Friday, May 11, 2012

Vatican Radio - Vatican hosts conference on combatting human trafficking

Source: Vatican Radio 

08/05/2012 18.31.21 

An English girl, forced into prostitution in Italy, was among the key speakers at an international conference on combating human trafficking hosted by the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council in the Vatican on Tuesday. The meeting, jointly organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, brought British police and crime experts together with bishops, priests and women religious working in the fields of prevention, pastoral support and reintegration of trafficked victims. 
The goal of the one day conference was to highlight the scale of the problem – defined by the UN as the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise after the arms trade – and promote closer collaboration between churches, national authorities and international organisations.
Among the dramatic stories presented to participants was the harrowing tale of how one English girl was lured by her Albanian boyfriend for a holiday in Italy and forced to sell her body on the streets for six months until she was able to escape back home. 

Listen: RealAudioMP3 

She’s called Sophie Hayes, though of course that’s not her real name, or her real voice. But her experience of being betrayed by the man who’d befriended her for several years was so horrific that she wanted to tell her story and help others in the fight against this modern form of slavery….

"He told me he'd take my brother away from my family if I ever tried to escape, to speak to anyone, that I couldn't trust anbody, that he had people working for him, the police, if I went to a train station, airport, I could never escape...."

But Sophie’s story doesn’t end there. After six months, admitted to hospital for chronic stomach pains, she managed to speak to her mother who came out to Italy and brought her home. Now ten years on, she has written a book about her ordeal and set up a foundation to help others from falling into the same trap.

At the opening of the conference, the president of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council Cardinal Peter Turkson said he welcomed the initiative of the UK Catholic Bishops in helping raise awareness of the plight of so many people who fall victim to the traffickers. New evangelisation, he said, means helping to change minds and hearts and working for greater justice in the world. 
There is already a successful network, especially of women religious in countries around the world, working to support such women and stop the trafficking gangs. The hope of this conference is that anyone, everyone, listening to Sophie’s story will want to become part of this partnership, through prayer, through fund raising or other practical action. Because what happened to Sophie could also happen to your daughter, your sister, your neighbour, your friend.

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