VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican is fighting to eradicate human trafficking, currently enslaving an estimated 50 million victims worldwide. A summit for this purpose hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences concluded over the weekend in Rome, with judges, prosecutors and magistrates in attendance.
The summit produced a declaration stating, "[W]e affirm that modern slavery in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, and organ trafficking are Crimes against Humanity and should be recognized as such."
Pope Francis made an unexpected address at the convention Friday, exhorting the audience, "The victims are the first who need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society — and their traffickers and executioners must be given no quarter and pursued."
The Holy Father qualified his statement on justice, saying, "When we say 'execute justice,' as you well know, we do not mean seeking punishment as an end in itself, but in the case of penalties, that they be for the re-education of the wrongdoers in the hope that they can be reintegrated into society."
The summit generated a 10-point plan to eliminate modern slavery. One of the points was meant to assist victims. "Assets seized from convicted traffickers and criminals must be devoted to victim rehabilitation and compensation."
The conference also emphasized organ trafficking. "Organ trafficking ... must be recognized as a crime in all countries and be effectively legally prosecuted at the national and at the international level. As well as being illegal, this activity must also be recognised as prevalent among international criminal organizations."
Close to 50 million people are trapped in some form of enslavement, according to the the 2016 Global Slavery Index. The report is published by the human rights organization Walk Free Foundation. The report showed that slavery is on the rise, up some 28 percent over two years ago. The organization derived its information from 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages.
Included in the definition of modern slavery is human trafficking, forced labor, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation.
The index reports that over half of modern slaves are in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. North Korea was found to have the highest per capita level of slavery involving more than four percent of the population.
At the meeting in Rome Friday, Pope Francis urged judges to follow their vocation to establish justice. Speaking of them, he brought up the beatitudes, saying, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who suffer for justice. ... Blessed by our Father are those who treat the most needy and least of my brothers and sisters as myself. They — and here I am referring especially to judges — will have the highest reward."