First world day against human trafficking set for February

The first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking has been announced for Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who eventually was freed and became a Canossian nun.

The day is intended to raise awareness and to encourage reflection on "the violence and injustice that affect" the numerous victims of trafficking, according to a Nov. 25 press release from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Trafficking victims "have no voice, do not count, and are no one. They are simply slaves," the council said.

The observance also is designed to seek solutions and promote concrete action to stop trafficking.

The organizers underlined the need to ensure the rights, freedom and dignity of all trafficked people and to denounce the criminal organizations involved in human trafficking, as well as those who "use and abuse" the victims as "goods for pleasure and gain."

On his flight back to Rome from Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25, Pope Francis told reporters "slavery is a reality inserted in the social fabric today, and has been for some time: slave labor, the trafficking of persons, the sale of children -- it's a drama. Let's not close our eyes to this. Slavery is a reality today, the exploitation of persons," he explained.

The new observance is being promoted for all dioceses, parishes and church groups by the council for migrants, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international unions of superiors general of men's and women's religious orders.

Several other Catholic organizations are supporting the initiative, including the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Caritas Internationalis, World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations and Jesuit Refugee Service.