“We need to network to end trafficking.”

We had the joy of welcoming to our General House in Rome 3 religious sisters who came to participate in the UISG Advocacy – Forum 2023 (Forum 2023 of the Advocacy Commission of the International Union of Superiors General), held on October 23 and 24. This forum brought together sisters and lay people from various parts of the world, who are working in the international network Talitha Kum (https://www.talithakum.info/es) against human trafficking. Two are Vedruna, Judith Padasas from the Philippines and Gabrielle Muntukwaku from Togo, and Sr. Ana Maria Vilca, from Peru, of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

We spoke with them about their life and work in this important contribution to women’s religious life in the world. We begin with Ana María Vilca:

Can you tell us where you live and work?

I live between Lima and Arequipa, and I have three fundamental pastoral activities, which are the National Coordination of the Kawsay Peru Network, which seeks to promote a society without human trafficking; I accompany trans women, and I am an advisor to the Central de Comedores autogestionarios de Lima Este.

What are your experiences from the coordination service of the Kawsay Network in Peru?

I live a very rich experience of inter-congregational service of great solidarity and joint work, we are like an extended community united by the same mission.

How is the Kawsay Network articulated in the country and in Latin America?

The Kawsay network is a permanent commission of the PRC, made up of 37 Religious Congregations present in the different regions of the country, with monthly coordination meetings. At the Latin American level we are part of the Commission against Trafficking of CLAR, with a sister delegate and we are also part of Talitha Kum of Latin America and the Caribbean.

What steps have you been able to take and what challenges do you face?

We have made great progress in strengthening and positioning the Network, we have a lot of experience in prevention and we work in coordination with other civil society and church institutions. One of the challenges is to include lay associates from our congregations to be part of the network.

From the experience you have had so far, what effects does trafficking have on the lives of the people who suffer from it?

Survivors of trafficking have their lives marked… Re-elaborating their life project is very complicated, it is a process that needs to be undertaken with a lot of compassion and attention.

How did you get into all of this that you are engaged with today?

As an SNJM sister, I am invited to go and serve where life is threatened, to work in the frontier ministries joining forces with others.

Can you tell us about this Talitha Kum meeting?

The meeting was organized by the UISG Advocacy Commission; it was organized as a space to share good practices in leadership and development carried out by the sisters and other institutions.

What do you take back to your reality in Peru and Latin America from this meeting?

This meeting confirms me in what we have been doing: networking, articulated work. There is a saying that “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”. That is the key, to accompany and to let oneself be accompanied… a shared mission. I return to Peru with a lot of hope.

Maria José Meira