Pope Francis has designated February 8, 2016 as an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.
Many of our friends may remember that in December of 2014, a delegation from Plum Village made a historic visit to Rome to represent Thay at the invitation of Pope Francis, in signing the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery.
An excerpt from the Declaration states:
We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historical initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the worlds by 2020 and for all time. In the eyes of God each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, organ trafficking and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.
And our beloved teacher in his speech that was read at the signing said:
“It is clear that in this age of globalisation, what happens to one of us, happens to us all. We are all interconnected, and we are all co-responsible.
“In our work to end modern slavery, we must find the time to take care of ourselves, and to take care of the present moment. By doing so, we can find some relative peace in our body and mind to continue our work. We need to recognise and embrace our own suffering, our anger, fear, and despair so that the energy of compassion can be maintained in our hearts.
“When we have more clarity in our mind, we will have compassion not only for the victims, but for the traffickers themselves. When we see that the traffickers have suffered, we can help them wake up and stop what they are doing. Our compassion can help transform them into friends and allies of our cause.
“In order to sustain our work of compassion, we all need a spiritual community to support us and protect us – a real community, where there is true brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion and understanding. We should not do this work as cavaliers seuls, as lone warriors.
“The roots of modern slavery run deep, and the causes and conditions, the networks and structures supporting it are complex. That is why we need to build a community that can continue this work to protect human life not just until 2020, but long into the future.
“The world in which we live is globalized, and so too is this new form of slavery, that is connected to the economic, political and social systems. Therefore our ethics and morality also need to be globalized. A new global order calls for a new global ethic. We have to sit down together, as people of many traditions, as we are doing now, to find the causes of this suffering. If we look deeply together, with clarity, calm and peace, we will understand the causes of modern slavery, and we can find a way out.”
It is all the more appropriate that Pope Francis has designated February 8th as International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking as it is the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Sister who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at a young age in Sudan. When she was freed, she chose to enter a religious order and spent the rest of her life helping the poor and the suffering.
Our Mindfulness Trainings suggests with the awareness of the “suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, we are committed to cultivating generosity in our way of thinking, speaking and acting …. We will respect the property of others but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings”.
It is clear that human trafficking in all its forms causes untold suffering and unfortunately, untold profit as well.
What you can do
Plum Village would like to propose some simple practices to support this global day of prayer and awareness:
- Share a moment of awareness and silence with your sangha, your family and friends
- Write a gatha or poem to focus and create compassion in the hearts and minds of others as well as ourselves
- Prayer Walk/Candlelight Vigil—Organize a prayer walk in your community bringing awareness that human trafficking happens in every community. End at your town center or a place of worship with candles and a time of prayer/reflection
- Plan a brown-bag lunchtime discussion at your workplace, sharing with your colleagues about the issue of human trafficking
- Investigate how you and others can support your local network to raise awareness of modern slavery and what actions you can take to help support the victims of human trafficking
Together, let us make February 8 and everyday a day against slavery.
- Join world religious leaders by signing their declaration to end slavery by 2020: www.globalfreedomnetwork.org
- Before you buy, check to see if your purchases were made using forced labor: www.goodguide.com
- See how many slaves are working for you: www.slaveryfootprint.org
- For more education and action resources: www.ipjc.org
- Think you know of a case of human trafficking? In the US, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888