Freeing women who are victims of trafficking and exploitation

The “International Award Father Oreste Benzi. On the side of the least. Year 2020”, has been given ex aequo to Dr. Margaret Archer and Dr. Filippo Diaco.

The reasons for this choice are due to the fact that both these lay persons – although in different settings and roles – based on the documentation received, have implement change within society in response to the urgent need for freeing the victims of trafficking: one did so by opening a shelter for women, including minors, using her money without funding from the British government, the other by focusing attention on the part of Acli [Italian Association of Christian Workers] with regard to welcoming back into society migrant women victims of violence and trafficking.
Father Oreste Benzi was constantly committed also to discouraging demand, because he considered it necessary not just to meet, listen to and welcome the victims, but also to remove the underlying causes of their exploitation by profiteers and clients; this is why we chose to reward Dr. Archer; in 2014, Pope Francis asked her – as Chair of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences – to start an in-depth study of trafficking, especially for sexual purposes, from a neo-abolitionist perspective, involving representatives of international organisations in the sector, police forces, female magistrates, young persons against trafficking and survivors themselves. Filippo Diaco, as provincial Vice president of ACLI in Bologna, on the other hand, is a young lay person deeply interested in educating young generations in this regard, based on the experience of ACLI advisory desks, to awareness-raising activities as well as being committed at social and political level, in an open debate with the city.
Last but not least, with regard to the issue of sexuality experienced in a deviant way and sometimes with elements of addiction on the part of persons involved in trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, the Panel considered it fundamental, through this award, to focus not just on the charitable action, on the commitment to cultural and political change promoted by Father Oreste Benzi, but also on human bonds and family relations. As a matter of fact, male-female relations can be harmonious only if there is awareness of specific gender characteristics, from a perspective of complementarity which the Church – and most notably Father Oreste Benzi – has always had at heart, as mirror of the beauty and generative element in Creation. Finally, it will not be possible to free victims of trafficking unless there is a joint commitment on the part of both men and women of good will.