By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency
[Rome –CNA] – Pope Francis has asked people to pray for every person who is currently a victim of human trafficking.
“In times of crisis, human trafficking proliferates; therefore, an economy needs to be strengthened so that it may respond to the crisis in a way that is not short-sighted, in a lasting way, in a solid way,” Pope Francis said in the video message published Feb. 8.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us put all this in our prayer, especially today, through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita. … Let us all pray together for every person who is a victim of human trafficking at this moment.”
Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that profits off of 25 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization.
The pope sent the video message to a seven-hour global prayer marathon which is being broadcast via live-stream with translations in five languages, including English, to mark the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking Feb. 8.
Pope Francis instituted the annual day of prayer 2015 to take place on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patron saint of human trafficking survivors.
“This day is important because it helps us all to remember this tragedy, and encourages us not to stop praying and fighting together,” the pope said in his video message.
“Prayer touches the heart and impels us to concrete actions, to innovative, courageous actions, able to take risks trusting in the power of God,” he said.
The theme of this year’s virtual prayer marahton is “An Economy without Human Trafficking.” The pope reflected on this topic, noting that the coronavirus pandemic has “exacerbated and worsened the conditions of labor exploitation.”
The pope said: “An economy without human trafficking is an economy with market rules that promote justice, not exclusive special interests.”
“Human trafficking finds fertile ground in the approach of neo-liberal capitalism, in the deregulation of markets aimed at maximising without ethical limits, without social limits, without environmental limits.”
Pope Francis said that it is important to have an economy that takes care of people, promotes the common good, and creates “employment opportunities that do not exploit workers through degrading working conditions and gruelling hours.”
The Holy Father has dedicated the month of February to prayer for women who are victims of violence, including victims of human trafficking.
Pope Francis also recently wrote a preface to a biography of a human trafficking victim. The book, “Io sono Joy,” published in Italian on Jan. 27, tells the story of a girl from Nigeria who hopes to go to Italy to find a job but ends up being trafficked.
In his preface, the pope wrote: “I cannot help but ask the reader a question: since there are countless young women, victims of trafficking, who end up on the streets of our cities, how much does this reprehensible reality derive from the fact that many men, here, require these ‘services’ and show themselves willing to buy another person, annihilating her in her inalienable dignity?”