In a remarkable meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, lay people, Religious sisters and bishops joined police chiefs and diplomats to hear the stories of women trafficked into slavery, and to search for ways in which Church and state in Africa can work together to abolish this crime
The young woman who was talking to us had a small baby in her arms. “The baby I am carrying has no father,” she told us. She had set off from Nigeria for Italy, enticed by promises of work and wealth, but was sold in Libya to her trafficker’s brother as a “housekeeper”. She was raped and became pregnant, but when she tried to return to Nigeria, she was accused of having bought the baby as a passport to get back home.
Another woman described how her aunt had promised her a better life in Europe. “She called my mum and said she wanted to sponsor one of her children. Me! She said she had a school for me, abroad.” She ended up in Italy, where she finally discovered what was to happen. “My auntie told me she had brought me there for prostitution. She introduced me to her friends, who told me how to behave on the streets.”
I heard these moving testimonies last month at a conference in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, that brought police, bishops, Religious sisters and international organisations from across Africa together to address what Pope Francis has denounced as “a crime against humanity”: trafficking and modern slavery.