2022 Assembly


Bakhita Network Meeting in Poland


Is there slavery today? Yes! The polls say that there may be as many as 27 million contemporary slaves. This issue of slavery affects Poland too, though sometimes overlooked, it is very much present all around us.
These are some of the questions on the agenda of our meeting. 
Bakhita Network Meeting in Cracow, 4-5 September 2015As the Year of Mercy is approaching, Pope Francis encourages us to help suffering humanity with a renewed commitment; to open eyes to the misery of the world and the wounds of our brothers and sisters, deprived of dignity. In response to this plea, the Bakhita Network for the Prevention and Aid for the Victims of Contemporary Slavery at the Council of Major Superiors of the Women Religious, organised a training session for its members. It was held from 4th to 5th September 2015, in the Seminary of the Conventual Franciscan Friars in Cracow. Sr. Joanna Lipowska FMM, the president of the Bakhita section and Sr. Anna Bałchan SMI coordinated the meetings and workshops. Forty nine people from across Poland answered the invitation to gather for this purpose, among them forty two sisters from various religious congregations, one priest and six lay people.
The first day of lectures and workshops conducted by Sr. Anna Bałchan focused on human trafficking;  the extent of the problem; methods used by the traffickers and the suffering endured by their victims. The participants listened to some stories of those who were once enslaved.
On the second day, the session was preceded by Mass and Morning Prayer, after which the first part addressed the question of different ways to help the victims. The lectures were supported by workshops and small group work. In this way, participants learned through experience about the processes of interpersonal communication, attitudes preventing good communication, factors that help create a bond between helper and person assisted. Trainees were given tools and tips in order that they might learn ways of helping wisely. Sr. Anna shared her personal experience of caring for victims and this was a particularly valuable example.
For the second part of the meeting, Sr. Joanna Lipowska, with Mrs. Justyna Chłodny and Paulina Spratek from the Covenant of Mercy Community in Warsaw, presented a suggested campaign for 18th October – European Day against Human Trafficking. The participants had a chance to practice their skills: take on the role of people involved in the campaign, join in a pantomime, be involved while a deeply exciting project was created.
Introduction to Campaign for 18th October 2015
To complete their training, each person received a booklet with specific ‘step by step’ guide. This guide included: undertaking an action plan, instructions for coordinators, detailed description of the social, educational and artistic part of the campaign. The whole proposal contains vital elements of information, artistic expression (a pantomime, and a display) and spiritual involvement (invitation to participate in Adoration or Eucharist). The participants received materials that could be used when preparing such a campaign.
As emphasised by the authors, the base and climax of what they suggest, is a call to entrust both the victims and the perpetrators to the mercy of God: an attitude that turns helplessness into the power of prayer. Thus, the intensive training day culminated in the evening adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
A particularly valuable side of the session was the mutual understanding and cooperation of religious sisters and brothers who share the passion for serving Christ in others; the opportunity to exchange their experiences. Relationships established among the participants give hope for further cooperation to fight human trafficking and help victims. The witness of those who help victims inspired and awakened a desire to commit ourselves in the best way possible.
The meeting in Cracow was a very creative time. For that we thank God and we thank the people involved.
May the Lord guide this work and enable us to love and serve those entrusted to the Bakhita Network.
If you are interested in the topic and ready to cooperate – please Join the Bakhita Network:
Sr. Joanna Lipowska FMM

Religious Women Link up to Fight Human Trafficking



A formidable multi-billion-dollar human-trafficking industry has driven Catholic religious women to collaborate among themselves and with other sectors of society to stop what Pope Francis has called “the most extensive form of slavery of the 21st century.”
Since International Union of Superiors General (UISG) established Talitha Kum (“Little girl, arise”) in 2009*, the anti-trafficking network of women religious, has developed a program of activities banking on partnerships established by the UISG central office in Rome as well as a network of local anti-trafficking teams.
Talitha Kum has also linked up with government, professional, faith-based and other organizations, said Sr. Estrella Castalone, its coordinator, at a recent Asia-Oceania conference of women religious in Tagaytay City, south of Manila.
In her presentation ahead of Thursday’s International Day against Trafficking, Castalone said, “My dearest sisters … We know that this slavery has a feminine face. It behooves us, women religious, to join hands and put a stop to it. Talitha Kum takes this commitment and we enjoin you to support us, individually or as a congregation.”
For Castalone of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, partnership is a “significant component” of Talitha Kum’s approach. Without this, it is impossible to combat the intricate web of syndicated operations she illustrated in her slideshow.
As religious, “we can only move and be involved within the parameters of our consecrated life,” Castalone pointed out to the more than 65 nuns and members of partner groups who joined the Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious (AMOR XVI) in November.
Besides, victims of human trafficking often undergo a harrowing experience that requires a “long and difficult process of healing and recovery … needing interdisciplinary case management approach,” she said.
Partnering with government and private bodies also serves the need for job placement and alternative livelihood options for victims.
“We realize that as religious, we cannot be involved so much in the prosecution process,” Castalone said.
She acknowledged the help with funding provided by Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters and the continuous training and support from International Organization for Migration.
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