Bishops in Southern Africa Commit to Combat Human Trafficking


Bishops from nine countries in Southern Africa have, under their umbrella body of the Inter-regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), expressed their commitment to fighting human trafficking in the region.

In a statement issued at the end of the Regional Conference to combat Human Trafficking at the Arrupe Jesuit University in Harare, Zimbabwe on March 18, the Prelates belonging to IMBISA have reiterated the Church’s role “to embrace all people and this is especially true of the little ones who are victims and survivors of human trafficking.”

“We recall the words of the prophet Hosea (4:6) speaking of the people of God who perish for lack of knowledge. For this reason, the Bishops of IMBISA have committed themselves to work harder in the dissemination of information on the protection of minors and vulnerable people,” reads part of the statement issued Thursday, March 19.

Terming efforts to combat human trafficking part of the protection of vulnerable persons, the Church leaders have, in their collective the two-page statement, underscored the need to sensitize the people of God in their region on trade involving human persons. 

“Members of the Church need to be informed on the scourge of human trafficking,” the Catholic leaders in the nine countries of IMBISA have noted. 


“The pain of trafficked persons is not only felt in the period when they are enslaved by their captors,” the Bishops from Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have reflected in their collective statement signed by the Director of IMBISA Secretariat, Fr. Dumisani Vilakati.

They have added, “On occasion they are also rejected by their own relatives and communities once they escape from human traffickers.”

They have further acknowledged that “the emotional and psychological scars may remain for a long time as they are sometimes also failed by law enforcement agencies.”

These reflections on human trafficking come almost a year since the Vatican conference on implementation of the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking was convened. At the April 2019 conference, Pope Francis termed trafficking in human persons “a crime of the commercialization of the other."

The one-day IMBISA conference organized by the African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching (AFCAST) brought together various actors in the area of human trafficking including the governments of Zimbabwe and the United States, human trafficking survivors, faith bodies including Muslims, and members of civil society.

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In her opening remarks during the conference, one of AFCAST founders, Sr. Janice McLaughlin, a Maryknoll Sister reflected on the life of St. Patrick who was enslaved in Ireland but later served there as a missionary.

“There is still hope for many people who had been trafficked or sold into slavery to lead a good and productive life and thus contributing positively to society,” Sr. Janice said referencing the inspiration from St. Patrick whose feast day is March 17.

The conference aimed to raise awareness on the evils of human trafficking, a crime that is rampant in the Southern African region. According to a 2019 report by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, of the 3.5 million Africans being trafficked at any given time, 62 percent of them are trafficked in the Southern Africa region.