Media and Communications Office
A Vigil Mass and Holy Hour was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on the eve of the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita of Sudan, combined with International Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking.
The Vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, featured the South Sudanese Catholic Community’s St Bakhita’s Choir offering a joyful sound of rhythm and harmony to the celebration.
People from across the board participated in the Mass from organisations and schools including ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans Office for Justice and Peace), Catholic Education Melbourne and students from both Presentation College, Windsor and Sacred Heart Girl’s College.
During his homily, Archbishop Peter spoke of his time at the Synod for the youth held last October where a number of participants spoke about the reality of human trafficking, particularly of women and younger members of society.
‘The stories told on the Synod floor, at least for me, were deeply troubling and scandalising,’ he said.
‘These are not a few scattered or rare occurrences, rather the effect of human trafficking is so wide spread that whole regions of the world are effected and in some countries the entirety of their youth population.’
During the post Communion reflection, Sr Claire Griffin from ACRATH offered a call to action to stop human trafficking. She was joined by Dr. Paul Sharkey from Catholic Education Melbourne and representatives from Catholic secondary schools.
‘Paul is already playing a key role to putting an end to human trafficking,’ she explained.
‘At the end of last year Paul wrote to all the principals and all the Catholic schools around Victoria and in the text written at the back of our mass booklet, I urge you to take that home in read it. Because in that Paul talks about a brave commitment for some specific action against slavery.’
In the commitment, he urges schools to look for the Fairtrade logo when we they buy their tea, coffee and chocolate.
‘It might seem like a small step, but it’s a significant step,’ said Sr Claire.
In the statement, Paul writes that ‘Melbourne is the undisputed coffee capital of Australia, and many of us wake up with a cup every morning. As a community we need to consider where our coffee is coming from and is it certified as Fairtrade. Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers around the world. It is confronting to consider that a refreshing beverage in Melbourne can be traced back to coffee beans picked by children working in slavery conditions in a country far away…I would encourage you to look at how you can make similar changes in your community.’
He adds that ‘Pope Francis reminds us that buying goods and services is a moral choice. Every school already exercises these moral choices in a number of ways. It would be a great sign of hope if we decided as a sector to support ACRATH through targeted initiatives in 2019. We have the power to help bring an end to human trafficking and slavery.’
A poem by Margaret Scharf was published in the Mass booklet which provided food for thought:
‘Can you see me in the things that you purchase,
In a place where the prices there suit you so well?
Can you imagine the place where I’m working;
No food and no breaks in a sweat shop that’s hell?’
The South Sudanese Catholic Community will continue the celebrations of the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita on Sunday 10 February at Holy Eucharist Church in St Alban’s at 3pm and Sunday 17 February at St Anthony’s Church in Noble Park at 2.30pm. All are welcome.