Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) are inviting Catholics to mark St Bakhita Day on 8 February and at weekend Masses on 9 and 10 February.
Pope Francis has declared the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, which is celebrated each year on 8 February, to be the World Day of prayer, reflection and action against human trafficking.
St Josephine Bakhita, of Sudanese origin, is the patron saint of victims of slavery and of Sudan. She was canonised by St John Paul II on 1 October 2000.
ACRATH, CRA and ACBC join the call for a fourfold commitment to: slavery prevention, victim protection, legal prosecution of perpetrators, and partnerships for change.
The commitment begins with raising awareness and action to eliminate slavery in all its forms at a diocesan, parish, school, family and personal level.
The organisations have applauded the many people who fought hard for a decade to see gains made in 2018 with the passing in Federal Parliament of the Modern Slavery Act, which came into effect on 1 January 2019.
The first modern slavery statements are due on 30 June 2020.
ACRATH President Sr Noelene Simmons SM said the Modern Slavery Act requires organisations with a consolidated revenue of $100 million (AUD) or more to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
“Ten years ago, ACRATH began working with schools and parishes, urging them to buy and eat only slavery-free chocolate at Easter,” Sr Noelene said.
“We still work on that campaign but we know that slavery is part of so many of the goods and services we use and until we slavery-proof all our supply chains, people will be forced to live in slavery,” she explained.
CRA President Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ also explained that the Modern Slavery Act was an opportunity for companies to be better global citizens because companies will have to release publicly available reports on their progress in slavery-proofing supply chains.
Consumers can then exert pressure on companies not doing enough, or support those who are doing well.
“This special day gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we do and what we buy and if necessary, to commit to act differently in order to work towards the elimination of slavery,” Sr Monica said.
It is estimated that millions of men, women and children are trafficked annually into domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, pornography production, forced marriage and forced labour.
ACRATH, CARITAS Australia and Talitha Kum, to mark this day, have developed parish, school and community resources, including prayers, homily notes, school exercises for all age groups and parish bulletin notices. A calendar of events to mark the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking and the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita can be found, along with resources, by Clicking Here