ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

The Last Word

Perspectives From the President

Wherever I have traveled in CNEWA’s world, I have witnessed the church confront the scourge of human trafficking, from preventive programs in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe to efforts to heal and restore hope in the Middle East, Northeast Africa and southwestern India.

CNEWA, as it seeks to answer the question put to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29), has long funded the church’s outreach among those vulnerable to exploitation. These include initiatives that raise awareness of this growing social problem as well as programs offering protection and healing to survivors — all in hope that this open wound, on its victims and on society, is not the final word.

This edition of ONE is dedicated to the issue of trafficking in persons and the church’s own role in the war against what Pope Francis has called a “crime against humanity.”

Olivia Poust, a member of ONE’s editorial team, opens with a brief survey of the history of human trafficking and its multiple forms, explains the sociopolitical and economic factors driving trafficking and presents the work of the church to offer healing and hope.

In her letter from the United Nations, Good Shepherd Sister Winifred Doherty, writes about the efforts of Catholic religious and representatives of other nongovernmental organizations in advocating for laws and programs that will contribute to the prevention and elimination of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking disfigures dignity.”

The war in Ukraine has ignited significant concern about an increase in human trafficking. The movement of people — internally displaced persons and refugees who have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, especially women and children — has created a new and very vulnerable population. Claudia Ciobanu traces this tragic story and the efforts of the church in Poland to address and prevent this horrific crime.

In Armenia, the problem grows as men leave to find work in Russia, some of whom are held against their will and prevented from returning. Their wives and children are bereft, left without a husband, father and provider. Some of these mothers have fallen prey to sex trafficking to provide for the basic needs of their children. Gohar Abrahamyan reports on the courageous work of Caritas Armenia and the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who seek to offer women better opportunities while helping to support their children with basic needs.

Civil unrest, socioeconomic instability and natural disasters in Northeast Africa have driven away millions of people in search of a better life, exposing them to human trafficking. Hikma A. Abdulmejid reports on the work of the church, especially Jesuit Refugee Service in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Youth Ministry Office of the Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Through their efforts to warn, educate and prevent trafficking among the young, they work to end trafficking of human beings in its many forms.

Throughout the Middle East, religious women, such as the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, have been at the forefront of efforts to end human trafficking. Good Shepherd Sister Marie Claude Naddaf has worked for decades among women vulnerable to exploitation in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. From Beirut, Arzé Khodr writes about Sister Marie Claude’s work as the coordinator of Wells of Hope, the Middle East office of Talitha Kum, a network of religious sisters dedicated to ending trafficking and caring for survivors. This 5 December, Sister Marie Claude will join us as our guest of honor at CNEWA’s second annual gala dinner. 

Trafficking in human persons is global and to end such a pervasive crime demands a global response from bodies, such as the United Nations, partnered with the persevering single voice of the church. 

The U.N. identifies the eradication of trafficking and exploitation of human persons among the targets of three of the 17 sustainable development goals by the year 2030. To advance such efforts, one must acknowledge the role of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. Among its efforts in advocacy, it hosted a public partnership agreement forged between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Santa Marta Group, which draws together law enforcement, civil society and the Catholic Church to eliminate human trafficking and modern-day slavery. At the event on 15 February, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, noted that “trafficking in persons is a crime and a violation of the victims’ dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

For more than a century, the Catholic Church has raised an unwavering and consistent call for the end to all forms of trafficking, slavery, prostitution, disgraceful working conditions and any factor violating the dignity of all human persons. Lengthy discourses and messages from Popes Leo XIII to John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have echoed the consistent voice of the church.

“Human trafficking disfigures dignity,” said Pope Francis for the Ninth International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking this year. “And the system of trafficking exploits the injustice and inequality that forces millions of people to live in conditions of vulnerability … Unfortunately, trafficking is growing at an alarming rate, affecting, above all, migrants, women and children, young people like yourselves, people full of dreams and the desire to live in dignity.”

You are probably asking yourself, “But what can I do?” How can I partner with CNEWA as an agency of healing and hope? Join us in heartfelt daily prayer! Nothing surpasses the power of prayer. Join us in the dissemination of correct information. Be a regular reader of ONE magazine, which in June received 49 press awards from the Catholic Media Association — the largest number of awards received by the magazine in its 49 years!

Be as generous as your means allow, make every effort to find new donors, and consider joining us on 5 December, as we recognize two heroes dedicated to eradicating trafficking. As noted, our guest of honor will be Sister Marie Claude Naddaf. The recipient of CNEWA’s Faith and Culture Award will be John J. Studzinski, C.B.E., renowned advocate for the victims of trafficking and slavery worldwide. If you wish more information, please visit

Thank you! Be assured of a place in my daily prayers at Mass and always implore our Blessed Mother for her intercession in the protection of the most vulnerable. 

Peter I. Vaccari

President, CNEWA

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