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Catholic Missionary Nun in South Africa Calls for Human Trafficking Education in Schools

Sr. Melanie O'Connor, HF (second from left) and some participants in the workshop for activists from Malawi's Diocese of Mzuzu organized by the Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office

A Catholic Missionary Nun in South Africa is advocating for the introduction of human trafficking education in schools as a key way of combatting the vice.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the eve of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, Sr Melanie O’Connor cautioned against human trafficking education that would frighten learners.

“It’s up to the teachers and to parents to raise awareness about human trafficking, to train children from an early age to do critical thinking without frightening them,” Sr. O’Connor told ACI Africa Monday, February 7.

The member of Holy Family (HF) Sisters who coordinates the Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said her office has a syllabus about human trafficking for schools and catechetical programs in place.

The teaching material are distributed through SACBC’s Catholic Institute of Education (CIE), she added.

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The Irish-born Nun noted that trafficking of young men for forced labor has increased drastically in South Africa, adding that her office uncovered ninety-two Malawians who had been enslaved for two years in a Chinese Factory in Johannesburg.

The trafficked Malawians, the Catholic Nuns said, “were young men, middle aged men and some of them were fairly old, mainly from Eastern and Southern parts of Malawi.”

She observed that although most traffickers have changed their routes, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has made significant strides in the fight against human trafficking.

Thanks to South African law enforcement officials and INTERPOL, a minibus carrying young women from Malawi through Mozambique was recently intercepted overnight, Sr. O’Connor told ACI Africa during the February 7 interview.

She explained, “South African Police officers ordered the minibus to stop and the driver ignored the call. The police fired at the tires and the minibus eventually overturned killing two young ladies from St John’s Parish in northern Malawi, who were promised jobs in South Africa by traffickers.”

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The CTIP Coordinator told ACI Africa that her office has and continues to organize workshops targeting Catholics in the three nations of the SACBC aimed at fostering awareness about human Trafficking.

Plans are underway for a training of three Catholic activists from Botswana, Sr. O’Connor said, adding that the capacity building initiative that is to take place in South Africa “in the coming days” aims at equipping the three beneficiaries with the necessary tools to raise awareness about the scourge of human trafficking through training programs in their respective Parishes.

Marked on February 8, the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking seeks to raise awareness about the scourge of human trafficking and to urge governments and other stakeholders to work decisively to end the disgraceful vice.

In the February 7 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. O’Connor who has been at the helm of CTP since 2008 said the SACBC’s office has planned for Holy Mass on February 8 at St Augustine’s Silverton Parish of the Catholic Archdiocese of Pretoria in memory of victims of human trafficking.