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Conference on trafficking at the Holy See: The New Slavery

Sr. Abby Avelino, MM, Talitha Kum International Coordinator, attended the conference "The New Slavery" on human trafficking held today, on March 14th, 2024, at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See.
Her speech can be found below:


First of all, allow me to thank the Italian Embassy to the Holy See for the invitation. It is an honour for me to be part of this conversation.

As a sister of Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and in my position as International Coordinator, I am glad to speak today on behalf of Talitha Kum, the international umbrella network of Catholic women congregations engaged in supporting survivors and in preventing at risk groups to fall in the trap of exploitation.

It was 2009, 15 years ago, when formally established Talitha Kum as International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking initiated by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) decided to stand on the side of trafficking victims and share their trajectories of life, giving voice to their aspirations, healing their wounds. Today we are 6,000 members in 97 countries.

We continue our journey in a fast-evolving global context that calls for renewed efforts and energy. We are grateful to those who have been supporting us, the donors, the policymakers, the volunteers who share with us our same vocation: Talitha Kum, rise up and walk besides those who are marginalized, oppressed, exploited. “The past year has been one of the most challenging due to many interrelated crises such as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts in many countries, like in e.g. Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, the war in Ukraine which has caused distress for millions of people, and devastating natural disasters as consequences of climate change.

All of these crises are having a direct impact on human trafficking worldwide. In spite of the challenges we have witnessed, members continue to respond to the Call to Action by caring, healing, empowering, and being involved with the lives of victims and survivors, and populations that are at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

I am here today to share and renew this call - rise up – with the intention to mobilize the attention of a wide range of stakeholders as we observe worrying trends in human trafficking, and in particular:


1. Ever more stringent and complex legal channels of migration, including from conflict areas. Today moving safely from one country to another, along accessible and feasible channels of legal migration is getting more and more difficult, despite labour shortages and demographic trends at global and EU level call for increased labour mobility. But most of all, there is no other choice for the many people trapped in conflict areas than recurring to traffickers to flee hunger, desperation, death;


2. Ever more precarious working conditions. Cheap labour is on the rise, not only in developing countries but also in our modern, rights-based societies. Trafficked persons are the ideal merchandise to be placed in an increasingly ruthless labour market where the maximization of profit imposes the extreme compression, up to the elimination of labour and social rights;


3. Widening gaps in the treatment of and opportunities for men and women. The progressive privatization of education pushes girls more and more to the margins, while those who are already in the labour market are forced to choose between family and career, at the detriment of their economic autonomy. Dependent women are vulnerable women who often choose to believe traffickers’ promises to escape a life of subjugation and violence at home.


We are concerned by those trends. But most of all, we are concerned about the rampant culture of waste according to which everything is disposable - goods, food, earth, including the lives of those who are at the margins. In its Call to Action, Talitha Kum invokes a shift in the dominant paradigm towards legal, social and economic justice for trafficking victims, survivors and those who are at risk of falling in the traps of traffickers and exploiters. The many victims remind us of the need to shape norms and regulations that support the flourishing of men and women as persons and members of their communities but most of all to promote a culture of dignity and an economy of care.

As Pope Francis reminds us: “God, has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace; (FT 285) Our vocation as Talitha Kum is to stay with victims, to share their path, to uphold their humanity and embrace Jesus’ example of care for the small ones, for the foreigner, for the women, for those at the margins. We hope that our effort can be inspirational and can catalyse a much-needed change.


Thank you!


Sr. Abby Avelino

Talitha Kum International Coordinator


March 14th, 2024