Week of Reflection Underway Prior to the International Day of Prayer Against Trafficking

A week of activities has been planned in Rome Feb. 2-8 to raise awareness of this evil and commit to combating it around the world.

St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of trafficking victims
St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of trafficking victims (photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons)

“Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act” is the theme of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking to be held on Feb. 8, a date established by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, an African woman who, before becoming a nun, was enslaved and who is a symbol in the Church of the fight against this scourge, which affects millions of people.

St. Josephine, Sudanese by birth and a naturalized Italian citizen, experienced firsthand the horrors of slavery for much of her life. The name “Bakhita” means “fortunate” and was given to her when she was 9 years old by slave traders, while the name “Josephine” was given to her 12 years later when she was baptized.

A press release from the organizers explained that “human trafficking is the process by which people are coerced or lured by false prospects, recruited, relocated, and forced to work and live in exploitative or abusive conditions. It is a phenomenon, as recent United Nations reports warn, in continuous and dramatic evolution.”

A week of activities has been planned in Rome Feb. 2–8 to raise awareness of this evil.

Fifty young representatives from partner organizations are expected in Rome, including students, volunteers, researchers, artists, communicators and activists.

There are several training activities scheduled for Saturday, Feb 3. On Sunday, Feb. 4, the young people will attend the Holy Father’s Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

On Feb. 6 at 4:15 p.m. local time there will be an anti-trafficking flashmob in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. Then at 5:30 p.m. in Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica there will be an ecumenical prayer vigil in five languages — Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese — highlighting the five natural elements of water, fire, air, metal and earth. 

On Feb. 7, the youth delegates will attend Pope Francis’ general audience in Paul VI Hall.

On Feb. 8, an online pilgrimage of prayer and reflection against human trafficking will be held around the world. It will start at 9:30 a.m. in Oceania, followed by Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, and will finally conclude at 4:30 p.m. in North America.

The participation of more than 50 countries and a special message from the Holy Father are expected.

The event will be broadcast in five languages and can be found here.

“Trafficking is around us, in our cities, but is often invisible to our eyes. With this day, we want to increase awareness of trafficking, reflect on the situation of violence and injustice suffered by the victims of this global phenomenon, and propose concrete solutions,” said Maryknoll Sister Abby Avelino, coordinator of the event.

Sister Abby invited “everyone to listen and observe attentively, to dream together with the young people of a better world and to act for change, starting from personal, community and institutional commitment to effectively counter the causes of trafficking and exploitation.”

All these initiatives are coordinated by Talitha Kum, the international network against human trafficking, with more than 6,000 women religious members, friends and collaborators.

The event is also promoted by the International Union of Superiors General and the Union of Superiors General in collaboration with the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, the Dicastery for Communication, the Pope’s World Prayer Network, and Caritas Internationalis, among others.

The organizers ask people to send a tweet on Feb. 8 using the official hashtag of the day: #PrayAgainstTrafficking.

For more information, visit the website for the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.