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‘Courageous’ women religious are crucial in fight against human trafficking, says Cardinal Nichols

Cardinal Nichols to attend a UN conference on human trafficking (CNS)

Women religious working closely with police have made “all the difference” in the global fight against human trafficking, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said.

The cardinal was speaking ahead of a conference on human trafficking at the United Nations, in New York.

The Archbishop of Westminster is expected to participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, alongside UN secretary-general Ban-Ki Moon, Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first independent anti-slavery commissioner, and American actress Mira Sorvino, a UN goodwill ambassador for the global fight against human trafficking. Sorvino, a devout Christian, was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the 2005 film, Human Trafficking.

“Religious women all over the world, including in London, are tremendously forthright and courageous in getting alongside women who have been trafficked, especially but not exclusively, into prostitution,” Cardinal Nichols said.

Sister Imelda Poole will also attend the UN conference in order to “stress the role of religious women in working against trafficking”, the cardinal added.

Cardinal Nichols is in America all week promoting the work of the Santa Marta group, which was founded by Pope Francis in 2014 to strengthen and coordinate the global response to human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery. The group is named after the Pope’s home in the Vatican.

Pope Francis has described trafficking as “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society”. He highlighted the fight against the evils of human trafficking and modern slavery in his address to the UN General Assembly last September.

Today Cardinal Nichols will take part in meetings in Washington DC with the Department of Homeland Security and with senior officials of the State Department. He will also visit the McCain Institute, a charity run by Cindy and former presidential candidate Senator John McCain, which has a major programme on human trafficking and is keen to engage with the Santa Marta Group.

Tomorrow he will attend a meeting with Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is steering through the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act.

The Santa Marta Group is an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery. It aims to raise awareness about the nature and scale of slavery, and to develop trusting relationships amongst law enforcement agencies, the Church and civil society across the world.

The patron saint of the Santa Marta Group is St Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), who was kidnapped at the age of nine and sold into slavery.