Conference – Sent by Biddy Rose Tiernan, SND
About 1000 people gathered on Saturday 8 May 2010 in Pretoria to pray for an end to human trafficking, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup. Children from many Catholic schools were present, as well as parishes and other organisations. Among the invited guests were Advocate Malebo Kotu-Rammopo, from the National Prosecution Authority, and Mr. Colin Wrafter, Ambassador of Ireland in South Africa. The gathering was a great opportunity to draw the attention of all South Africans “about the plight of children and women who are victims of human trafficking” said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale in a strong homily, accusing the Government and many South Africans of “hypocrisy” and “complicity”.
“The Government says ‘People First’. This is not what they mean in practice”, said the President of the Southern African Catholic Bihops’ Conference. “In practice, those who come first are not the least and the vulnerable, but Politicians, heads of state and the mixed bag of so-called dignitaries.” “It is sheer hypocrisy to claim to protect all people and yet only a few enjoy exceptional protection” added Archbishop Buti Tlhagale.
Calling on the Government to spend resources “on rooting out this form of corruption and slavery”, the Archbishop of Johannesburg warned politicans against turning a blind eye to such institutionalised violence that “strongly suggests complicity”. “We each have a responsibility to resist and to campaign tirelessly against such evil practices.”
He then called Christians “to resist with every strength this dangerous and degrading form of modern slavery.” “We have an obligation and a responsibility to uphold the dignity of all especially those who are most vulnerable.”
A Bill providing for the prosecution of persons involved in trafficking and for assistance of victims of trafficking is being discussed in South Africa for many years, but it has not been approved yet. Speaking on behalf of the Government, Advocate Malebo said, at the end of the Mass, that the Bill was discussed in Parliament and hopefully the last phase will be the passing of the Bill.
It is estimated that 40.000 sex workers and prostitutes will be imported in South Africa during the World Cup. Sr Melanie O’Connor, coordinator of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Office of the SACBC warns parents against the dangers of children not being protected in shopping malls, on shools’ playgrounds, in fan parks… “More and more research indicates how in the process of trafficking, women recruiters are becoming more prominent” she says. South Africa is recognised internationally as a ‘hot spot’ for human trafficking – being a country of origin, transition and destination for trafficking – and there is the fear that trafficking of women and children will increase significantly during the World Cup.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has been working in the last two years to protect potential victims of trafficking, especially through awareness raising programs. This year, from all levels, the message is being spread widely around the country. “But there is still a lot to do”, says Sr O’Connor reminding that May has been declared by Pope Benedict XVI, the month of prayer against human trafficking.
Action on behalf of justice is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel.
Justice in the World – 1971 Synod of Bishops