They’re lured abroad by visions of prosperity, by hopes for a better future for their kids and families back home. Sometimes, they’re trying to escape war or conflict. They are the some 12 million people around the world today who are believed to have become slaves for those dreams of a better, safer life.
But their number could be even double that ”“ as many as 27 million men, women and children to live in a state of modern slavery. People like Tara from Ethiopia, promised a good job as a maid in the Middle East, who finds her passport confiscated, and 20 hour days of humiliation and hard work. Or Umma from Somalia who spends her last pennies for a boat ride to Italy only to find herself an unwilling victim of the sex trade. Or Noben, a fisherman from Bangladesh beaten by his boss when he fails to meet his quota of catch for the day.
Among the growing number of lay and religious organizations combating these forms of human trafficking, is the Catholic International Union of Superiors General (UISG) which in 2009 instituted the Talitha Kum network to train consecrated religious and lay in methods of prevention and to provide assistance for victims of trafficking.
Salesian Sr. Estrella Castalone of Talitha Kum says the network takes its name from a center for trafficked girls she helps run in her native Philippines.
Through their many hospitals, schools and social centers around the world, Catholic sisters can play an important role in combating and preventing trafficking of persons and offering material, spiritual and psychological help to victims. And in the some 68 countries where it’s located, Talitha Kum is training more and more religious for the job. It’s a job, Sr. Estrella says, “that puts us in touch with all forms of poverty: the material, the spiritual and the moral”¦”