On 8 February, Catholics are invited to host or attend prayer services to support survivors of modern-day slavery.

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking in Persons 2018 spotlights the vulnerability of people on the move — migrants, refugees and internally displaced people — to human trafficking.

The theme chosen for the fourth edition of the Day is “Migration without Trafficking: Say Yes to Freedom and No to Slavery.”

Trafficking in persons is a grave violation of human rights. Approximately 40.3 million people are victims of modern-day slavery around the world. Refugees and unaccompanied children are some of the most vulnerable targets of labor and sex traffickers.

According to Pope Francis, “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, and organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity.”

Pope Francis established the Day of Prayer in 2014. It falls on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese girl who was kidnapped and sold into slavery circa 1877.

In Europe, a group of religious congregations working against modern-day slavery is organizing a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking and mark this occasion every year. Among the events planned by members of the Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE) this year are collective prayers, a film screening and music performances.

In the U.S.A., the Day of Prayer follows the ongoing National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, proclaimed by President Donald J. Trump. According to a recently published study, U.S. traffickers make $2.5 billion a year forcing women to work in massage parlors; victims are mostly new immigrants with debts and no language skills.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), one of ICMC’s members, has been leading the Catholic Church’s response to end all forms of modern slavery in the country through education, outreach and policy programs.

On the occasion of the Day of Prayer, MRS has produced a toolkit with community engagement ideas, social media package and prayers to guide this moment of reflection and awareness.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference will host a St. Bakhita Day Webinar to engage parishioners and community members to search for new ideas to combat human trafficking.

  • Read the Toolkit from the Migration and Refugee Services of the USCBB

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