Landmark anti-trafficking conference begins in Nigeria
A major anti-trafficking conference is taking place in Abuja, Nigeria from 14 – 15 November examining the theme ‘Church and state working together to restore dignity to trafficked persons’.
Organised by the Santa Marta Group, a network that strives to prevent human trafficking and modern slavery, and hosted by Caritas Nigeria, it’s the first regional conference of the Santa Marta Group – Africa.
In his video message to the conference recorded in Rome during the Youth Synod, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Santa Marta Group, emphasised his hope that those involved would “concentrate very much on the plight and the care of victims of human trafficking”.
He stressed that “victims must be at the centre of our work and of our concerns”.
Cardinal Nichols also praised the current anti-trafficking work in Nigeria, not only to help victims but also “to provide the circumstances in which (people) might not leave, might not be caught, cheated into slavery”.
Singling out ‘GrowEdo’ – a project which invests in vulnerable young adults, helping them to become entrepreneurs and to find a reason to stay in Nigeria – he said: “Thank you for your response to this terrible crime in the world today and for your willingness to work together more closely”.
Participants and speakers will be arriving from Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi the Central African Republic and the host country, Nigeria – countries which are particularly impacted by human trafficking.
The survivors experiences will be central to the Conference. Law enforcement officials from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria will focus on how to strengthen law enforcement institutions.
Experts from Nigeria will share examples of how to create livelihoods, based on the GrowEdo model and a religious sister, university professor and a priest from the Vatican’s Office for Migrants and Refugees will share their experiences of awareness raising, trauma healing and pastoral care for victims.
Santa Marta Africa project director and joint organiser of the conference, Fr Mark Odion, who originally hails from Edo State, said that the conference aimed to “look at the issues of human trafficking and encourage African countries to look internally to create job opportunities for young people within the continent of Africa”.
“Poverty contributes greatly to why trafficking is rampant in Africa,” Fr Odion added. “The poverty level is being fuelled by the high level of corruption on the continent. Poverty and corruption have made Africans go cap in hand begging from others. We hope that the conference will encourage African countries to establish the model of GrowEdo back home – investing in vulnerable young adults to become entrepreneurs – to find hope and a future.”
The Conference runs from November 14-15 and is taking place at Caritas, Nigeria, Abuja.