Slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, right!
Slavery still exists in Dallas, in our country and in the world, and Pope Frances used his New Year’s Message to remind us that there are many still bound by the chains of slavery.
In his letter entitled No Longer Slaves but Brothers and Sisters, the Holy Father explains that, “even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.”
Numbered among those enslaved by force or circumstance the Pope includes: Laborers bound by indebtedness in domestic, agricultural, manufacturing and mining workplaces; migrants who are deprived of freedom, robbed or subjected to physical and sexual abuse; persons forced into prostitution, many of them minors, male and female sex slaves and those sold or forced into marriage; those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups; people kidnapped in order to be sold, enlisted as combatants or sexually exploited; those forced to emigrate, leaving everything behind.
Many of these assaults on human freedom and dignity occur in our own communities and in our own state. The next time you hear or read the term “human trafficking,” understand that it means a type of slavery. In Texas there have been 346 cases of human trafficking reported this year and that may be only the tip of the iceberg.
Slavery is rooted, Pope Francis observes, “in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects…. slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain.
Calling for a threefold commitment on the institutional level to prevention of exploitation, to protection of victims and the vulnerable and to prosecution of the persecutors, the Holy Father also calls on each of us to reach out to our brothers and sisters who might be victims of human trafficking and exploitation and not to purchase items that may well have been produced by exploiting others. If nothing more, a kind word, a greeting, a smile can offer hope.
We cannot close our eyes to this out of indifference, financial reasons or simply because we “don’t want to be involved.” We must act in a manner worthy of our, and their, human dignity.
Pope Francis concludes: “We know that God will ask each of us: What did you do for your brother? (cf. Gen 4:9-10). The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.”
We are our brothers and sisters keepers. I pray we may all begin 2015 with mercy, compassion and concern in our hearts. May God bless all in the Diocese of Dallas in the new year!
Image Credit: Human trafficking victims from Myanmar are held in a detention cell near the Thailand-Malaysian border, Feb. 13. Pope Francis has raised the blight of human trafficking onto the global stage, calling it “a crime against humanity” and decrying the world’s indifference. (CNS photo/Damir Sagolj, Reuters)