Text of the Video Mes­sage of the Holy Father

Dear broth­ers and sisters:

I have wel­comed the invi­ta­tion to send a greet­ing to you, par­tic­i­pants in this Forum on mod­ern forms of slav­ery, “Old prob­lems in the new world”, orga­nized by the Ortho­dox Arch­dio­cese of Buenos Aires, guid­ed by the beloved Met­ro­pol­i­tan Tara­sios , and by the Ortho­dox Patri­ar­chate Athenago­ras Insti­tute of Berke­ley in Cal­i­for­nia with the patron­age of the Ecu­meni­cal Patri­ar­chate. First of all, I express my heart­felt grat­i­tude to the Ecu­meni­cal Patri­arch, His Holi­ness Bartholomew I, and to the Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury, His Grace Justin Wel­by, who last year inau­gu­rat­ed this Forum. It com­forts me to know that we share the same con­cern for the vic­tims of mod­ern slavery.

Slav­ery is not some­thing from oth­er times. It is a prac­tice that has deep roots and con­tin­ues to man­i­fest itself today and in many dif­fer­ent ways: traf­fick­ing of human beings, exploita­tion of work through debt, exploita­tion of chil­dren, sex­u­al exploita­tion and forced domes­tic work are some of the many forms. Each one is as seri­ous and inhu­man as the oth­ers. Despite the lack of infor­ma­tion avail­able to us from some regions of the world, the fig­ures are dra­mat­i­cal­ly high and, most like­ly, under­es­ti­mat­ed. Accord­ing to some recent sta­tis­tics, there would be more than 40 mil­lion peo­ple, men, but espe­cial­ly women and chil­dren, who suf­fer as a result of slav­ery. Just to give us an idea, imag­ine that if they lived in a sin­gle city, it would be the largest mega­lopo­lis on our plan­et and would have, more or less, four times the pop­u­la­tion of the entire urban area of Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires.

Faced with this trag­ic real­i­ty, no one can wash their hands of it with­out being, in some way, an accom­plice to this crime against human­i­ty. A first task to be imposed is to put into effect a strat­e­gy for ensur­ing greater aware­ness of the sub­ject, break­ing the veil of indif­fer­ence that seems to cov­er the fate of this por­tion of human­i­ty that suf­fers, that is suffering.

It seems that many do not want to under­stand the extent of the prob­lem. There are some who, direct­ly involved in crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions, do not want it to be talked about, sim­ply because they earn high prof­its as a result of the new forms of slav­ery. There are also some who, despite know­ing about the prob­lem, do not want to talk because they are there where the “chain of con­sump­tion” ends, as a con­sumer of the “ser­vices” offered by men, women, and chil­dren who have been turned into slaves. We can not become dis­tract­ed: we are all called to leave behind any form of hypocrisy, fac­ing the real­i­ty that we are part of the prob­lem. The prob­lem is not in the oppo­site lane: it involves us. We are not per­mit­ted to look else­where and declare our igno­rance or our innocence.

A sec­ond great task is to act in favor of those who have been turned into slaves: to defend their rights, and to pre­vent the cor­rupt and crim­i­nals from escap­ing jus­tice and hav­ing the final word on the exploit­ed. It is not enough for some states and Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tions to adopt a par­tic­u­lar­ly harsh pol­i­cy in order to pun­ish the exploita­tion of human beings, if then the caus­es, the deep­est roots of the prob­lem, are not addressed.

When coun­tries suf­fer extreme pover­ty, vio­lence, and cor­rup­tion, nei­ther the econ­o­my nor the leg­isla­tive frame­work nor the basic infra­struc­tures are effec­tive; they fail to guar­an­tee secu­ri­ty or assets or essen­tial rights. In this way, it is eas­i­er for the per­pe­tra­tors of these crimes to con­tin­ue act­ing with total impuni­ty. In addi­tion, there is a soci­o­log­i­cal fact: orga­nized crime and the ille­gal traf­fick­ing of human beings choose their vic­tims among peo­ple who today have lit­tle means of sub­sis­tence and even less hope for the future. To be clear­er: among the poor­est, among the most neglect­ed, the most discarded.

The basic response lies in cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for inte­gral human devel­op­ment, start­ing with a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion: this is the key point, qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion from ear­ly child­hood, to con­tin­ue gen­er­at­ing new oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth through employ­ment. Edu­ca­tion and employment.

This immense task, which requires courage, patience and per­se­ver­ance, demands a joint and glob­al effort on the part of the dif­fer­ent actors that make up soci­ety. The Church­es must also play a role task in this. While indi­vid­u­als and groups spec­u­late shame­ful­ly on slav­ery, we Chris­tians, all togeth­er, are called to devel­op more and more col­lab­o­ra­tion, to over­come all kinds of inequal­i­ty, all kinds of dis­crim­i­na­tion, which are pre­cise­ly what makes it pos­si­ble for a man to make anoth­er man a slave. A com­mon com­mit­ment to fac­ing this chal­lenge will be a valu­able aid for the con­struc­tion of a renewed soci­ety ori­ent­ed towards free­dom, jus­tice and peace.

I wish this Forum every suc­cess, and I ask the Lord to bless you and to bless your work. And, please, do not for­get to pray for me. Thank you.

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