By Maria Corazon Abilay / Jasdynne Espiritu
NAGA CITY - In celebration of the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Caceres Office for Women and Children in Crisis (COWCC) celebrated the 4th International Day of Prayer and Awareness on Human Trafficking and Campaign to End Violence against Women and Children last February 8, Thursday. Themed “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute”, the said activity was held at the Good Shepherd Chapel, Holy Rosary Major Seminary and was participated in by various religious congregations, organizations, civic groups, seminarians, and representatives from some parishes.
At the Seminar, Sr. Lourdes Ranara of the Daughters of St. Paul introduced St. Josephine Bakhita, Patroness of the victims of human trafficking. St. Josephine Bakhita was beatified on May 17, 1992 and was canonized on October 1, 2000 by Pope Saint John Paul II.
For the first talk, COWCC Secretary Mrs. Tessa Santiago-Rey discussed Human Trafficking - the trade of humans for the purpose of child exploitation, modern slavery and/or prostitution. It affects every individual across the world. She also spoke about how it is done, why it exists and what can be done to [possibly] end this.
The second talk, The Joy of Serving Women, was given by Sr. Heart Calado of the Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries. She shared her experiences of rescuing women who were forced to engage in sex trade or prostitution. Most of these women were victims of Human Trafficking promised with decent and high paying jobs in the Metro but ended up as prostitutes and victims of abuse.
Finally, the activity was capped with a mass presided by Fr. Gerome Pelagio, who in his homily emphasized that the only way to end Human Trafficking is to teach victims to speak up against injustice. “We must push for the culture of equality between men and women as all of us are made in the image and likeness of God”, Pelagio also said. Post-homily, Cortez led the send-off rite of the new COWCC volunteers. Fr. Xavier Amoroso, former COWCC Chairperson, co-celebrated the said mass.