In a video message released on the ninth World Day of Prayer and Reflection Against Human Trafficking, Pope Francis said human trafficking “disfigures” human dignity. The annual day of prayer takes place on Feb. 8, the day the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita.
The Holy Father began his message by addressing this year’s theme — Journeying in Dignity — and specifically encouraged young people to “care for dignity, yours and that of every person you meet.”
“I understand that it was you who chose ‘Journeying in Dignity’ as your theme,” he said. “This is very important: It points to a great horizon for your anti-trafficking efforts: human dignity.”
“Human trafficking disfigures dignity,” he continued. “Exploitation and subjugation limit freedom and turn people into objects to use and discard. And the system of trafficking profits from the injustice and wickedness that oblige millions of people to live in conditions of vulnerability.”
The pope acknowledged the rise in human trafficking and the targeting of women, children, migrants, and those “impoverished by economic crisis, wars, climate change, and so much instability.”
He added: “We know we live in a difficult time, but it is precisely in this reality that all of us, especially young people, are called to join forces to weave networks of good, to spread the light that comes from Christ and his Gospel.”
Pope Francis urged young people to be “missionaries of human dignity, against trafficking in persons and all forms of exploitation” and to “never tire of seeking ways to transform our societies and prevent this shameful scourge that is trafficking in persons.”
“I hope that many will accept your invitation to walk together against trafficking: to walk together with those who are destroyed by the violence of sexual and labor exploitation; to walk together with migrants, displaced persons, and those who are looking for a place to live in peace and family. Together with you young people, to courageously reaffirm the value of human dignity.”
The World Day of Prayer and Reflection Against Human Trafficking has taken place every year on Feb. 8 since Pope Francis first introduced it in 2015. The day holds significance as it is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese nun who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child and who is the patron saint of human trafficking.
This day of awareness is promoted by the International Unions of Superiors and Superiors General (UISG) and is coordinated by Talitha Kum, the international network founded by the UISG and committed to fighting human trafficking.