When you find yourself at a crossroads and do not know which way to go. At best, there will be someone able to give us an advice by our side; someone who will help you choose the most beautiful way, even if it is not going to be always a bed of roses. Some people cannot choose freely about their lives, there are no decisions they can make, only orders to obey and no chance to reply.
They do not go astray out of their own will, but because they are forced to do so. It happens to those who leave their own country hoping in a better future, a decent job, only to find out they have been deceived. Miniskirts, skimpy dresses, heavy makeup and a fake smile are the “clothes” they are forced to put on before being thrown on a sidewalk to sell their bodies. This is the fate of more than 100,000 victims of human trafficking who are forced to sell themselves on Italian roads. Those who try to refuse, are beaten up – in the best case scenario -, brutally tortured or even killed. Day after day, their lives transform into a hell, afraid of being beaten up because they did not earn enough or because a particularly violent client lost his temper. They find themselves at the same crossroads every day, without having a real possibility to choose a different direction.
But “Another way is possible.” This is what the members of Pope John XXIII Community want to shout out loud. Today, they will walk these “mean streets” in five different cities in Tuscany. Running a relay race to raise public awareness about the phenomenon of what is hypocritically called the “oldest profession in the world”, but also an opportunity to encourage the institutional world to intervene and put an end to one of the third millennium slavery shapes. The event was organized by the members of the community founded by Father Oreste Benzi, with the contribution of the association Run X You, the sports club U.S. Nave, the administration of the city of Florence and Tuscany Region, the Focolari Movement, Catholic Action, the Free Association, the diocesan Migrantes Center, Agesci and La Pira International students Centre.
The event will depart from Piazza della Repubblica, in Florence, and will walk some of the red-light streets of Tuscany. Olympic champions and old sports glories will join the volunteers and members of the associations, who will be greeted by local authorities and by Paolo Ramonda, head of the Pope John XXIII community, before leaving.
The arrival will be in Viareggio where, after 23 hours of uninterrupted walk, the participants will be welcomed in Piazza Inigo Campioni by Archbishop Benvenuto Italo, bishop of Lucca, some members of the local authorities and by Father Aldo Buonaiuto, a member of Apg23, which has been fighting young women trafficking for years now.
Romanian, Albanian, and Nigerian women who are mostly very young, many even under age. According to estimations, there are between 75,000 and 120,000 victims of prostitution in Italy. 96% of them is controlled by the racket, 65% is in the street, controlled and watched over by the pimps, forced to show themselves smiling and happy to about 9 million customers. 37% are under age, between 13 and 17 years old. There is nothing similar to a free choice there…