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May 25, 2018


Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Security Council

On May 22, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave an intervention during the Security Council Open Debate dedicated to the theme of the “Protection of civilians in armed conflict.”  

In his remarks, Archbishop Auza said that the protection of civilians is at the heart of international humanitarian law and yet it has never been more dangerous to be a civilian in the middle of armed conflict as it is today, when the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, is commonplace as a tactic of war. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks of a “global protection crisis." Security Council Resolution 2286 from 2016 condemned attacks or threats against medical and humanitarian personnel, but this political will must be translated into action with parties to armed conflict unequivocally affirming that such personnel are off limits and violators ought to be criminally prosecuted. Similarly, parties that deny civilians access to food, water and medical care to gain military advance must be held accountable. The most long-lasting measure to protect civilians is by preventing the outbreak of conflict, Archbishop Auza concluded.  

His remarks can be found here.


Gala Dinner Attendees Honor
the Santa Marta Group

At the 2018 Path to Peace Gala, held May 23 at the Pierre Hotel in New York, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and Mr. Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner of the United Kingdom, jointly received the Path to Peace Award on behalf of the Santa Marta Group, the international alliance of police chiefs and Church leaders collaborating to eradicate human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza welcomed the 560 guests of the Gala and said that the Path to Peace Foundation had chosen to honor the Santa Marta Group because it is “making such a difference in the fight against the plague of trafficking in persons and all forms of modern slavery, which according to the most accurate estimates presently ensnares 40.3 million people — 40.3 million girls, boys, women and men — in situations of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Pope Francis has called it a ‘crime against humanity, … an atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale, even as tourism.’”
The Santa Marta Group takes it name from Pope Francis’ residence in the Vatican. It was there that, in April 2014, police chiefs from around the world stayed for a Vatican conference that culminated in a joint declaration, called the Santa Marta Commitment. In it, the senior law enforcement officials pledged themselves to work together on an international level to eradicate human trafficking, specifically through developing partnerships with the Church and civil society in order better to prevent trafficking in the first place, provide more holistic care and reintegration for survivors, and bring to justice those who are responsible for these abusive crimes.
The Santa Marta Group was founded to follow through on this Santa Marta Commitment.


Cardinal Nichols in his remarks shared the story of two people who impacted him to commit himself to the cause of ending modern human slavery. The first was a young woman named Sophie who had been trafficked in the United Kingdom and whose sufferings opened him up to the scale of the problem close to home. The second was Pope Francis, who personally asked him after the April 2014 conference to make sure that the cooperation between clergy and law enforcement grows.
He focused his remarks on the two things he thinks are needed for the collaboration between “cops and clergy” to succeed. The first is trust, because in the past religious helping trafficking victims were afraid that if they cooperated with law enforcement, the victims would just be treated as criminals because they had often been involved in prostitution or forced to take drugs to become addicted. The second is honesty, about what is working and not working, he said.
Cardinal Nichols expressed appreciation for the work of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations for all of its work  against human trafficking.
Commissioner Hyland described the various situations of modern slavery in the world and the many ways that anti-trafficking work is making a difference. He made an appeal for others to get involved, saying that he has been making an effort to have the G20 countries become party to the ILO conventions against forced labor, but said that as of now, only three of those 20 countries have signed it.
Archbishop Auza described how “Pope Francis loves the Santa Marta Group,” and said that it has achieved a great deal during its four years of existence.
“Even though the approaches of law enforcement and of the Church to human trafficking certainly differ, Pope Francis insists that they ‘can and must go together. Cooperation between bishops and police chiefs is decisive.'”
Similary, the Archbishop Auza added, “Law enforcement officials have noted, on their part, that to fight a world-wide plague, they need a world-wide network of those prepared to identify, build trust among, and restore victims and that’s why for them an alliance between police and the Catholic Church makes so much sense.”
He added, “Both the Pope and law enforcement leaders note that such collaboration is an inspiring sign of the type of partnerships needed across the board if we are ultimately going to be successful in the fight to eradicate modern slavery.”


Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, gave the opening invocation, soliciting much laughter when he said that he had nothing to do with the Gala’s being held in the grand ball room of a hotel bearing the name Pierre.

Bishop William Murphy, Bishop Emeritus of Rockville Centre, gave the closing Benediction.
The Gala was chaired by Steve and Lee Paolino and emceed by Mark Ackermann and Vicki Downey.
To see more photos from the event, please click here.




Event on the Role of Partnerships
Between the Church and Law Enforcement
to End Human Trafficking


Partnerships are required to end human trafficking, according to experts at a  May 22 Holy See sponsored Event at the United Nations entitled, “The Santa Marta Group: Police and Religious Leaders Partnering to Eradicate Modern Slavery by Building Trust in Leadership, Action and Accountability.” Co-sponsored by the the Santa Marta Group, the event highlighted the results borne from the fruitful relationship between faith-based groups and law enforcement.
The conference was held in anticipation of the Path to Peace Gala, where the Santa Marta Group was honored for its efforts in building partnerships between religious groups and law enforcement.
The Santa Marta Group takes its name from Pope Francis’ residence in the Vatican where police chiefs and senior law enforcement from around the world stayed in April 2014 for a two-day conference on eradicating human trafficking that culminated in a joint declaration, called the Santa Marta Commitment. From this conference arose the Santa Marta Group, a network of religious groups and law enforcement committed to working with one another to eradicate the criminal activity of trafficking and to care for its victims.
Eradicating human trafficking and modern slavery is a major priority for Pope Francis, according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, who noted that the Pope has addressed the Santa Marta Group on several occasions, praising their work as an “essential contribution to addressing the causes and effects of this modern day scourge,” which has achieved a great deal in a short time.
Archbishop Auza said that for several years, the UN has been deeply involved in the fight against human trafficking, leading to various international commitments, protocols, compacts and goals aimed to eradicate the scourge, such as the three targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“These and other similar commitments are really important, but they’re not enough. They need to be followed up with action on the ground,” Archbishop Auza said. “The Santa Marta Group is one of those groups collaborating on the ground to make these international commitments consequential.”
The Santa Marta Group works toward ensuring that all victims of trafficking are rescued, receive proper care, and that their traffickers are penalized under the rule of law.  

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Santa Marta Group, said that the keystone principle of the group is upholding the human dignity of each person, and keeping the victim at the center of their work. In its four years, the Group has expanded to include partnerships between police and religious group in 34 countries.
He attributed the Santa Marta Group’s success not merely to its international reach, but to the quality of personal relationships at the local levels. It is common for trafficking victims to carry feelings of betrayal and distrust, especially toward police officers. The relationships of trust that develop organically between those who have been trafficked and the religious groups that serve them place the religious in a natural position to help the survivors build the courage to prosecute their persecutors and help get them behind bars. Distrust between religious workers and police had to be addressed as well.
“The religious sisters who worked with victims were sure that the police would see them not as victims but as criminals,” Cardinal Nichols said. “They had to be sure that the police were not interested in prosecuting victims, but wanted to get to the perpetrators of the crimes. Step by step, trust was built.”
At the Bakhita House in London, in which religious sisters accompany victims of human trafficking on a journey towards healing, several survivors have testified against their traffickers in court, which has led to their perpetrators’ receiving in some cases more than 40 years in prison.
When Commissioner Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and a leading member of the Santa Marta Group, was the head of the Scotland Yard's Human Trafficking Unit, his team frequently found success working with religious sisters.
“What we quickly saw was not only did it change those in modern slavery, it changed the attitude of the police and helped them understand that by being more compassionate, you can get better results,” Commissioner Hyland said.
Commissoner Hyland credited the Santa Marta Group with influencing the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, which was still in formation at the time of the Group’s founding. The Act called for an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner as well as a victim-centered approach.
Commissioner Hyland also credited the inclusion of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which calls for an end to human trafficking and modern slavery, to the unique relationship between Argentina, the UK and the Holy See working together to make eradicating human trafficking a global commitment.
“This is a group of action,” General Commissioner Nestor Roncaglia, Chief of the Argentine Federal Police, said of the Santa Marta Group after attending its 2016 conference at the Vatican. He said that Pope Francis, long before he became pope, had a special compassion for victims of this crime as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and shared memories of then-Cardinal Bergoglio caring for people from all walks of life.
“The victims go towards the church because they are hurt, but the international criminals will continue to run loose without the work of the police.” Commissioner Roncaglia said. “As police, it is assumed that we should address the criminal first, but in the case of trafficking, we are rescuing the victim.”
Dr. Hillary Chester, Associate Director of Anti-Trafficking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said that the Catholic Church has been engaged in anti-trafficking work in the United States before “human trafficking” was defined as a legal term. Partnerships between law enforcement and faith-based groups are vital to successful work.
“We realized that none of us had enough expertise and knowledge to tackle this individually, so we had to work in partnership,” she said, noting that the U.S. Department of Justice favors a collaborative model to fight trafficking. “Now the Santa Marta group is taking that idea globally and sharing best practices.”
One aspect of the USCCB’s work is to educate officers on the border to screen children at risk of trafficking, since migrants are at a high risk for being trafficked.
One of the most important tools in the fight against trafficking is “recognizing the inherent gifts and strength of people we serve,” she said, noting that the greatest partners in ending trafficking are often members of communities most at risk for trafficking.

“Very often law enforcement may not have good relationships in communities most at risk for trafficking,” she said. “Those in these at risk communities become assets to law enforcement by giving tips and becoming trusted interpreters.”


Sister Melissa Camardo, Director of Development for the Lifeway Network in New York City, which has provided housing to 84 trafficking survivors from 34 countries, said that her top priority is to help the women she serves regain their sense of self-worth and build happy and healthy lives amidst the feelings of fear and betrayal that are so commonly held by trafficking survivors.
“Building trust is slow and careful work,” she said. “Many have been abused, traumatized and tortured by people who were supposed to love them, even their family.”
Lifeway Network provides more than food and housing, but true accompaniment, especially for those who find the courage to share their stories with law enforcement to prevent others from suffering at the hands of their former traffickers.
“Sometimes they are triggered by PTSD in these meetings, so they need to come to a safe place,” she said. “We may attend court proceedings with them or just provide comfort or consolation in any way we can.”
To watch the event in its entirety, click here.
To read Archbishop Auza's full remarks, click here.




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