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Women and children forced to live in the streets. Abandoned, exploited for the most sinister purposes in the name of the money-god. In the name of a business, that does not have mercy on anyone, not even on the weakest. Those who, in an ideal world, light years away from the real one, should be protected, supported, and helped. But for whom there is room only on the margins of our conscious. It is enough to look elsewhere or to hide behind common places. Opinions from people who do not know what the hell of slavery is hiding. “The most ancient profession in the world”, “women of the night”. Conformist mentalities, that the Pope has challenged with a warning. “Modern slaveries coming back to life, such as those of the growing number of minors and women forced to live in the streets, who fell prey to criminals and  unscrupulous profit makers – has said the Pontiff meeting in the Clementine Hall during the final part of the international symposium on the pastoral care of people in the streets, promoted by the Pontifical Council for migrants and itinerant people – representing an accusation cry against a social system which we have been criticizing for decades, but which we cannot easily change according to justice criteria”.

We would add that perhaps it happens because for someone it is convenient to maintain the status quo. According to the latest EUROSTAT report, the victims of  human trafficking, in the European Union alone, amounted to 6,309 individuals in 2008, to 7,795 in 2009 and to 9,528 in 2010, with an 18% increase during the 3 considered years. In total, during the four year period between 2008 and 2010 were ascertained 23,632. The most affected by this plague are the women who represent 68% of the slaves, followed by men (17%), girls (12%) and children (3%). Prostitution is the widest field of destination of people being sold. 62% of the total number, in fact, suffer sexual exploitation. Then there is forced labour (25%) and other aberrations, such as explantation of organs for the black market and criminal activities of various kinds (14%). Most of the slaves come from member countries of the EU, especially from Romania and Bulgaria, but there is also a high component of non-EU nationals as Nigerians and the Chinese.

In Italy, on the other hand, there are about 9 million customers of prostitutes. It is enough to have a walk in one of the most peripheral areas of the city “to see the degradation in which many women are forced to live; the sexual violence they undergo in order to pay a ransom”, has denounced to Adnkronos John Ramonda, the general manager of the Community Pope John XXIII. Many of their customers have wives and children. Currently there are 300 women who have been accepted by this structure or by families that offered their help. From the North to the South, there are 22 units of the APG23, that work in recovery operations guarantees legal, psychological and health assistance, as well as aid in dealing with bureaucracy and in learning Italian. A slap in the face of the exploiters.

“It is worrying – has stressed emphatically the Holy Father – to observe the increasing number of young women who are forced to earn a living in the streets, by selling their bodies, exploited by criminal organizations and sometimes by relatives and family members”.   Bergoglio has defined this reality “a shame for our society that boasts itself on being modern and having reached high levels of culture and development. Widespread corruption and search of profit at any cost deprive the innocent and the weakest of the possibility to lead a dignified life; besides they feed the crime of trafficking and other injustices that burden the shoulders of those people. No one can remain motionless in front of the urgent need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors!”

Therefore, the Pope continued, the Church is called “not to stay silent”. “The ecclesiastic institutions – he has explained – cannot close their eyes in front of the terrible phenomenon of exploitation of women and children, in front of a very sad reality caused by indifference, poverty, family and social violence, as well as human trafficking”. Bergoglio has invited, in particular, to consider the victims of modern slavery as what they really are: “Human beings with names and faces, with an identity given to each one of them by God”. Not “numbers” or “packs to be exchanged”. Francis has urged “not to give up in front of the difficulties posed by the challenges for helping the weakest and most marginalized. We can never avoid bringing to everyone, especially to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, the goodness and the tenderness of the merciful God, a path that opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever”.

The work of the symposium began on September 13 and was concluded yesterday. The meeting’s main purpose was that of considering efficient strategies for fighting the plague of children, women, and their families living in the streets. It is a drama, as recites the note of the organisers, “that requires an acceleration of the intervention times of the universal Church, local churches, and civil institutions”. The symposium was opened by the president of the Pontifical Council, the Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò. Interventions were made also by mons. Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for family questions; Isabella Mihalache (the European Council) and Sister Gabriella Bottani, coordinator of Talitha Kum, an international net of people who consecrated their lives to anti-trafficking activities.

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