I am the Lord your God, I strengthen you and tell you, “Do not be afraid; I will help you” – Isaiah 41:13
We, the members of CBCP Cluster Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT), join the international community in the Ninth International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking (IDPAHT). With the theme, “Journeying in Dignity”, we continuously commit ourselves to journey and collaborate with the survivors who are involved and would be involved in promoting and protecting their dignity by helping to eradicate, if not reduce this syndicated crime against humanity.
It is a fact that the vulnerability of many people, especially the poor, has forced them to be victims of sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, early or forced marriages, begging, selling of organs and children recruited as young combatants. Worse, even in times of pandemic, the cases of trafficking have sharply increased and developed other platforms of exploitation. There is estimated 784,000 people who are trafficked in our country, including 60,000-100,000 children in labor or sex trafficking (nearly 5,000 are less than 15 years old). We are the largest known source of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in which traffickers are often parents or close relatives operating from home to sexually exploit children in live internet broadcast in exchange for compensations wired from overseas. In 2020, 1.2 million OSEC cases have been reported to IACAT, the inter-agency body mandated to address trafficking, an increase of 265% cases reported from 2019, many of the children are reported to be less than 12 years old.
Amid aggravation of cases and exploitation of vulnerabilities brought about by various crises – economic, political, cultural, spiritual and environmental – as one human family committed to protect dignity of all and affirmed and strengthened by Pope Francis who called human trafficking a “crime against humanity”, we sympathized and journeyed with the survivors to flee to safety and security, and hopefully outwit the fascination of the business due to huge resources of syndicates that can buy or bribe state securities and can use high-level technologies for recruitment and exploitation of victims. We continue our mission and task and rely on God’s promise: “I am the Lord your God, I strengthen you and tell you, “Do not be afraid; I will help you.”
It is in this context that CCAHT joyfully announces CBCP’s declaration of the annual celebration of NDPAHT every first Sunday of February. We expect this declaration will help heighten the consciousness of Churchgoers and faith communities on the issue and will encourage them to protect their respective families, particularly women and children, against trafficking.
CCAHT will kick-off the first NDPAHT this year with a National celebration on February 5, with an Anti-Human Trafficking advocates’ Partners Fellowship followed by a Eucharistic Celebration at 12:15pm at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace (EDSA Shrine) with Most Rev. Mylo Vergara, DD, Bishop of Pasig and Vice President of CBCP, as main celebrant. At the same time, we expect all dioceses nationwide to be celebrating the NDPAHT together; materials to raise awareness and concern on the issue and the affected people – reflection, suggested prayers and candle lighting short liturgy after post-communion prayer – have been sent to bishops in all dioceses to enjoin the celebration by including or incorporating them in the masses in their parishes on February 5.
As the Philippine Catholic Church institutionalizes this annual celebration of NDPAHT, we are also happy to announce that this year, we will embark on a vigorous education and action program within the Church. The CCAHT will implement consultation and capacity-building measures among the Church regional groupings and engage in research to trace and track down areas where human trafficking is rampant. We aim to develop capacity and structure in dioceses, in the spirit of respect for human dignity and human rights, and journeying in inter-ministeriality, to respond to the situation that the local communities face. We are determined and certain that consciousness of synodal church will find us ways to hurdle the hardship that we may encounter in mission and provide greater service for our vulnerable people.
We believe that journeying together with advocates and state agencies with mission and obligation to promote human dignity and human rights is necessary to ensure dignity for all. Therefore, we call on:
- President Marcos Jr, our lawmakers and state securities to remain steadfast in their mandate to serve and protect our people at all times, to support and strengthen the IACAT to provide the necessary services and assistance to victims and survivors, to be protected from any form of exploitations and address the social impact of human trafficking;
- our Church leaders, bishops, priests and faith communities, to support innovatively the declaration of CBCP on the National Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. We hope that beginning this February 5, a day will be allotted for Prayer and Awareness, apart from integration of prayers and awareness in Sunday masses, particularly, manifest Church concrete support on the issue is through the formal establishment of Diocesan and Parish Committee Against Human Trafficking; and
- all people of goodwill to support and engage in any initiatives to reduce or eradicate human trafficking. We encourage active participation in any education-seminar activity to increase awareness on the issue and therefore participate easier in any forms of prevention and protection of our vulnerable brothers and sisters from the menace of trafficking.
Let us be together in this journey to protect the dignity of humanity, especially the people that God loves, the poor and the vulnerable.
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