Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, led the first National Day of Prayer (NDPAHT) on Sunday, February 5, and Awareness against Human Trafficking, rallying Catholics to actively help fight modern day slavery.
The bishops, in their recent plenary assembly, have approved every first Sunday of February as the National Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.
The Mass for the NDPAHT was organized by the CBCP Cluster Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT) at the EDSA Shrine in Quezon City.
Vergara said it’s a great opportunity for Catholics to pray for people, especially for overseas Filipino workers, who are “unjustly treated and violently abused by human traffickers”.
Sunday’s Mass, he said, “is our spiritual way of asking Jesus to help fulfill our task to reach out and help victims of human trafficking also with the hope, that through our prayers, victimizers will be touched by the Lord and have a change of heart.”
Bishop Vergara said, Christians are compelled to act when the dignity of people are violated and even stripped.
“We are encouraged to walk together with our Filipino brothers and sisters who share both our human and Christian dignity, but whose dignity is threatened, exploited, and trampled upon,” Bishop said.
“May we also live up to our priestly, prophetic, and kingly call to be co-journeyers in dignity as we heed the challenge to curb and hopefully stop the evil of human trafficking by the mercy and love of Jesus Christ,” he added.
After the Mass, the prelate led the churchgoers in lighting candles and praying for the victims and survivors of human trafficking.
Figures from 2018 from the Global Slavery Index estimate that approximately 784,000 people live in modern slavery in the Philippines.
The southeast Asia nation is also the largest known source of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), according to the International Justice Mission (IJM).
In 2020, 1.2 million OSEC cases have been reported to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), an increase of 265% cases reported from 2019, many of the children are reported to be less than 12 years old.
The CCAHT hopes the annual NDPAHT will help heighten the consciousness of faith communities on the issue “and will encourage them to protect their respective families, particularly women and children, against trafficking.”
In a statement, they also called on the Marcos administration “to remain steadfast in their mandate to serve and protect our people at all times.”
CCAHT is composed of various CBCP commissions and offices with the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) as the lead convener. - CBCP News
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