From the 5th to the 19th of June, I participated in a meeting of the working group of RENATE – Religious European Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation – in Eresing, Bavaria, south of Germany.

There were 30 persons participating from 20 European countries, the majority from Eastern Europe. Once again, it was good to meet and realize that we are not alone, but that we are working together in a network for one and the same cause: the struggle for the dignity of human beings and the dream of ending this scourge of human trafficking by 2030.

The first day there was a representative from the Bishops Conference of Germany, who spoke to us of the situation in Germany, of the commitment of the Church to the cause of human trafficking and of the work that is being done with Ukranian refugees.

Then, from Rome via visio-conference, the directress of Talitha Kum (International network of religious in the struggle against human trafficking) spoke with us. She presented the work of this international network.

The report of the last General Assembly held in Fatima in November 2022 was then presented. It was an opportunity to take up the priorities that emerged from the Assembly, namely the issue of identity, awareness and networking.

At a time of change of direction, in which we go from a nucleus of five persons with a president, to a governance shared among 7 persons, while the work expands and new members emerge, we felt once again the need to work on the identity of Renate and its objectives:

To respond from the perspective of Gospel values  to the question of the trafficking of women, children and men.

• To raise awareness in European Society, through activities against human trafficking and against the growing demand, using new technologies and forms of communication.

• To investigate and implement actions against the growing demand for human beings in the countries of origin and of destination.

  • To broaden the presence of RENATE in Europe, opening it to:

  • Religious who work/live in Europe

o Laypersons who work with or for Religious Life in the field of struggle against human trafficking in Europe.

We discussed at length the objectives of RENATE, as a network to struggle against trafficking, and we arrived at the following commitments:

o to work tirelessly to rehabilitate the victims

o To confront the deep causes of this problem

o To facilitate the integration of the victims

o To educate, awaken society, especially youth, in regard to this cause

o To challenge judicial and civil authorities so that they adopt and enforce the law

Afterwards, it was the turn of S. Mechtilde Thurmer OSB, abbess of the monastery of Maria Freiden in Kirchrhletten; who won the peace prize of Gottingen because of her commitment to refugees on the one hand, and on the other hand, because she had been brought to trial by the German courts for having sheltered undocumented persons in her home…

Following this was the turn of each country to present the work which is being done and the challenges that exist in each area of human trafficking. It was good to see once again that difficulties that we face are very similar, and that together we can look for strategies to overcome them.

In addition we heard two testimonies about the work that is being done in Ukraine and Poland with refugees and victims of war and violence who, in addition, are the targets of aggression and abuse, and that the situation of war is a cauldron of exploitation and of human trafficking. The testimony of the representative of Caritas Ukraine, who accompanied victims over land, was very moving.

The final day was dedicated to rereading and approving the internal regulations and presenting the plan of action for 2023-2024, in which three priorities are highlighted;

  • To invest in the human processes of healing and counseling
  • To promote activities of consciousness-raising as the work in the schools, campaigns against trafficking, etc.
  • Work of research on legislation and provisions relative to human trafficking at the European level.           

Each day began with a time of prayer which helped us to situate ourselves, to be aware of our littleness compared with the magnitude of the task, and the need to place ourselves into the hands of the Lord of the harvest. It is He who accomplishes this work, and we are simple instruments in nis hands, those whom He wishes to use to bring about his kingdom.

Maria Manoel, aci