Reflections

Prayer and Reflection Vigil against Trafficking

2018 Theme: Trafficking and Migration

February 8, 2018

Commemoration of St. Bakhita

INTRODUCTION

Definition of the theme of trafficking: concept, history, statistics

“Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking […] is a crime against humanity” (Signed Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, 2 December 2014).

There are tens of millions of people in the world who suffer from trafficking and most of them are women. In recent years, unfortunately, the percentage of children of both sexes who are victims of this scourge has also increased significantly. It is an ever-changing phenomenon and it is therefore difficult to establish its magnitude precisely. Trafficking overlaps and merges with clandestine immigration, with the employment of foreign workers in conditions similar to slavery, with women involved in the sex trade or subjected to marriages of convenience.

Trafficking in persons is among the three largest illegal markets and generates clandestine economies worth $150 billion a year (source: ILO, 2015). Human life is an object, traded and exploited for profit, for forced or humiliating labour in various sectors of the economy, for sexual exploitation or domestic slavery. Many are forced into marriage, or to join criminal organisations; they are mutilated, so organs can be extracted, and forced to beg.

Trafficking in persons can occur within a country’s territory, or at the international level, when it crosses national borders. In all countries, we can find victims of trafficking, for a specific country can be the origin, transit or destination for trafficked people. (From Talitha Kum’s website)

Definition of the specific theme 2018: trafficking and migration

The theme of the 2018 World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Trafficking highlights the human tragedy of trafficking in migrating persons: migrants, refugees and evacuees. We are called to open our eyes to this problem which touches so many men and women, our brothers and sisters.

Trafficking in persons and smuggling with migrants are two distinct realities that are always linked. The violence and exploitation suffered by migrants who move without a visa for the country to which they are going is often interpreted as trafficking in human beings. Their vulnerable state makes them easy prey for sex and labour trafficking. Refugees and migrants are subjected to longer working shifts than usual, on a meagre wage, in order to pay off the debt they owe. Over time, traffickers increase the amount of debt owed to them, and many migrants end up receiving threats and intimidation if they fail to pay. Many of them end up disappearing, becoming deadly victims of organ trafficking.

With globalisation, the flow of migrants has increased. Political movements in some countries act against this, thus reducing the entry of migrants. This increases the vulnerability of migrants, a human group with a high risk of becoming victim of trafficking in persons, both when they move from one country to another and when they are in the country where they have settled.

The 2018 International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking invites us to accompany  with  prayer  and  our  efforts  the  commitment  of  the  United  Nations  in  its Meeting on Migration (Global Migration Compact), in which the heads of state and governors of all countries belonging to the United Nations give a special importance to the issue of migration and refugees within their political agendas. This issue is considered common and present for all states and human trafficking remains one of the main issues to be discussed.

Let us give this reality a significant centrality in our lives and in our hearts, opening ourselves to welcome, hope and encounter. Let us give light to freedom by fighting slavery.

Gospel of Luke –  Luke 10: 25-37

Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Who is my neighbour?

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with allyour mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

[…] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

 Elderly: waiting

Testimony:  a testimony telling of the sorrow and the hope of those who wait for their relatives to come back.

  Letter from a mother

“Knowing what happened to my daughter, I felt my heart empty and my body freezing. But I prayed to God looking at my two grandchildren; that gave me strength to continue. It was not easy to stop crying. Every Thursday and Sunday I would light a candle asking God especially for my daughter’s sake.

Being away from my daughter, people would ask me about her; that affected me a lot. I lied saying that she was in poor health and therefore couldn’t talk to me … Even though I was dying inside!

After all this time of sorrow I knew that you gave refuge to her. I felt relieved because she is well and in a safe place. Now my wish is to see her again and be able to talk to her. I keep praying that she’s okay”.

Questions for reflection and silence

  Put yourself in the shoes of the people of this testimony

  If I were to see a similar situation, what would I do? What would be my reaction?

  Does this testimony represent a reality of my country/city?

  What is my prayer to God?

 

Sharing and/or Spontaneous Prayer

CLOSING

In the present day of our history, when migratory flows are increasing, we confirm our faith in the God of life, telling Him our concerns through prayer:

When we hear about boys, girls, men and women being deceived and taken to unknown places for sexual exploitation, forced labour and organ trade, our hearts feel indignation and our spirits suffer, because their dignity and rights are violated by threats, deceit and violence.

Oh God, help us fight against all forms of slavery. Together with Saint Bakhita we ask you to put an end to human trafficking.

Give us the wisdom and strength to be close to those who have been wounded in their body, heart and spirit, so that together we may reach the promise of life and tender and infinite love that you offer to our exploited brothers and sisters.

Touch the hearts of those responsible for this serious crime and support our commitment to work for freedom, the gift you desire for all your sons and daughters. Amen.

Stardust

I have been told that I am dust
but I have never been told that I am STARDUST.  
Is this only poetic language?

Let us look at this photo taken in 2014 by the Hubble Space Telescope which reveals nearly 3,000 distant galaxies and millions of stars hidden in a portion of the sky that seems blank and empty. We know that the beauty of the Universe is unfathomable.  The concept of 100 billion suns, each of them a star within one of the 100 billion galaxies is beyond our imagination.

Contemporary research awakens us to the discovery that we come from the stars.  We are stardust!  But how can we be so sure?

At the time of the Big Bang, some 13.8 billion years ago, hydrogen and helium were released; clouds of these gases condensed into the first stars and galaxies.  In their nuclear alchemy, the stars released heavy elements which became the elements of life. That is what made our own existence possible.  Amazing!  In fact, we were born from the stars.  Our life, so precious and so fragile, originated from the stars!

We are stardust, miniature universes gifted with the mysterious faculty we call consciousness.   As we look at the soil beneath our feet, let us be aware that we stand on the blue planet, next to a yellow star we call Sun.  Let us contemplate the Milky Way in this vast cosmic space containing billions of galaxies.  We can say with Hubert Reeves and other scientists: “This is home.” Or to quote Pope Francis in Laudato ‘Si, this is “our common home”.

It is amazing to reread the Abrahamic text in light of the immensity of the Universe:

“God took Abraham outside and said: “Look up to the sky and count the stars if you can.  Such will be your descendants.” And   Abraham chose to trust in God.  (Genesis 15: 5).

With even more incredible amazement, David wrote Psalm 8:

“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.

                                                                                                                              Psalm 8, NRSV (inclusive language)

Wonder of wonders!  Without the stars, the Universe would be deprived of life, deprived of consciousness.  Are we aware of this? The minerals and other elements that constitute the life of animals and flowers were born from the stars. The nuclei of atoms which constitute human beings were engendered in the interior of collapsing stars some billion years ago.  The calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, nitrogen in our DNA all come from stars.  Amazing discovery!

We inhale today the same atoms of oxygen as did Julius Caesar, Einstein, Mary, Mohammed, Gandhi, Jesus, etc.  Contemporary scientists inform us that the matter of which we are made came from other galaxies.  Could we not consider ourselves as space travellers or extragalactic immigrants?

Where is God in all this? asks Hubert Reeves

“The need to give meaning to life and to all reality is a distinctive characteristic of humanity.”

Each one of us brings an answer.  Some scientists have doubts. Others are filled with awe. Some develop a spirituality of enquiry! With our limited human spirit, will we ever understand the immensity of the Universe?  There will always be a part of mystery!

For Einstein, “The finest sentiment in the world is the sense of mystery.   I feel my strongest emotion before the mystery of life.”

Let us take a moment to contemplate this great mystery!  (a few seconds)

One with those who have come before us, we ponder…

We are stardust:  such is the astonishing message of contemporary astronomy.  Thousands of researchers have participated and continue to participate in this discovery.  We give thanks for them!

We pay tribute to the brilliant team members who construct telescopes and observation instruments for NASA in their workshops or laboratories.  They contribute to our discovery of the vastness of the Universe.  We give thanks for them!

We pay tribute to our ancestors, who also came from the stars.  The genes and the spirit of our ancestors were transmitted to us by our parents. Their spirit is always alive in our cells.  Their genetic makeup is perpetuated in our bodies for all future generations.  We give thanks for them!

We pay tribute to researchers and environmental groups for their efforts. Their work increases our awareness of the devastating impact of the destruction of Earth and of the effects of climate change.  We give thanks for them!

We are also informed by the Buddhist tradition (Thich Nhat Hanh):

True change will take place only when we will fall in love with our planet.  For only love can show us how to live in harmony with nature and with one another.  We give thanks for them!

Let us take a moment of silence

God is the friend of silence.  Trees, flowers, grass all grow in silence.

Look at the stars, the moon and the sun.  See how they move so silently. (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Music :

              (Photos from  the Hubble Space Telescope)

 

Close your eyes. Concentrate on your body.

Repeat silently:  I exist.

Open your eyes.

Look at the world around you.

Say to yourself: “I am stardust.”

“the world is stardust.”

Have we not been observing one of the most outstanding achievements ever realized?

A large number of galactic, planetary, stellar events of the past 14 billion years have brought us to this point of awareness. We cannot let the earth die!  It is imperative that we humanise humanity.

Let us stand with Teilhard de Chardin, theologian Elia Delio and many others, who firmly believe that love is at the heart of the evolution of the world:

“In the depths of our DNA we belong to the stars, the trees and the galaxies…  Deep within we long for unity because, at the most fundamental level, we are already one. We belong to one another because we have the same source of love; the love that flows through the trees is the same love that flows through our beings…  We are deeply connected in this flow of love, which is the foundation of the universe.” (Elia Delio, Franciscan and theologian)

Let us go forth and let love transform us.

Youtube: Ingrid Lefort and students

References for this reflection on “Stardust”

•Google : Poussières d’étoiles

•Poussières d’étoiles, Hubert Reeves, 1984

•Laudato’Si, Encyclical Letter on Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis, 2015

•Le banc du temps qui passe, méditation cosmique, Hubert Reeves, Seuil, 2017

•La terre comme soi-même. Repères pour une écospiritualité, Michel Maxime Egger, 2012

• Priez 15 jours avec Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, André Dupleix, nouvelle cité, 1994

– The Occasional Papers, Interview with Cynthia Bourgeault, Shaping the Planet with Transformed Love, Winter 2017

– Ilia Delio: “On Consciousness and Christogenesis: Teilhard’s Two Energies”

 

                                Pierrette Daviau,  fdls et Lise Gagnon, snjm

English Translation: Lorraine St-Hilaire snjm

Spanish Translation: Eduardo Borrell

 

Integral Ecology

Text for reflection and sharing when preparing 2017-2018 budgetary projections

 

In September 2015 at the United Nations, 193 countries signed on to 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030.  It is critical that these goals be met for, as Pope Francis stated in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” (161).  The 17 goals take into account not only our planet with its worsening climate in which destructive human activity has played a significant role, but the fate of all life on Earth. The goals call for prosperity, partnership and peace for all peoples. No one is to be left behind.  Scientists, including social scientists, agree that an integrated approach to a solution, a solution that takes into account every aspect of the global crisis, an integral ecology, must be promoted.

Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ echoes this new paradigm of an integral ecology for just action. However, the brand of integral ecology promoted by Pope Francis, while confirming him as an ally of environmentalists in combating the earth’s exploitation, calls for an exaltation of the Creator God and a defense of the dignity of the human person.

“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”(49)

 “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother Earth.” (92)

Pope Francis also reminds us:

“Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship.  An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.” (230)

The Acts of the Thirty-fourth General Chapter give many concrete examples of ways to promote integral ecology in our daily lives, for instance on the subject of clean water (page 10). They also encourage us to commit ourselves“… to reduce our level of consumption; to advocate and to act for an end to the dehumanization of human beings and communities; and to work toward a more equitable distribution of resources and the greater sustainability of Earth, our common home.” (page 5).

Questions for reflection and possible sharing:

  1. What speaks to me in this text? What calls do I hear?
  2. Concretely, in our lives, how will we demonstrate commitment to bringing about this new world order? 
  3. In preparing our budgets, what action can we choose in order to lessen our consumption of the world’s goods?

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Choose life” (Deut. 30:19)

Websites on integral ecology:

www.ncronline.org/print/blogs/faith-and-justice/integral-ecology-everything-connected/

www.americamagazine.org/issue/elusive-integral-ecology

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

 

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi           

(Laudato Si’, No. 87)

“Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong”.        

Reflection prepared by Dorothy Guha, SNJM Associate