We are expecting to see a sharp increase in trafficking of women forced to be prostituted for the Soccer World Championships, which will be held in South Africa in 2010, Fr. Chris Townsend, spokesman of the SACBC (Bishop's Conference of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland), told Agenzia Fides in a recent conversation.
South Africa has become a sort of hub for trafficking in human persons, says Fr. Townsend. Criminal organizations throughout the world, from Nigeria, Italy, Lebanon, China, all send thousands of women to be used as prostitutes in our country, while others are sent from South Africa to Europe and the Persian Gulf, for the same purpose. The arrival of thousands of tourists and fans for the World Cup has become a great source of encouragement for various organizations that carry out prostitution and trafficking in human persons. Thousands of women from all over the world are arriving - not only from other African nations, but from Asian and European nations as well.
The Catholic Church, along with other Christians communities and various non-governmental organizations, has started an awareness campaign for the people, so they can recognize and help the victims of trafficking. The campaign is mainly in the parishes: we teach the people to be on the lookout and to indicate the presence of women that may be forced into prostitution. They know full well that there are women who prostitute themselves out of their own free will. It is difficult to intervene in their case, and convince them to get off the street.
But there are thousands of women, however, who are forced into prostitution, by lies, threats against themselves and their families left behind in their countries of origin. Oftentimes, these women have no identification documents, have a hard time speaking English, and are afraid to contact authorities. With these people, the Catholic volunteers try to establish dialogue and help them to emerge from the nightmare that they have been thrown into by criminals. Our first task is opening our doors to these people, the SACBC spokesman says. The campaign against trafficking is being led by the Counter Trafficking in Persons Desk (CTIP), a project started by the SACBC, and the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCL) of South Africa, inspired by 6 religious congregations of sisters who have their general headquarters in South Africa.
The program for helping traffic victims is the most important aspect of the Catholic community's response to the FIFA (International Soccer Federation, which is organizing the World Cup) appeal to find at least 50,000 volunteers for the World Cup. The appeal has been widely accepted by South Africans, so much so that the number of aspiring volunteers is double the number required. To offer further information on the Church's activity surrounding the World Cup, the SACBC has launched a website: 2010 World Cup: Church in the Ball! - http://www.ChurchOntheBall.com.
The Catholic volunteers wish to offer a spiritual and cultural support to the fans. In between the matches, there is so much to discover in our country and on the Christian presence. We hope the fans will not only think about going to the stadium to drinking and entertainment, but that they will also open their eyes to the reality of South Africa, Fr. Townsend concluded.