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Indonesian nuns pray for human trafficking victims

Special events held to mark International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking

Indonesian nuns pray for human trafficking victims

Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono celebrates an online Eucharistic Mass to celebrate the 7th International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking on Feb. 8. (Photo: YouTube)

Indonesian nuns celebrated the 7th International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking by holding interfaith prayers and Eucharistic celebrations on Feb. 8.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors-General designated the day, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking.

Bakhita was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a saint in 2000.

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The Indonesian nuns from religious congregations, including the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (RGS) and the Ursulines (OSU), are members of the national chapter of the International Network of Consecrated Life against Trafficking in Persons — a Rome-based group dedicated to ending human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. Pope Francis called it an open wound on the body of contemporary society. Each individual must take part in healing this wound in accordance to their own capabilities,” Sister Chatarina RGS, coordinator of the Talitha Kum network in Yogyakarta province, said in her speech prior to an online interfaith prayer service.

“One important way to heal human dignity is to pray to God because a prayer is the biggest power and has no time and spatial boundaries.” 

She later quoted from the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” which was signed in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, saying that “justice based on mercy is the path to follow in order to achieve a dignified life to which every human being has a right.”

“Human trafficking is a violation against human dignity because human beings are God’s noble creation. We are here to pray for human trafficking victims so that their dignity will be healed and their rights as human beings are respected,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Talitha Kum network in Jakarta held a Eucharistic celebration to mark the international day.

Led by Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, an adviser to Sahabat Insan, a charity dealing with issues faced by Indonesian migrant workers, the Mass was livestreamed on YouTube under this year’s international day theme: “An Economy without Human Trafficking.”

Sister Irena Handayani OSU, coordinator of the group, said “the main trigger for human trafficking is neoliberalism, an economy model which is dominant in this era.”

“This model continues to create a presumption that generating social welfare from business will benefit those in need. But this is proven wrong. Rich people will continue to gain profit, while poor people have to fight against obstacles which grow bigger,” she said.

In his homily, Father Ismartono called on Catholics to continue to pray for human trafficking victims.

“We should always open our eyes and hearts to them. We should also be able to find the best ways to help them,” he said.

A similar Mass was held by Tanjung Karang Diocese in Lampung province.

Bishop Yohanes Harun Yuwono of Tanjung Karang, who is also chairman of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, celebrated the Mass.

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