Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has described human trafficking as a modern slavery and "one of the worst forms of human exploitation."
Addressing an international conference on combating human trafficking in the Vatican on 8th May 2012, Cardinal Turkson said: “In spite of the engagement of the international community and the efforts of part of civil society, this very sad phenomenon continues to victimize millions.”
While stressing the importance of national and international laws in fighting human trafficking, Cardinal Turkson said they were not enough.
"As we all know, men, women and children live every day in conditions approximating slavery. They are bought and sold like commodities,” Cardinal Turkson said. “Their inherent dignity is degraded by unscrupulous criminals who fill their pockets by this trafficking and exploitation.”
He urged all to ask themselves why human trafficking continues in the modern society. “How is this possible? The answer is that, while necessary, national laws and international agreements alone cannot overcome these evils afflicting humanity. The promotion of human rights is a task which requires the conversion of hearts, above all else."
Cardinal Turkson called for a holistic approach to combating human trafficking. “The efforts to effectively protect victims and prosecute traffickers, with a strong emphasis on prevention, need to be supplemented by a holistic approach. A major component must be educating the population in an authentic manner, especially the most vulnerable groups,” he said.
He urged the authorities to pay special attention to victims by not only freeing them from exploitation, but also accompanying them on the path of rehabilitation and reintegration.
Cardinal Turkson appealed to all people to work towards “creating a fairer international social order, so that poverty and underdevelopment cease to provide opportunities for traffickers to find their victims.”
An English girl, who was forced into prostitution in Italy, was among the key speakers at the conference.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland from Metropolitan Police Service, who addressed the conference said: “The trafficking of human beings by its very nature operates across the globe and involves the most serious exploitation of human rights. Those who are trafficked are often tricked, deceived, subjected to threats of violence or targeted due to their vulnerability.
“There are many people around the world doing a great deal to support victims and assist the authorities to bring traffickers to justice, the Catholic Church is particularly active in this area.”
The conference was hosted by the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council and the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
It brought British police and crime experts together with bishops, priests and women religious working in the fields of prevention, pastoral support and reintegration of trafficked victims.
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a