International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 2021, February 8th.

An Economy without Human Trafficking

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 2021 brings into  the spotlight one of the main causes of human trafficking: the dominant economic model of  our time, whose limits and contradictions are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Human trafficking is an integral part of “this economy”: victims of trafficking are as  “commodities” falling into the mechanisms of a globalization ruled by financial speculation  and competition spurred by below-cost pricing. Hence the need for a “structural and global”  perspective of human trafficking so as to dismantle those wicked mechanisms that fuel the  supply and demand of “people to exploit”, because the very heart of the economy is sick. 

An aphorism attributed to Oscar Wilde states that the cynic is a man who knows the price  of everything, and the value of nothing, this economy seems dominated by cynicism: not  only does the market fix the price of commodities, services and persons, but also what is  even more appalling is that the price sets their value. Businesses themselves are victim of  this, because financial markets rank them based on their share price, not on the added value  produced by their human capital.  

Human trafficking is only the tip of an iceberg, the magnifying lens of distress caused by the  dominating neoliberalism that relies on a (false) idea of economic freedom that considers  any ethical, social and political circumstance as irrelevant and a hurdle.  

However, the opposite is true, in fact, an economy without human trafficking is an economy  that values and cares for the human being and nature, is inclusive and does not exploit the  most vulnerable.  

This perspective has led the International Committee of the International Day of Prayer and  Awareness against Human Trafficking to take part in “The economy of Francesco”: a large  movement of young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers convened by Pope  Francis from all over the world to share ideas and plan initiatives for promoting integral and  sustainable human development in the spirit of Francis.


Some economic data 

  • 2 billion dollars are the annual profits of human trafficking in the world, two thirds of which derive from sexual exploitation.i
  • 800 dollars are the annual profits per sexually exploited victim of trafficking, 4.800  in the building, manufacturing, mining and utilities sectors, 2.500 in farming, and  2.300 in domestic work.ii
  • 800 dollars are the annual profits per victim of trafficking in advanced economies,  15.000 dollars in the Middle East, 7.500 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5.000 in  Asia Pacific, and 3.900 in Africa.iii
  • 50% of exploited workers carry out forced labour to pay off a debt (peonage).iv462 euros was the economic, social and human cost per victim in Europe (UE27)  in 2016 (latest available data).v
  • 000 dollars is the economic return for an organ transplant in Western Europe  against payment of 10.000 dollars to a “donor” living in extreme poverty in Central

i Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, International Labour Organization, 2014. ii Ibid 

iii Ibid 

iv Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, International Labour Organization and Walk Free Foundation, 2017 vStudy on the economic, social and human costs of trafficking in human beings within the EU, European  Commission, 2020. According to the European Commission, considering the 8,027 victims in the European Union in  2016, costs for each of them are estimated at 2,949 euros for coordination and prevention activities, 105,827 euros for law  enforcement activities, 11,355 euros for related services for registration, initial material support and counseling, € 21,785  for health and social services, € 59,795 for the victim’s lack of potential contribution to the legal economy, and finally €  135,751 for the loss of quality of life. 

vi Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2018



 1 Can you see me in the things that you purchase, In a place where the prices there suit you so well? Can you imagine the place where I’m working; No food and no breaks, in a sweat shop that’s hell? Can you see me?

 2 Can you see me in the shadows and darkness, Where my body is sold for minutes and hours? Can you imagine the suffering in sex trade, Where dreams are stolen and so is my power? Can you see me? Refrain, Look! Look, and don’t turn away. I’m calling to you and just want to say: See all you can and tell others about me and help to bring freedom and justice for all. Can you see me?

3 Can you see me in the sweat and the struggle, 300 feet down, at the face of a mine? My parents owe money and this is their payment: A slave for a son and I’m only nine. Can you see me?

4 Can you see me? I am here, all around you, I don’t say a word, in case I’m ill-treated. A servant who should know just where her place is, Twenty-four/seven to do what is ordered. Can you see me? Refrain Can you see me in the fields of the farmers Who bribed us to be there, and won’t set us free? Back breaking work, no matter the weather; Picking and packing your fruit and your vegies. Can you see me? Can you see me, in the shed by the highway Where people are harvested for body parts? My brother lost eyes, and I gave a kidney. The dead are just dumped like trash from a cart. Can you see me? Refrain I’m all around you, hidden from vision Wondering if I will ever be free. Longing for life and for chains to be broken Longing for sunlight, for justice and peace. Can you see me? Can you see me? Can you see me? Can you see me? Can you see me?

Copyright © 2017, Margaret Scharf OP Used with permission of ACRATH www.acr


Born c. 1869 in Olgossa, Darfur, Sudan
Died 8 February 1947, Italy
Year of beatification 1992 (17 May)                                                                                        

Year of canonisation 2000 (1 October) 

Feast Day 8 February 

St Josephine Bakhita, also known as ‘Mother Moretta’ (our Black Mother) bore 144 physical scars throughout her life which were received after she was kidnapped at the age of nine and sold into slavery.

Such was the trauma experienced that she forgot her birth name and her kidnappers gave her the name Bakhita meaning ‘fortunate’. Flogging and maltreatment were part of her daily life. She experienced the moral and physical humiliations associated with slavery. It was only in 1882 that her suffering was alleviated after she was bought for the Italian Consul. This event was to transform her life. In this family and, subsequently in a second Italian home, she received from her masters, kindness, respect, peace and joy. Josephine came to discover love in a profound way even though at first she was unable to name its source. A change in her owner’s circumstances meant that she was entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. It was there that Bakhita came to know about God whom, ‘she had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was’ since she was a child. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1890, joining the sisters and making final profession in 1896. The next fifty years of her life were spent witnessing to God’s love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. When she was on door duty, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the children who attended the nearby school and caress them. Her voice was pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering. She was a source of encouragement. Her constant smile won people’s hearts, as did her humility and simplicity. As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness, but she continued to persevere in hope, constantly choosing the good. When visited and asked how she was, she’d respond: ‘As the Master desires’. During her last days she relived the painful days of her slavery and more than once begged: ‘Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!’. Surrounded by the sisters, she died on 8 February 1947.

Dear brothers and sisters, 
today, 8 February, is the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese nun, who as a child had the traumatic experience of being a victim of human trafficking. The Unions of Superiors and Superiors General of Religious Institutes have organized the Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. I encourage those who work helping the men, women and children who are enslaved, exploited, abused as instruments of work or pleasure, who are often tortured and mutilated. It is my hope that government leaders may work decisively to remove the causes of this disgraceful scourge, it is a scourge unworthy of society. May each one of us feel committed to being a voice for our brothers and sisters, who have been humiliated in their dignity. Let us all pray …

(Pope Francis: Angelus Prayer February 8, 2015)