Human trafficking was the subject chosen by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly for his mass of installation at the Cathedral of Assumption in Thurles on Sunday.
He warned that Irish people are directly or indirectly encountering the victims of trafficking. “Victims have been found in different sectors of society. We need to stay alert to this reality and work in our local communities to eradicate it,” he said.
Archbishop O’Reilly noted that the date of his installation as Archbishop of Cashel and Emly coincided with the first international day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking and the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita.
“Whilst St Josephine Bakhita is a name that may not be familiar with all of you, for those here present from Africa it will be a name that they are familiar with. St Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 and kidnapped for slavery before she was nine years old. Such was her trauma that she forgot her birth name and it was lost, to be replaced by Bakhita, meaning “Fortunate”. This was the name that her kidnappers gave her.
“Sold in the markets like a commodity and passed from owner to owner, she would eventually find herself in the household of the Italian consul, who brought her to Italy. There she came under the care of the Canossian Sisters and began a new life as a Christian, and later, as a nun.”
He noted the liturgy of the Word focused on the theme of suffering. “Job’s life has become a misery, everything has gone against him, he is, he says: ‘Like the slave sighing for the shade …’ The life of those caught in that world is a misery and often full of sadness. Today, we recall the vast numbers of innocent people – especially children – trapped in the global trade of human trafficking.”
Archbishop O’Reilly went on to explain how St Paul chose the slave as the representation of the weakest member of society.
“Historically slaves were treated as the lowest and least respected of all. However, the reality of slavery in our time is a frightening reality. More people are enslaved through trafficking today than during 400 years of transatlantic slave trading. An estimated 21 million people are enslaved through global trafficking, and this results in 700,00 people trafficked across international borders each year. These are shocking figures and they relate to today – 2015. Human trafficking is a direct violation of the right to freedom, dignity and equal rights enshrined in Article One of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Remembering the tragedy that is human trafficking does not just relate to what is happening in distant countries far away; it also concerns us, and our own country, the archbishop stresssed.
“We have a responsibility to effectively challenge and tackle trafficking which exists here in Europe. Wealthy countries are a source of demand for human trafficking. You may ask: “what can we do about it?” The first step is to open our eyes to the reality that trafficking may be happening around us in our local communities.
“Very often those trapped in this world are bound by what Pope Francis calls ‘invisible chains.’ We need to stay alert to this reality and work in our local communities to eradicate it. Writing about human trafficking in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis states that all those guilty of ‘comfortable and silent complicity’ in relation to this crime have ‘blood on their hands’,” Archbishop O’Reilly said.