The U.S. embassy to the Holy See has partnered with women religious in a new anti-human trafficking campaign being launched ahead of July's World Cup in Brazil. “Combating this scourge is an important goal of both the United States and the Catholic Church,” U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett stated in comments read aloud by the embassy’s public affairs officer Antoinette Hurtado during a May 20 press conference. “The U.S. Embassy is proud to be here today to support Talitha Kum’s campaign to combat trafficking of persons during this year’s World Cup.” Announced during the press conference earlier this morning, the new campaign is entitled “Play for life, against trafficking,” and is being organized by the international organization Talitha Kum. Meaning “little girl, arise,” Talitha Kum is an international network of consecrated women fighting against human trafficking at all levels, and has organized this campaign to mirror a 2010 initiative that was launched in South Africa with the same goals. Continuing in his address, Hackett observed how both Pope Francis and U.S. officials have spoken out against the trafficking of persons, with the pontiff referring to it as “a crime against humanity” and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that there is “no greater threat to human dignity…than the evil of human trafficking.” Drawing attention to how the crime victimizes “as many as 27 million” people, the ambassador explained that “like so many other 21st century challenges,” the trafficking of persons “does not exist in a vacuum.” “It is interconnected with so many of our other foreign-policy concerns, from environmental sustainability to advancing the lives of women and girls to combating transnational crime.” Explaining how the U.S. Department of State works “hand-in-hand” with various other entities, both religious and non-religious, to free trafficked individuals, Hackett recalled a recent announcement by that the department will begin working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “in order to map and coordinate the church’s efforts on a global basis to combat this crime.” “Recognizing the broad reach of the Catholic Church, we hope this partnership will be another method to share best practices and identify caregivers and advocates,” he went on. “And we hope it will ramp up out capacity around the world to be able to identify victims and get them the help they need.” Giving thanks to Sr. Estrella Castalone, who lives in Rome and is in charge of the international organization of the campaign, as well as the other sisters who are involved, the U.S. ambassador referred to them as “the unsung heroes of this work” who are “doing the most important job of directly aiding those most in need.” In comments made to CNA during the May 20 conference, Sr. Castalone explained that the reason Talitha Kum chose the World Cup as an occasion to launch the campaign is that “there is a lot of human mobility during big events like this and the risk of trafficking becomes greater.” So the main goals, she said, are “to raise the consciousness of many young people especially not to accept indiscriminately job offers,” and secondly to work so that there might “be less persons available in the sexual market.” “What do we hope for? We hope that those who go to Brazil during the world cup will enjoy the games and nothing else. Not the sexual pressure, not the drugs that have been carried by trafficked young people.” Noting how they are all for “the enjoyment of the games…that’s why the slogan says play football, in favor of life,” but “denounce trafficking,” Sr. Castalone emphasized that “practically that’s what we’re aiming at.” “That the World Cup will be a matter of enjoying and promoting life and that trafficking would be put at the stall. We don’t know if it will be eradicated during the World Cup, but hopefully it will be stable.”
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