Ring of Fire: January 2006, Casa Loreto Rome

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ImageRome: Working at Ponte Galeria Rome to Combat the Trafficking of Women.

 

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Arising out of a JPIC working group, I go every Saturday to visit a Detention Centre which
is about an hour from the centre of
Rome, near Fiumicino Airport. Here at Ponte Galeria, the women’s block houses up to 188 detainees, who are held for up to 60 days because they
have been found without proper documentation. Many of these women were brought to
Italy,
or came under false pretences and are victims of deceit and false promises.  Instead of finding the work they imagined, they often end up on the streets in prostitution, suffering mental, spiritual and psychological damage which often marks them permanently.

Under Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, a Consolata sister, fourteen sisters speaking many different languages are organized to go each week to visit the centre, to offer help and to pray with
those who wish.  In various meeting rooms, you can hear Nigerians, Romanians, Albanians, Ukrainians, Latin Americans, Chinese, Bulgarians and many others who pass through,
singing and praying.  By the end of the evening, we hardly know who we are ourselves, or
what is our native tongue!

There are parties and festivities at every opportunity, in order to lighten the lives of these
women and to give them a ray of hope.  Gifts are given, raffle tickets distributed, food and
drink provided.  The Red Cross (Red Crystal) officers are always happy to welcome us and
they hold in high regard the work begun by Sister Eugenia. They often invite the Captain of other Detention Centres to come and see how well the system works in Ponte Galeria.

Those of us who visit the Detention Centre regularly attend workshops to help us deepen
our understanding of the problems and to enlighten us on the intricacies of Italian law.
One of the most recent seminars was offered by the Embassy of the
United States to the
Holy See.  The guest speaker was Ambassador John. R. Miller, Director of the Office to
Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Presentations were made by various experts,
with great passion and in a very Christ-like manner.

The speakers came from many prestigious settings, each one trying to work under the limitations of Italian law.  There was a magistrate of the Italian Supreme Court,
Counsellor Brattoli; an international Peace and Caritas worker; Sebastien Dechamps;
a member of the Experts Group on Trafficking of the E.U. Commission, Isabella Orfano
and Senator Enrico Pianetta, an elected member of the Italian Senate with Forza Italiana Government coalition. 

Recently another seminar, held in the Jesuit Centre near the Gesù, dealt with the Detention
of Migrants in
Italy from the legal, psychological and social points of view.  This was chaired
by Fr. Giovanni la Manna S.J. who visits the men’s block in Ponte Galeria Detention Centre.  Fr. Giovanni also attended a Reflection Day
organized by Sr. Eugenia in a Retreat Centre, where we tried to find God in our work and to plan for the future.

Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge the support given by my community in Casa Loreto as I undertake this particular ministry.  It is life-giving for me to be involved and to be
part of a team working for the dignity and the freedom of these women.  I appreciate the encouragement given and the time to attend seminars and reflection days.

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Finally I also must mention how inspired I am by the response of Italian religious to the
migrant population in
Italy.  There are more than 250 sisters throughout Italy and more
than 100 communities working with Caritas Italia. They share their own accommodation
and their services providing “Safe Houses” for women who accept the conditions laid
down for remaining in
Italy. This means that they must denounce the traffickers who have smuggled them into Italy. The sisters accompany the women through a rehabilitation programme, supporting them through their many successes and failures until skills are acquired, a job procured and a permanent visa is given by the Government.  5,000 women
have already been helped to integrate in this way into Italian society since 1998.  This is
surely a wonderful sign – a witness to the compassion and the love of the Father and of
Christ living in the hearts of all, bringing each one to the fullness of life.

 

Check some of the following web sites which give helpful information about human trafficking:

http://homepage.mac.com/srjeanschafersds/stoptraffic/

http://www.antislavery.org/archive/other/trafficking-program.htm

http://www.humantrafficking.org/