Vatican shares pastoral practices for aiding trafficking victims

February 15, 2019


Health providers often need to be specifically trained to spot the symptoms of human trafficking and to treat its complex and multidimensional consequences.

The observation is included in a new handbook of pastoral guidelines, titled Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking. It was released at a Vatican news conference on Jan. 17. The objective of the 36-page booklet is to provide guidance to the church in addressing the "atrocious scourge" of human trafficking and in caring for victims.

"Among so many open wounds in our world, one of the most troubling is the trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, which violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis said in a 2016 address quoted within the publication. The handbook contains additional quotes and teachings from the pope.

The Pastoral Orientations handbook is the product of "consultations with church leaders, scholars and experienced practitioners and partner organizations working in the field," according to the Vatican.

Human trafficking victimizes millions of people around the world and currently "constitutes a widespread, insidious reality in several business sectors," including domestic work, manufacturing, hospitality and agriculture, according to the handbook. It defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons through the threat or use of force and other forms of coercion, or through abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or payments to buy a person's consent. Trafficking includes sexual exploitation, forced marriage, slave labor, forced begging, organ harvesting and other forms of abuse and exploitation, the handbook states.

The publication is divided into four sections. They are: Understanding Human Trafficking — The Causes; Acknowledging Human Trafficking — Out of the Shadows; The Dynamics of Human Trafficking — An Ugly, Evil Business; and Responding to Human Trafficking — Room for Improvement.

The final section explains the multifaceted support that human trafficking survivors may require to recover and flourish.

"The practical challenges are many," the handbook states. "Victims require help to pay off debts, secure accommodation, learn new skills, and find and keep decent employment."

In this area, according to the booklet, human trafficking survivors are often "overlooked, rejected, punished, or even scapegoated" as though the degradation they were subjected to was somehow their own fault.

The handbook also suggests that government entities create or improve existing programs designed to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate the victims of trafficking, funding the program through "economic resources" seized from the traffickers.

Other recommendations include providing shelter and decent work to victims, as well as access to social workers, psychologists, therapists, medication practitioners and hospital emergency room personnel — among others.

"Particular attention should be devoted to survivors with long-term emotional or mental health disorders or substance use disorders," according to the handbook.

Based on figures provided by the International Labour Organization, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery at any given time in 2016. Those figures included 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage. One in four victims of human trafficking are children, while women and girls are disproportionately subjected to forced labor, according to the organization.

The Pastoral Orientations handbook is available at in English or Italian.



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