THIRTY-SIX delegates from 23 European countries met in Budapest, Hungary, to develop and launch The Salvation Army’s European anti-human trafficking response. The delegates, many of whom are already involved in anti-trafficking work, are to be the national contact people who will ensure that this response is carried out effectively. The conference was arranged by The Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking task force.
Delegates were reminded of the tragic circumstances in which trafficked people find themselves. Trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving men, women and children, and can include sex trafficking, forced labour and the removal of organs. Whatever form it takes, trafficking exploits vulnerable people and damages them in body, mind and spirit.
The first steps of The Salvation Army’s Europe-wide response were put in place during the conference. The Salvation Army is uniquely placed to respond to this problem. It works in almost every European country and – with a ministry in 126 nations – it is often present in source, transit and destination countries of trafficked people. A major aim of the conference was to ensure that the Army makes best use of this geographical advantage with a united and coordinated approach that works across borders and boundaries. One of the delegates, Christine Tursi from Switzerland, said: ‘Traffickers are good at networking – we must be better!’
In every European country in which the Army is at work there is now a national contact person who – in some cases working with a national task force – will focus on three concrete actions: prevention of trafficking, and the protection and reintegration of victims. Prevention will involve data collection, raising awareness, education and training. Protection will take the form of practical help through outreach programmes and safe houses. Reintegration will enable victims to return home and reconnect with their families and communities.
The conference concluded with a meeting to launch the new initiative and dedicate it to God. Speaking in the meeting, Commissioner Dorita Wainwright (Zonal Secretary for Women’s Ministries, Europe) referred to Budapest’s Chain Bridge, a famous landmark on the river Danube. She said that the national contact people were like links in a chain, working together to respond to the evil of trafficking. And as the bridge was illuminated at night, she explained, so the contacts were to be lights in the darkness for victims of trafficking.
To remind them of this, the chair of the anti-trafficking task force, Jeroen Hoogteijling from The Netherlands, handed each person a small light. In a prayer of dedication the national contact people were entrusted into God’s hands as they committed themselves to seek his wisdom and strength for their work.
Report by Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts