Australian Catholics will mark the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking next Friday, with leaders calling for a joint commitment to end slavery.
In 2015, Pope Francis declared February 8 to be the annual day of prayer and action against trafficking. The day coincides with the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese saint who is patron saint of victims of slavery.
Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) are inviting Catholics to mark St Bakhita’s Day next Friday and at weekend Masses on February 9 and 10.
ACRATH, CRA and ACBC have also called for Australia to have a four-fold commitment to slavery prevention, victim protection, the legal prosecution of perpetrators, and to creating partnerships for change. This commitment begins with awareness raising and action to eliminate slavery in all its forms at a diocesan, parish, school, family and personal level.
The Catholic organisations have applauded the many people who fought hard for a decade to see gains made in 2018 with the passing of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, which came into effect on January 1.
ACRATH’s president, Sr Noelene Simmons SM, said the Modern Slavery Act requires organisations with a consolidated revenue of $100 million or more to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. The first modern slavery statements are due on 30 June, 2020.
“Ten years ago, ACRATH began working with schools and parishes, urging them to buy and eat only slavery-free chocolate at Easter. We still work on that campaign but we know that slavery is part of so many of the goods and services we use and until we slavery-proof all our supply chains people will be forced to live in slavery,” Sr Noelene said.
CRA president Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ said the day of prayer “gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we do and what we buy and if necessary, to commit to act differently in order to work towards the elimination of slavery”.
It is estimated that millions of women, girls, men and boys are trafficked annually into domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, pornography production, forced marriage and forced labour.
World Day of Prayer Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking 2019 (ACRATH, CRA and ACBC)
Anti-slavery expo to help businesses prepare for new laws (Sydney Archdiocese)