Protecting the Vulnerable – Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani, center, poses with U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, after Sister Bottani was honored as one of the U.S. State Department's "heroes" in combatting human trafficking. CNS photo/courtesy Congressman Smith's office
Protecting the Vulnerable – Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani, center, poses with U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, after Sister Bottani was honored as one of the U.S. State Department's "heroes" in combatting human trafficking. CNS photo/courtesy Congressman Smith's office

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – Honored as one of the U.S. State Department's "heroes" in combatting human trafficking, Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani urged action to fight the situations that make people, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking.

Sister Bottani, international coordinator of the Talitha Kum anti-trafficking network of Catholic women's and men's religious orders, was honored June 20 as one of the State Department's 2019 TIP Report Heroes.  The organization gets its name from an expression in the Gospel of Mark, which translates from Aramaic to mean: "Young girl, I say to you, arise.”

Speaking at an event that included the release of the State Department's annual report on trafficking in persons, Sister Bottani identified three "causes and vulnerabilities that contribute to human trafficking":

– "Unequal power structures in our societies, especially regarding women, children and indigenous people.

– "Inadequate migration polices in an increasingly interconnected world.

– "An economic model that exploits human beings and environmental resources for the profit of a few in contrast with the exploitation of the many."

The author of America’s landmark human trafficking law, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), called the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report released today by the State Department “honest, tough, comprehensive — a game-changer.”

Each year, pursuant to Smith’s law — the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-386) — the State Department assesses every country’s record on sex and labor trafficking, and focuses on prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, and prosecution of traffickers.

“In the dark world of human trafficking women and girls are reduced to mere commodities for sale,” said Cong. Smith, who is a resident of Hamilton and a member of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Hamilton Square. “Their lives are ruined often through repeated sexual exploitation and violence, forced by intimidation and threats of traffickers. Childhoods are swept away in trauma that lasts a lifetime. Human trafficking is a travesty in a modern world. We hope that the TIP report released today gives the hope of freedom for victims and justice to traffickers.”

Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, nominated Sister Bottani for the award and spoke at the ceremony, saying the Comboni sister deserved to be among the heroes who are "recognized for their tireless efforts -- despite resistance, opposition and even threats to their lives -- to protect victims, punish offenders and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad."

Talitha Kum, she said, involves thousands of Catholic women religious "working on the frontlines to end human trafficking" in 77 countries.

The 10-year-old network, Gingrich said, has helped rescue victims and has "reached thousands of people through anti-trafficking awareness campaigns."

To learn more about Talitha Kum, go to https://www.talithakum.info/