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Ecumenical consultation urges elimination of human trafficking

April 23, 2014

Human trafficking consultation

Participants in an ecumenical consultation on human trafficking in Colombo. © National Christian Council of Sri Lanka. —WCC photo

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

A communiqué adopted at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation describes human trafficking as a “serious human rights violation” and its consequences are “most horrific results of the economic and social disparities that increase the vulnerability of millions of people.”

Migrants, victims of human trafficking, are often used as “disposable commodities,” the communique says. The document underlines efforts by WCC member churches in eliminating human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery and sexual exploitation.

The communiqué was adopted by the consultation, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from April 4-8. The consultation, titled “Migration and Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery?”, was organized by the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and the Christian Conference of Asia, hosted by the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.

The consultation gathered representatives of the churches, ecumenical councils, the United Nations, as well as social and human rights activists and legal experts.

Marie Sol Villa of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines shared about the issue of trafficking in the context of her country. She said that the Philippines is the fourth largest recipient in the world of foreign remittances, along with India, China and Mexico, which are also major hubs for human trafficking.

“An increasing number of Filipinos, mostly women and children, are trafficked for labor or sexual trade in the Arabian Gulf countries as well as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, North America and Europe,” she added.

WCC Central Committee member Yilikal Shiferaw Messelu from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church spoke about human trafficking in the Sinai desert.

He said that human trafficking in the Sinai desert is characterized by an extreme level of violence, as Bedouin smugglers are known to be involved in the theft of human organs. Such horrendous crimes, he said, victimize people who are unable to pay large amounts of money to human traffickers, demanded in return for promises of transport to Israel.

Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA, said that the consultation has helped devise ecumenical advocacy initiatives addressing the issue of human trafficking. Through these initiatives, he said, churches will offer solidarity to victims of human trafficking, along with pastoral care and transformative actions. These actions will include sensitizing churches about issues related to migration and human trafficking, he said.

Semegnish Asfaw, the WCC’s program executive for international affairs, stressed the importance of collaboration among the churches in supporting victims of human trafficking. She said that cooperation among international ecumenical actors is essential in order to develop durable and effective solutions to human trafficking. 

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