Meeting and training in Alexishafen, Papua New Guinea, 1st March 2019
Report kindly provided by Sr. Colleen Jackson rsc, member of the Talitha Kum International Coordination Committee, representative for Oceania
There is currently no counter Human Trafficking network of Religious in PNG or SI. Sr. Colleen Jackson rsc accepted the invitation of the Federation of Religious of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (FOR), representing over 40 local and international religious orders in PNG and Solomon Islands, to present a workshop for the local religious. It was attended by 55, including FOR Leaders and some local Religious who were invited to join the workshop.
Keeping in mind that unique historical, pastoral, cultural and political factors are implicated in human trafficking in PNG/SI, care was taken to engage participants in a reflective and dialogical process throughout the workshop. Modes of presentation included PowerPoint, video, individual reflection, sharing, group work and Q&A. A range of printed materials, including copies of the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking and the 2019 ACRATH calendar, were provided.
The content presented included:
- Introduction to Talitha Kum and ACRATH
- Defining human trafficking and modern slavery
- The various faces of Human Trafficking/Modern Slavery, through the use of film clips
- Participant identification of Human Trafficking (HT)/Modern Slavery (MS) in their current experience.
- Examine the 2018 Trafficking in Persons reports (“TIP Report”) for PNG and Solomon Islands
- Discrepancies between PNG law related to HT, and application of the law
- Examination of Pope Francis’ proclamations on HT and discussion on the recently published Pastoral Orientation on Human Trafficking (Vatican Migrants & Refugees Section).
- Role of Networks, including Talitha Kum, and ACRATH. Examples of some projects of ACRATH, focusing on a range of activities that are relevant and ‘do-able’.
- Extended group work to outline current, local HT practices, and identify ways in which Religious/FOR could respond.
This workshop was received with considerable enthusiasm and commitment to examining the topic. Engagement in group activities was focused and productive.
Local cultural and political factors play a large part in the capacity or otherwise to effect change in issues of human trafficking, including:
- Corruption amongst politicians, local authorities and even some Church agencies. Misuse of funds and bribery are common. Participants said that they are often unsure of who they can trust. Action can be, at times, taken at some personal risk to safety.
- Long held cultural or local practices e.g. sale of wives and children for sex, sale or forced adoption of children to relatives - where they are not infrequently treated as slaves, forced marriage.
- Limited choice and purchase power of food and clothing items (little option for selecting slavery free).
- Employment practices, especially in factories, mines, fisheries and forestry seem to include no comprehensive protections for workers. Employment opportunities are limited and people are desperate for work so exploitation is easily maintained.
- High levels of violence in some places.
- General, broad lack of understanding amongst religious and the wider community on the existence of human trafficking, or of identifying known practices as HT.
Individual Religious and religious communities have long-standing and current practices of supporting some victims of injustice, including abuse and human trafficking. Several congregations run shelters for girls and women where safe haven is provided and education and vocational training offered. Religious women and men have long been significant forces for good in this region. They are trusted and generally respected. Many participants shared accounts of confronting injustices – sometimes at great personal risk – and providing safety and shelter for those in harm’s way. They also acknowledged that effecting change is challenging – for many of the reasons listed above.
Some key outcomes of the visit
- Levels of awareness of HT have been enhanced
- Participants identified numerous common practices as HT and/or modern slavery
- There are opportunities for enhancing public awareness – especially in schools, parishes, medical clinics and workplaces.
- Acknowledgement that further education of Religious would help.
- Awareness that the formation of a network of Religious against HT would enhance capacity to advocate and support.
- Intention to raise the possibility of the local Conference of Catholic Bishops establishing a desk for Migrants and Refugees (to include HT).
- Whilst corruption is widespread, efforts to lobby ‘good/honest’ politicians can be undertaken.
- Desire for further training of those interested in leading the fight against HT.
Human trafficking and slavery like practices are serious concerns in PNG and the Solomon Islands – both countries being source, destination and transit countries for traffickers. Religious in both countries have long been deeply committed to recognising exploitation and injustice, responding to eliminate it, and caring for its victims.
At the same time they acknowledge that human trafficking has received little attention in their countries, that awareness is very limited, and possible responses are complicated by complex social, cultural and political barriers.
The FOR acknowledged that a range of responses are required, including particularly:
- Awareness raising across the whole community – including religious orders and the broader Church
- Education and training of leaders
- Advocacy to honest politicians
- Formation of a network of Religious