“Modern day slave trade… affects some 30 million persons. This criminal $21 billion-a-year industry is entrenched in almost all the supply chains providing food, clothes, and electronics to the world market. The products of our daily usage should remind us of the responsibility to be aware of how workers, who make our life more comfortable, are dealt with.”
Thus began the Nuncio’s statement Thursday before a meeting of the Human Rights Council focused on the issue of contemporary forms of slavery. Given the dark but now seemingly distant history of slavery in the United States, it is especially difficult for me as an American to stomach both the existence and scope of modern day human slavery around the world. 30 million is a number nearly equal to the entire population of Canada, something nearly impossible to fathom, at least for me.
You can view the Nuncio’s statement before the Human Rights Council here (To skip ahead to his statement, scroll down to Chapter 26).
The Holy See’s focus before the United Nations on this scourge of modern slavery is in line with attention given to it by Pope Francis.
Incidentally, as my own work is primarily at the Mission, this meeting also was my first visit to the UNOG (United Nations Office at Geneva). Obtaining my security badge, exploring a bit of the premises, and hearing the flurry of languages was certainly exciting for me, even while the gravity of the meeting topic was itself sobering.
Hearing the statements of various nations in the meeting, it was apparent that the issue of modern slavery is one of grave concern to all nations of good will. And it was gratifying to hear the forceful statement by the Nuncio, pointing both to the practical realities of the issue while also harkening to the underlying principles:
“A culture of greed and total disregard of human dignity is at the root of the slavery phenomenon. This culture detaches freedom from the moral law with the consequence that the victims of contemporary slavery become a mere commodity in the market of consumerism.”
Reflecting back on the meeting, I am reminded of St. Josephine Bakhita, a 19th century Sudanese saint who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at a young age. She has a gripping story and is an appropriate source of intercession for all those trapped in slavery today.
St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.