This is the third year of the film festival Together against Trafficking. After two previous succesful years in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and Košice, the second largest city in Slovakia, we decided to bring the festival to Banská Bystrica in 2016, as the region is one with the most frequent cases of human trafficking. The festival took place on Friday 21st of October, in recognition of the European day against Human Trafficking ( 18th October).
The film festival about a multi- bilion euro crime industry is unique to Slovakia. Each year, it takes place in a new location, with a different emphasis. This year we particularly focused on the stories of victims – Slovaks, who fell into traffickers´ nets and on the value of each human life, without exception. Films faithfully illustrate the effects of exploitation on the lives of the victims as well as the difficulties with regaining their self-value and dignity.
In spite of the intensity of the festival theme, presented via films, pictures and discussions, the festival was surrounded in a strong atmospehere of hope, help and resistence against this phenomenon. We felt it in the new film MADE IN: God´s Image by the Slovak director – Sr. Iva Kúšiková – where the role of church is obvious in combatting Human Trafficking.
Another ray of hope was to be seen in the collection of photographs entitled Life after Trafficking, depicting 12 survivors who in their own words, conveyed a strong desire for a new life.
We felt empowered by the discussions with workers who actively help the survivors to overcome those sad stories. We are grateful for their zeal in fighting this problem. We are also grateful that they share their experience and knowledge which greatly helps in awareness raising so that oher potential victims might be spared and protected.
Traditionally as part of the festival there was a panel discussion with experts from Slovakia and abroad. Our special guest this year was Mike Emberson, project director of the Medaille Trust, UK. Mike is well aware of many people from Slovakia who go to the Ukin search of a good job and a better life in his country but end up in traffickers´ hands. Our British guest impressed students within the morning session as well as the wider public in the evening, with his rich experiences in the field of victim support and assistance.
As usual, the festival morning was aimed at students- soon to be adults – from different secondary schools . The students became very engaged in quizzes and other interactive sessions we had prepared for them.
There were also accompanying activities which showed a wider view of Human Trafficking, such as the previously mentioned exhibition of photographs entitled Life after Trafficking. This photo exhibition depicts memories and the actual reality of survivors after their return to Slovakia.
Near the entrance to the venue we placed the campaign ‘GIFT box Slovakia – people aren´t for sale‘ – a unique and enormous box wrapped as an attractive gift which lures people to look inside by promises and sweet-sounding messages written on the external walls of the box. Once you enter the box you get the idea. There aren’t any good jobs or sweet futures. Instead, you find sad stories of people who fell into this trap, desribing the appaling reality of Human Trafficking.
The film festival offered participants an opportunity to support one of the shelters for victims of Human Trafficking by making a contribution for a hand-made bag that was manufactured in the shelter workshop.
For those interested in organising their own film event, we prepared film packs containing film DVDs and a brief manual how to plan and organise it by themselves, which we distribued at the festival. After the programme, over some light refreshments, there was an opportunity to reflect upon this serious topic of human trafficing. The panel guests, volunteers and organisning team enjoyed the possibility to share their experiences and knowledge with the participants.
Their participation and interest is evidence of breaking the indifference, to which Pope Francis calls us unceasingly. We endeavor to continue fullfilling the message of the festival: TOGETHER AGAINST TRAFFICKING.
The festival was organised by Caritas Slovakia in cooperation with our British partner Unchosen, by financial support of the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak republic.