men and women represented the perpetrators. These, tied a big belt around the victims and hungribbons from it containing the words: WAR, VIOLENCE, POVERTY, RAPE, ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS and ECONOMIC CRISIS. A big candle was lit at the feet of St. Bakhita. While the group came slowly walking from the door to the middle of the Church, the assembly listened to the readings, prayed, kept silent and sung. We let ourselves be provoked, engaged, touched by their lives. We placed them in the presence of God and we prayed for the HEALING of the victims and the CONVERSION of the perpetrators, asking God to accompany their processes.

2nd stage: attentive heart to DISCOVER the daily paths of thousands of people in search of freedom and dignity, paths of care, inclusion and empowerment. Four people took the posters next to the image of St. Josephine Bakhita with the words “FREEDOM AND DIGNITY”, “PATHS OF CARE”, “INCLUSION” and “EMPOWERMENT” and went to meet the group of victims and perpetrators and accompanied them towards the altar. The 2nd candle was lit at the foot of the image of St. Bakhita. The assembly prayed for the men and women in the Church who want to discover the paths of our brothers and sisters who are caught in the chains of war, violence, poverty, rape, environmental climate and economic crises, and seek freedom and dignity, ways of care, inclusion and empowerment, listened to God’s Word, kept a prayerful silence and sung.

3rd stage: guiding our feet to PROMOTE anti-trafficking actions that make us rediscover dignity, awaken joy and liberate hope, letting ourselves be inspired by the youth creativity and spiritual strength. Some people from those assembled together went towards the group of victims and perpetrators to untie the ribbons: war, violence, poverty, rape, environmental crisis and economic crisis, which oppress them as victims of trafficking. At the same time those carrying the words “freedom and dignity”, “pathways of care”, “inclusion” and “empowerment” lift them up and when all the ribbons are untied, they put them back at St. Bakhita’s feet in front of the altar. A pair of SANDALS is brought to the altar as a symbol of our walking with integrity in total respect for the unshakeable dignity of the human being and the love of God. After the reading of the Word of God, those assembled together asked the God of tenderness to teach us to welcome the pain of so many victims and to accompany the healing processes of the survivors.

4th stage: Stage 4: Join hands walking together to BUILD a culture of encounter that leads to the conversion of inclusive hearts and societies, capable of unmasking stereotypes and protecting the rights of every person. On the altar are the two people who represent survivors of trafficking, six the perpetrators, five who help to untie what oppresses and four who represent “freedom and dignity”, “pathways of care”, “inclusion” and “empowerment”. They and all those assembled together joined hands and formed a circle around the altar. The image of St. Bakhita with the symbols and the candles lit are at the centre of the circle, where the symbol of this 4th stage, the GOSPEL is brought in and placed at the feet of St. Bakhita. This showed our commitment to let ourselves be enlightened by the power of the Word. At the end of the vigil St. Bakhita’s song accompanied our greetings and embraces as we bid each other farewell.

Begoña Iñarra in the name of the RENATE members from Spain.

In conjunction with this event, Sr. Begoña Iñarra, on behalf of the Human Trafficking Commision of Madrid Archdiocese, will also travel on February 21st to Montpellier College, to talk with 2 classes of secondary school boys and girls about human trafficking and advise them on their end of year school projects.








Bakhita Day reflections: GENC GJOCI, Albania


Genc Gjoci is a RENATE member based in Albania, who participated in this year’s Youth Ambassador programme in Rome, during the week marking the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking in Rome last week.

This week was arranged by the UISG, to facilitate formation and networking on human trafficking as part of the 9th year honouring the International Day of Prayer & Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Full information at:

albania genc
previous arrow
next arrow

Bakhita Day Reflections: Sr. Viktorija Simic, Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, Croatia.


Report by Sr. Viktorija Simic, Congregation of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross

In advance of International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Sr. Viktorija Simic worked to translate and distribute the meditative prayer material, prepared by TALITHA KUM, amongst her fellow Holy Cross Sisters communities in Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro. This resulted in almost three hundred of the Holy Cross Sisters using and uniting with us in prayer.

On St. Bakhita Day, Sr. Viktorija travelled to the Provincial House in Djakovo to lead the prayer where all the local Superiors from Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro had a meditative evening with this material. Carmelite Fr. Stjepan Vidak also joined the prayer, since he led the week’s retreat for a group of 40 Sisters that week.

Sr. Viktorija was joined by some of her formative communities, so many formees, novices and candidates also joined the meditation. Later on, some Sisters shared with Sr. Viktorija that they were very moved by the service.

The news about this event was shared on the website of the Province, but also on the Archdiocese website and the IKA (Informative Catholic Agency) website. The same material for Prayer on the International day was published on the website of the Croatian Religious Conference, as well as of the Religious Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bakhita Day Reflections: Good Shepherd Sisters – Dar Merhba Bik Foundation, Malta.


Report by Sr. Margaret Gonzi, Religious of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

On the day of St. Bakhita, the Good Shepherd Sisters had Mass offered for victims of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence at our Good Shepherd Sisters – Dar Merhba Bik Foundation shelter for Domestic Violence Survivors. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Charles Cordina.

Before Mass Fr. Charles invited Sr. Margaret Gonzi to speak about the sufferings that St. Bakhita went through while she was trafficked several times, and the horror of Human trafficking happening all over the world. Sr. Margaret spoke about Pope Francis’ concern and this special day of prayer for victims of Human Trafficking, which he had announced in 2015.

CARITAS Slovakia: Bakhita Day reflection


Reported by Jana Urbanová

To mark St. Bakhita day this year, CARITAS Slovakia recorded a novena that was broadcast over the 9 days leading up to February 8th. It was broadcast on Slovak Catholic Radio (LUMEN) each evening after Holy Mass. This Novena would culminate in a larger prayer service on St. Bakhita Day.

 The prayer itself included 6 stories of clients that were captured in their own words and read by CARITAS colleagues. To each of the stories, a reading was chosen from the bible and a prayer that included both a persona and general aspect of human trafficking. Another CARITAS member sang songs and a psalm in between the prayers.

CARITAS also extended their invitation this year to parishes to join the prayer and provided small round chocolates that had Bakhita´s portrait and a CARITAS cross on it. Both milk and dark chocolate versions from the finest local chocolatier (brand LYRA) were provided, with the text reading “St. Josephina Bakhita, From Slavery to Freedom”. 

Ten years of Solwodi Austria (Deutsche Übersetzung)


Ten years of SOLWODI AUSTRIA means ten years of commitment in the fight against human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.

On 8 February 2023, the “World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking” introduced by Pope Francis, the anniversary celebration took place at the Cardinal König Haus in the 13th district of Vienna.

The registered association SOLWODI (Solidarity with women in distress) AUSTRIA is sustained by six women’s congregations and is financed mainly by religious congregations and private donations. For those involved, the aim of the celebration was mainly to make the participants realize the distress and desperation of those affected. They wanted to show the unbelievable extent to which this crime is present in our society, and at the same time accepted and/or ignored.


Sr Patricia Erber, chairwoman and „founding initiator“ of the association SOLWODI AUSTRIA, summed up its success story in concrete figures: During these ten years, a total of 450 women could be counseled by SOLWODI staff members. 93 women and 51 children found a place and comprehensive care in a shelter in Vienna. Another 19 women and eleven children found a place in a shelter in Innsbruck which existed for a short period of time. After moving out of the shelter, the women continue to receive aftercare in a separate counselling centre set up for this purpose. Two thirds of the women cared for in the SOLWODI shelters were victims of sexual exploitation or trafficked persons.


The “initial spark” came from the Italian Sr. Eugenia Bonetti who, as a speaker at an event in Rome in 2001, reported on the situation of Nigerian women who are sold to Europe to be exploited in prostitution. She described the approach of the traffickers and the great distress of the women. And she urged her listeners to stand up as women religious for these women who have no voice. This prompted Sr Patricia to take a closer look at the issue, and so the “Project Group of Church Organisations against Human Trafficking” was founded in July 2010, and a smaller project group in April 2011, consisting of six women religious from six different religious congregations, which then founded SOLWODI AUSTRIA in 2012. During the meetings, the need for shelters for women and girls affected by human trafficking and of sexual exploitation became apparent (until then, there was only one single shelter for these women in the whole of Austria!)


Sr. Anna Mayrhofer, long-time manager of a SOLWODI-shelter in Germany, then took over the management of the shelter in Vienna. The women should stay there “for as short a time as possible, but as long as necessary”, says Sr Anna. Social workers and volunteers attend to the women and help them with all organisational matters – from going to the doctor to taking a German course, to finding an own flat that they can afford. The way back to a reasonably self-determined life is difficult, but it succeeds. – Two thirds of the women cared for in the SOLWODI shelters were victims of sexual exploitation or trafficking.


Sr. Maria Schlackl heads the initiative “Active against Human Trafficking – Active for Human Dignity in Upper Austria” [i.e. in one of the nine federal states of Austria]. Her main goal is to anchor the issue of “human trafficking” in public awareness. “It is important to raise awareness, and preventive awareness at that,” Sr. Maria is convinced. “Because we have to do everything we can to ensure that this happens to as few women and girls as possible.” – She is supported in this initiative by Fr. Hans Eidenberger, who asks ironically at the beginning of his talk: “”Prostitution is a women’s issue, isn’t it? Men have nothing to do with that, do they?” The answer is, of course, quite the opposite. Men in particular must be held responsible. The awareness of this, however, is completely lacking in society, he says. “Not ‘whore’ should be the dirty word, but ‘punter’,” says the Marianist Father. When he sees a sticker on a moped saying ‘My other ride is your daughter’, as he did on a walk the other day, he said it shows the mentality of many men who believe women can be ridden like a moped. “And we have to fight against that,” the religious advocated. It starts with the media. “Read it consciously once when an article reports on an incident in a brothel. It almost only talks about the woman. The perpetrator, the man, is hardly mentioned; he always remains in the dark.”

“We have to strive for a change in awareness,” says the Father. That is why the members of the initiative also give lectures in schools, in parishes, at events. Ultimately, he says, there is no need for men who protect women – there is a need for men who do not protect other men. And it needs men who act as role models and publicly say: “Real men don’t buy women!” As an efficient approach to solving the problem, Fr Hans Eidenberger pleaded for a Europe-wide legislation that would tackle the crime of “human trafficking” more decisively, namely the “Nordic law model”. It does not punish the prostitute, but the sex buyer. “As long as prostitution is legal, there will be demand and thus supply,” he said.


solwodi 1
solwodi 2
solwodi 3
solwodi 4
previous arrow
next arrow


Photos: Copywright Martin Eder


Zehn Jahre SOLWODI ÖSTERREICH bedeuten zehn Jahre Engagement im Kampf gegen Menschenhandel, sexuelle Ausbeutung und Zwangsprostitution. Am 8. Februar 2023, dem von Papst Franziskus eingeführten “Weltgebetstag gegen Menschenhandel”, fand die Jubiläumsfeier im Kardinal König Haus in Wien XIII statt.

Der Verein SOLWODI (Solidarity with women in distress) ÖSTERREICH wird von sechs Frauenorden getragen und finanziert sich hauptsächlich von Ordensgemeinschaften und von privaten Spenden. Bei der Feier ging es den Verantwortlichen darum, den Teilnehmer:innen die Not und die Verzweiflung der Betroffenen begreifbar zu machen. Es ging ihnen darum, aufzuzeigen, in welchem unglaublichen Ausmaß dieses Verbrechen in unserer Gesellschaft präsent ist und gleichzeitig akzeptiert und/oder ignoriert wird.

Sr. Patricia Erber, Obfrau und Gründungsinitiatorin des Vereins SOLWODI ÖSTERREICH , brachte die Erfolgsgeschichte des Vereins in konkreten Zahlen auf den Punkt: Im Zeitraum von zehn Jahren konnten insgesamt 450 Frauen im Rahmen einer Kontaktaufnahme durch Mitarbeiterinnen von SOLWODI beraten werden. 93 Frauen und 51 Kinder fanden Platz und umfassende Betreuung in einer Schutzwohnung in Wien. Weitere 19 Frauen und elf Kinder in einer für kurze Zeit bestehenden Schutzeinrichtungen in Innsbruck. Nach dem Auszug aus der Schutzwohnung erhalten die Frauen weiterhin in einer eigenen dafür eingerichteten Beratungsstelle nachsorgende Betreuung. Zwei Drittel der in den SOLWODI-Schutzwohnungen betreuten Frauen waren Opfer von sexueller Ausbeutung oder Betroffene von Menschenhandel.

Die „Initialzündung“ kam von der italienischen Ordensfrau Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, die 2001 als Referentin einer Veranstaltung in Rom über die Situation von nigerianischen Frauen berichtete, die nach Europa verkauft werden, um sie in der Prostitution auszubeuten. Sie schilderte das Vorgehen der Menschenhändler und die große Not der Frauen. Und sie forderte ihre Zuhörerinnen auf, sich als Ordensfrauen für diese Frauen, die keine Stimme haben, einzusetzen. Das veranlasste Sr. Patricia, sich näher mit dem Thema auseinanderzusetzen, und so kam es im Juli 2010 zur Gründung der „Projektgruppe Kirchlicher Organisationen gegen Menschenhandel“, und einer kleineren Projektgruppe im April 2011, bestehend aus sechs Ordensfrauen aus sechs verschiedenen Ordensgemeinschaften, die dann im Jahr 2012 SOLWODI ÖSTERREICH gründeten. Im Rahmen der Treffen zeigte sich der Bedarf nach Schutzeinrichtungen für Frauen und Mädchen, die von Menschenhandel und in Folge von sexueller Ausbeutung betroffen waren (bis dahin gab es nur eine einzige Schutzeinrichtung für diese Frauen in ganz Österreich!).

Sr. Anna Mayrhofer, langjährige Leiterin einer SOLWODI-Schutzwohnung in Deutschland hat dann die Leitung der Schutzwohnung in Wien übernommen. Da sollen die Frauen „so kurz wie möglich, aber so lange wie notwendig“ bleiben, so Sr. Anna. Sozialarbeiterinnen und freiwillige Mitarbeiterinnen betreuen die Frauen und helfen ihnen bei allen organisatorischen Dingen – vom Arztbesuch über den Deutschkurs bis zum Finden einer eigenen Wohnung, die sie sich auch leisten können. Der Weg zurück in ein halbwegs selbstbestimmtes Leben ist schwierig, aber er gelingt. – Zwei Drittel der in den SOLWODI-Schutzwohnungen betreuten Frauen waren Opfer von sexueller Ausbeutung oder Betroffene von Menschenhandel.

Sr. Maria Schlackl leitet die Initiative „Aktiv gegen Menschenhandel – Aktiv für Menschenwürde in OÖ“ [d.h. in einem der neun Bundesländer Österreichs]. Sie hat sich vor allem das Ziel gesetzt, die Problematik „Menschenhandel“ im Bewusstsein der Öffentlichkeit zu verankern. „Wichtig ist die Bewusstseinsbildung, und zwar die präventive Bewusstseinsbildung“, zeigt sich Sr. Maria überzeugt. „Denn wir müssen alles daransetzen, dass das möglichst wenigen Frauen und Mädchen widerfährt.“ – In dieser Initiative wird sie unterstützt von P. Hans Eidenberger, der zu Beginn seines Vortrags ironisch fragt: „„Prostitution ist ein Frauenthema, oder? Damit haben Männern nichts zu tun, oder?“ Die Antwort lautet natürlich: Ganz im Gegenteil. Gerade die Männer müssen in Verantwortung genommen werden. Das Bewusstsein dafür fehle jedoch völlig in der Gesellschaft. „Nicht ‚Hure‘ sollte das Schimpfwort sein, sondern ‚Freier‘“, so der Marianist. Wenn er wie neulich bei einem Spaziergang einen Aufkleber auf einem Moped sieht, auf dem steht: ‚My other ride is your daughter‘, dann zeige es die Mentalität von vielen Männern, die glauben, Frauen könne man reiten wie ein Moped. „Und dagegen müssen wir vorgehen“, plädierte der Ordensmann. Das fängt schon bei den Medien an. „Lesen Sie das einmal bewusst durch, wenn ein Artikel über einen Zwischenfall in einem Bordell berichtet. Es ist fast nur von der Frau die Rede. Der Täter, der Mann, kommt kaum vor; der bleibt immer im Dunklen.“

„Wir müssen eine Bewusstseinsänderung anstreben.“, sagt der Ordensmann. Deshalb halten die Mitglieder der Initiative auch Vorträge in Schulen, in Pfarren, bei Veranstaltungen. Letztendlich brauche es keine Männer, die Frauen beschützen – es brauche Männer, die andere Männer nicht beschützen. Und es brauche Männer, die als Vorbilder wirken und öffentlich sagen: „Echte Männer kaufen keine Frauen!“ Als effizienten Lösungsansatz plädierte P. Hans Eidenberger für eine europaweite Gesetzgebung, die dem Delikt „Menschenhandel“ entschiedener entgegentrete, nämlich das „nordische Gesetzesmodell“. Es stellt nicht die Prostituierte unter Strafe, sondern den Sexkäufer. „So lange Prostitution legal ist, so lange wird es auch Nachfrage und damit Nachschub geben“, so der Ordensmann.



Photographs in this post – Copyright Martin Eder