Sr. Magdalena, Christine Barbara Eichinger, SSpS is a member of Religious in Europe Networking against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE). The members are working alongside many other organizations around the world to eradicate modern-day slavery. A few months ago, thirty RENATE members gathered at the Soeterbeeck Conference Centre for a seminar.
RENATE Board member, Ivonne van de Kar, emphasized the importance of networks and, in particular, the worldwide religious networks, in the work against human trafficking. Theological underpinnings for the week were presented by Mr Gerard Moorman, a lay theologian working with the Conference of Religious in the Netherlands. Gerard shared his reflections on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’ and its relevance for those working to prevent human trafficking and exploitation. Mrs. Geesje Werkman, spokesperson for the Churches in Action in the Netherlands, emphasized the human story behind the trafficked and smuggled persons.
Mill Bijnen, coordinator of a shelter in Amsterdam which offers care for migrant victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation shared about his ministry. One of the most challenging components of the week’s training was the topic on the importance of forgiveness, as presented by Theo Hendrickx. Franck Ploum joined us later in the week, consider “Theological Reflection as preparation to Right to Protect”. The training ended on a positive note that there is value and dignity in shining a light on all that is positive in the countries of origin. We just need a fresh set of lenses through which to view that world.
This seminar was preceded by the 2nd European Assembly in Rome where 130 members of the network gathered together. Representatives from the 27 member countries met for a full week to share about the best practices, to network, to dialogue and to pray. The first guest speaker of the conference, Sister Regina Cesarato, UISME Italy, called on all in the Assembly to strive to work together to stop human trafficking. The call for strengthening of the network and the value of collaboration were recurring themes running throughout the Assembly.
The highlight of the Assembly was a special audience with Pope Francis. Pope Francis thanked them for their ‘’faithful witness to the Gospel of Mercy, as demonstrated in their commitment to the recovery and rehabilitation of victims.’’ He acknowledged the work of the RENATE Network whose members often risk their own lives to save the lives of others. At the Assembly the RENATE film ‘’Called to give a Voice to the Voiceless.’’, directed by Sister Iva Ku?s?ikova?, SSpS was launched. This film documents various activities undertaken by a cross-section of RENATE members.
To see the film, visit: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=KH3FGnNlodU&t=970s
Sr. Magdalena Eichinger, SSpS - Austria