There is a serious problem of human trafficking in Ireland and the Church and other voluntary bodies had a responsibility to address it, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
“We must be very clear: human trafficking is a real problem in Ireland today,” he said. Speaking at a Mass in Rathgar to mark World Day of Peace he said “it does exist and it exists right down to smaller communities across the country.”
Meanwhile the Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin said in his New Year's message that "Irish people North and South need to ask themselves questions and ask questions of their public representatives about where trafficking is happening in this country? What are we doing to make Ireland the land of one thousand welcomes and a cold place for human traffickers?", he asked.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the congregation at the Church of the Three Patrons he was part of an initiative to address the issue which was supported by Pope Francis. Called The Santa Marta Group, it is composed of Church leaders and police leaders in various parts of the world including an Garda Síochána.
But, he said, “while police authorities are taking a lead in the area of trafficking there is also a real responsibility of Church and voluntary organisations to address the problem. Local communities have a role to play.
“The indications are that even in smaller Irish communities there are cases of trafficking in the area of sexual exploitation, in the area of labour exploitation, in the exploitation of maritime workers and even in the exploitation of children.”
Many of those who are trafficked and who live in small Irish communities “feel trapped in a world which is heavily controlled. There are many ways in which local communities can help identify these people who want to free themselves but are fearful of those who manage them,” he said.
“It is easy to simply take no notice of them. How can we tolerate that the practice of human trafficking can go on under our noses not just in our anonymous large cities but even in small communities?
“There are many ways in which local communities can notice individuals in their communities who seem isolated.Together with an Garda Síochána local communities can help build up a picture of possible exploitation which is taking place.”
In his homily during the Mass at the Church of the Three Patrons, Defence Forces head chaplain Msgr Eoin Thynne said "trafficking in human beings is one of the greatest scandals and tragedies of our age. It is intolerable that millions of fellow humans should be violated in this way, subjected to inhuman exploitation and deprived of their dignity and rights."
Recalling the words of Pope Francis that “human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society. It is a crime against humanity.” he said “this outrage should concern each one of us, because what affects one part of humanity affects us all.”
Meanwhile Pope Francis has urged people of all religions and cultures to unite to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, saying in his first Mass of 2015 that everyone had a God-given right to be free.
The service at St Peter’s Basilica marks the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace. This year’s theme is “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.” “All of us are called (by God) to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces,” he said.
Last month Francis appealed to consumers to shun low-cost goods that may be the product of forced labour or other forms of exploitation. That message was sent to heads of state and governments, international institutions and parishes throughout the 1.2 billion-member Church.