Our parish prayer vigil against human trafficking last Wednesday evening was a powerful and poignant affair. It was powerful firstly because we had to recognise the sheer scale of the problem – some 30 million people are trafficked annually according to the US State Department figures. The UN adds that 50% of these are women and a further 21% are girls. The ‘industry’ generates $150 billion, of which $100 billion is profit for the traffickers, which makes it the second most lucrative crime in the world after the drug trade. The average purchase ‘price’ for a person, is $91. But the evening was also powerful because of the input not only of experts in the field combatting this evil but also from the personal testimony of some who had been trafficked. Their tenacity, their endurance, their lack of resentment, their gratitude to those finally who had helped them, was humbling. For me it all brought to mind an intense memory I have of St John Paul II delivering his message for the World Day of Prayer for Peace, on 1st January 2005, which was to be his last. With great frailty but accordingly with the greater efficacy he said: “From the beginning, humanity has known the tragedy of evil and has struggled to grasp its roots and to explain its causes. Evil is not some impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world. It is the result of human freedom. Freedom, which distinguishes human beings from every other creature on earth, is ever present at the heart of the drama of evil.” He paused as if to sum up and said “Evil always has a name and a face,” and he paused again as if to elicit responses from his audience – ‘does he mean the devil?’ – ‘is he going to say Satan?’ but he uttered a far more devastating truth, “the name and the face of those men and women who freely choose it.” There is a lot of freely chosen complicity in 30 million people being trafficked, as well as, I’m sure, a lot of coercion. In terms of what we can change rather than what we cannot immediately change in the world, it’s also true to say that our own evil choices, which would certainly include doing nothing about the world’s welfare if that’s what we decided to do, do not make us look like monsters. Judas looked like the other apostles. Stalin and Hitler looked like other men, as do serial murderers too often in the news. Perhaps if we could physically see the effect our evil choices were having upon ourselves and others, we might the sooner seek a conversion of life. But alas, too often we can be content with an accommodation with evil, with a residual stubbornness of will. In today’s Gospel Jesus is warning us precisely about this, that with apparently small steps, we can find ourselves in quite definite jeopardy. Moses, in the First Reading, is quite right. God is offering us a choice: it’s a matter of life or death.

Posted on February 14, 2017 .