Christmas collections diverted for victims of modern slavery
The Jesuits in Britain are supporting the victims of human trafficking by donating funds raised at Christmas and Easter. The collections at Farm Street Church will go towards the appeal to support victims of Human Trafficking, the Bakhita House Project, and the work of other charities, including the Jesuit Refugee Service, to support victims and to help with the prevention of this form of modern slavery. The parish’s decision comes in response to a request by Cardinal Vincent Nichols over the summer and follows a conference on Human Trafficking which he recently hosted at Lancaster House.
“Human trafficking brings misery and despair to millions of innocent people around the world – including several thousands in this country,” says the British Jesuit Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ. “We’ve all been struck by the personal involvement of Pope Francis and Cardinal Vincent, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, members of the British Parliament, and the Metropolitan Police speaking out against it. As Provincial of the British Jesuits I add my voice to this effort, and am happy to endorse fully the proposal of the Jesuit parish of the Immaculate Conception to donate their seasonal collections to this cause.”
The decision to support victims of Human Trafficking was taken by the priests and the Parish Pastoral Council of Farm St Church, following a request by Cardinal Vincent who is Archbishop of Westminster. They decided that the Christmas and Easter offerings, which by tradition have been diverted towards the works of the Society of Jesus, should for the next 12 months be entirely directed towards the parish appeal for victims of human trafficking.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis sent a message to the conference on Human Trafficking in London that was organised by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and was attended by Church leaders, politicians, senior police officers and representatives from nearly 30 countries. “I am deeply grateful to all present for your resolve in combatting this evil and for your commitment to carry on the work begun at the conference held in the Vatican in April of this year,” he told them. “We must never forget, nor may we ignore, the suffering of so many men, women and children whose human dignity is violated through this exploitation.”
The London conference was organised by the Santa Marta group, named after the guest house in Rome where Pope Francis lives. In addition to Cardinal Vincent, it was attended by Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Home Secretary Theresa May MP. At the start of the Conference, Cardinal Vincent thanked the delegates for their hard work and praised the ‘huge potential’ for the partnership formed between the Church, police and religious sisters. The Cardinal said that each partner has a vocation within the Group to ‘make a difference and be unstoppable’.
Funds from the Farm Street parish collections will help to fund Caritas Bakhita House in west London set up by the Archdiocese of Westminster as a “triage” centre for the emergency placement of women escaping human trafficking. The house will provide accommodation for up to 14 women over the age of 17, where they will be offered emergency support, psychosexual therapy, legal and financial assistance and mentoring and help with accessing accommodation.
Photo: Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at the Lancaster House Conference © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk