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The latest dramatic episodes in the Mediterranean Sea have revealed an awful truth: the trading of slaves has never ceased. From its origins to date, the only thing that has changed is the system of trading them. The passing of these desperate people into the hands of criminals, first passing from the desert then into the hands of these traffickers is alimenting a profit-making business. Labour, prostitution, trafficking of organs represents the new business. Yet in the immediate post-war period, when the destruction and poverty plagued the defeated countries, there was a desire for recovery that expressed a combative energy aimed at conquering a renewed well-being and a new civilization. This great boost not only caused great economic recovery, but also important achievements in terms of full recognition of all civil and democratic rights. Among the transformations that featured the changes underway is the revaluation of the dignity of women, expressed for example in Italy with the repeal of the ‘Merlin law,’ and then with the closing down of brothels. Then the material poverty seemed to be redeemed through a full possession of the values that the misery of the war had not even wiped out.

Today our poverty is becoming misery because it is accompanied by a loss of our consciousness. Among the expressions of emptiness there are proposals that seek to restore ad regulate prostitution as “normal” job. It is always said that “work ennobles man” but this can happen only if it is an expression of freedom and not when it tramples on the dignity of the person. You can’t do business with the human body, as is happening unfortunately on those migratory flights who sow despair and death near our coasts. No form of slavery can be regulated or governed; the law is to protect man and his dignity. Prostitution is always a conduct that lieth both to whoever sells and whoever buys; the body cannot be treated as merchandise without it contaminating the soul too. The customer is the very expression of human frailty and weakness but also of a blind and ruthless self-interest which aliments the international trafficking of new slaves. Not surprisingly, Europe, in line with what has always been said, Oreste Benzi founder of Pope John XXIII Community, several times had invited Member States to adopt the Nordic model which penalises the demand.

The practice of prostitution has always produced dramas and wounds that have never healed. The signs of repeated abuse, accompanies the lives of many victims. It is unthinkable that a modern State can justify forms of violence as unprecedented and shameful. Among the victims unaware of this vile market there are young people who are likely to grow up with the conviction that it is normal or even harmless to buy and sell human beings for sexual purposes. Our society has been unable to deliver credible models to the new generations, nor to teach them the importance of choices of value; increase in new forms of violence contributes in aggravating that inner unease that is already devastating them.

The Church of Pope Francis that gathers the lowliest and the weakest continually urges rulers to fight all forms of oppression and exploitation, in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel. This appeal is not only respected but must be fully upheld in reference to a Christian commitment with respect to each person who suffered because of his dignity. Men and women who promote a market that is so squalid conceals his inability to love in the broadest sense of the word, because those who always love, first and foremost, respects his neighbor.

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