Vatican City, 10 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Holy Father’s Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, to be held on 1 January 2015 on the theme “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters”. The speakers were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., secretary of the same dicastery; Vittorio V. Alberti, official of “Justice and Peace”; and Sister Gabriella Bottani, Combonian missionary representing the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking (of the International Union of Superior Generals) and head of Talitha Kum.
The theme chosen by the Pope, explained Cardinal Turkson, “regards not only the foundation of peace but also its concrete achievement in interpersonal relations. Therefore, it must be an invitation to transform social relations from a relationship of dependence-slavery, and the negation of the humanity of the other, to a relationship of fraternity lived between brothers and sisters who share the same Father. An itinerary of conversion for believers that leads to recognition of the other not as an enemy to combat or an inferior being to exploit, but rather a brother or sister to love and for this reason to free from all the chains of slavery”.
“Starting from the Epistle of Paul to Philemon and other passages from the Bible, “the Holy Father shows that God's plan for humanity does not have any place for the enslavement of others, since God calls to all of his sons and daughters to renew their interpersonal relationships, respecting in each person the image and semblance of God along with the intangible dignity of every person, confident in the Good News of Jesus Christ, who is capable of renewing the heart of man, where sin is most abundant”.
“However, despite the great efforts of many people, modern slavery continues to be an atrocious scourge that is present on a large scale throughout the world, even as tourism. This 'crime of injured humanity' is masked by apparently accepted habits, but in reality it creates victims in prostitution, human trafficking, forced labour, slave labour, mutilation, the sale of organs, drug abuse and child labour. They are concealed behind closed doors, in special places, on the streets, in cars, in factories, in the country, in fishing boats and in many other places. And this happens in both cities and villages, in the reception centres of the richest and poorest countries in the world. And the worst thing is that this situation unfortunately worsens every day”.
With regard to the joint effort against human trafficking and other forms of slavery, the Cardinal emphasised a number of points. First, there is the fact that slavery, “fruit and sign of the rupture of fraternity and the denial of communion, once accepted by civil law as the right to ownership of another person, is now a 'crime of injured humanity' that, as previously mentioned, assumes various faces in the context of globalisation, creating new needs, new forms of poverty and slavery”. In this year dedicated to the family, he reiterated that it is unacceptable for the institution of the family, “a place of acceptance and promotion of life”, to be “transformed into the place in which life is betrayed, treated with disdain, denied, manipulated and sold”. Finally, to defeat the wound of modern slavery, there needs to be a mobilisation on a scale comparable to that of the phenomenon itself, both locally – families, schools, parishes – and at the global levels of state institutions and civil society.
“The Church of Jesus Christ, that announces the Good News of liberation from sin and from every form of enslavement, must continue her mission of announcing the Word on every occasion, convenient or otherwise, denouncing every form of slavery and violation of the dignity of the human person, offering at the same time, also through daily gestures of welcome and closeness, the witness of a free life, renewed and open to Transcendence”.
“Following the example of St. Josephine Bakhita, the former slave who later became a free daughter of God, we look with hope to Jesus Christ Who has defeated evil and Who is the maker and icon of the liberation of humanity and the freedom of the sons and daughters of God”, concluded Cardinal Turkson. “We must work together and never tire until there no longer remains any person reduced to slavery in this world, because no-one can be freed without regard for others, for humanity and for the creation that, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, 'is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed … with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God'”.