The story of Joy, a victim of trafficking and of Agata who accepted her into her home. – In the Palermo Cathedral a vigil was held for the International day against the trafficking of human beings. Bishop Lorefice: “The concrete report of this woman who has welcomed a young Nigerian woman helps us understand that in the middle of the clamorous bad there is also the silent good.”

PALERMO – “I understood that beyond meanness good people also existed.” With these words a young Nigerian woman named Joy, during the vigil at the Palermo cathedral for the international day against the trafficking of human beings, recounted how she came to escape the tunnel of those who kept her in slavery and sold her body on the street. It followed the testimony of Agata, the woman who had the courage, thanks to an anti-trafficking support network to take her by the hand and welcome her into her home. “This is the fourth year that we gather to pray and reflect on this sad reality” – said Pauline Sister Fernanda Di Monte, a journalist who was amongst the organisers of the event. “Pope Francis chose this day in memory of Saint Bakhita, the Sudanese nun that was a victim of trafficking from childhood. Tonight we direct our prayers to migrants in a world heading towards rapid globalisation. The battle against human trafficking will be effective only if we understand its connection with the different migration flows and the continually evolving political and international social context in which they are situated.”

“I arrived in Italy five years ago hoping to find work like they had told me I would” – recounts Joy. “But they deceived me. In my country life was difficult and so my dream was to have a different future. When I was in Libya I saw many young women just like me raped and many others die. I thought that sooner or later it would be my turn but thanks to God it was not. If I am here speaking with you all it is only a great gift, it is because God gave me the strength to save myself from those who wanted to hurt me and not because I am better or more right than my less fortunate companions. Today I have a sister and a mother who takes care of me and this gives me so much joy. It does not matter where you come from, the most important thing is the heart and spirit with which you try to improve your life and the lives of others.”
“Being a musician, in the beginning I was asked to welcome Joy by putting her into the gospel choir I’m part of because she wanted to sing” recounts a very emotional Agata. “Then with time I understood that she was pursuing a delicate path of escape from an ugly situation and she had many different needs. When I decided to welcome her into my home, many people tried to dissuade me from my choice. Despite anyone who thought I was crazy, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. Today a year has passed with Joy who I have accepted like a daughter. I now understand how beautiful it is to be a mother because it is a wonderful experience.”

“The phenomena of trafficking migrants and of human trafficking continue to survive and we confuse one with the other” said a woman engaged on the theme of immigration as she read a testimony. “Often a path started as irregular immigration then actually transforms into exploitation and subjugation, once the person has arrived in the destination country and their vulnerability causes them to fall into circles of subjugation.”

During the vigil, in which many religious figures and lay people participated, significant symbols of migrants’ travels were taken to the altar: a paper boat, two life jackets and some coconuts. The vigil was presided by the archbishop don Corrado Lorefice with the participation of Ahmad Francesco Macaluso who is responsible for the Sicilian Muslim community.

“The more we forget the word ‘neighbour’ and remain self-centred – and unfortunately the recent events demonstrate this,” forcefully affirmed the archbishop don Corrado Lorefi, “the more we lose the most profound and essential sense of existence which is the authentic relationship with the other. The face of another should always call on us on our journey of love and full reception. Let us ask ourselves how capable we are today of being neighbours to our brothers. The concrete report of this woman who has welcomed a young Nigerian woman helps us understand that in the middle of the clamorous bad there is also the silent good that needs to have the right conditions to emerge and swim against the tide. And it needs to be recounted so that others can take it as a model for themselves. Of course we should also think of the reality that we can always do more to help victims of torture and I trust and am convinced that in our city something will soon be realised. Naturally I think that everyone in their small way should strive to do their part demonstrating, like we have seen tonight, actions and life choices that are significant and worthy of a true Christian path.”

Translated by Meg McLellan