Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns is meeting in the Vatican with other bishops, senior law enforcement officers and key international organisations this week to share best practice in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.
Dr Brennan is the Irish bishops’ representative in the Santa Marta Group (SMG), an alliance of police chiefs, bishops, and civic leaders established in 2014 by Pope Francis to work together against human trafficking.
Over 30 countries from around the world are represented at the fifth SMG conference, which will have a regional focus so delegates can share tailored solutions to human trafficking within their geographical context, discussing challenges and showcasing collaborative work the Church and law enforcement are doing to eradicate human trafficking.
Among the Church leaders speaking at the conference are Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo and Westminster’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Santa Marta Group.
“Slavery continues to affect the most vulnerable in our communities and the latest UN figures suggests over 40 million people are now potential victims,” Cardinal Nichols said.
“This year’s conference hopes to build on the hard work produced by SMG partners since the group was established in 2014.The conference is an opportunity for law enforcement and the Church to share evidence of practical cooperation and effective responses driven by the importance of supporting survivors of human trafficking,” he continued.
“Slavery is an affront to human dignity and we all have a responsibility to fight against it. This conference is a unique opportunity to strengthen our global response as we move to specific and accountable actions.”
This year’s conference coincides with the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, a survivor of slavery who is now honoured at the patron saint of human trafficking.