Venue: The Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Rome (Vatican City State), Italy
Date: 17th – 19th May 2022
Prepared by: Mutuku Nguli, Vice Chair, SMG-A
The Santa Marta Group is an alliance of International police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society in a process endorsed by Pope Francis, to eradicate human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The Pope describes trafficking as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society”.
The Group is led by His Excellency Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
It was named after the Papal residence where the participants from the Vatican Conference stayed in April 2014 and resulted in a signed ‘Declaration of Commitment’ by all the Chiefs of Police present to work together on the International stage to develop strategies in prevention, pastoral care and the re-integration.
The objective of the Group is to combine the resources of the Church with those of Law Enforcement Agencies to prevent trafficking and modern-day slavery, provide pastoral care to victims and assist them with re-integration in the host community for safe return.
The 2022 Santa Marta Group International Conference took place May 17-19 May at the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences at the Vatican. The conference brought together a global audience of Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, the Religious, Security experts (police chiefs, investigators, Judicial Officers and Non-Governmental Organizations.
The conference convenor, His Grace, Cardinal Vincent Nichols had initially targeted a large global audience but due to the Covid-19 changing environment, the numbers were reduced to a bare minimum in order to be accommodated at one location inside the Vatican.
In that respect therefore, Santa Marta Group Africa convenor, Fr Mark Odion in consultation with the SMG Director, Dr David Ryall provided for one slot for the SMG-A group. Mr. Francis Mutuku Nguli, the Vice Chair was nominated to present a paper in respect of the work done in Africa. Besides, one Arch-Bishop, a Bishop and two Congregational leaders (Nuns) from Nigeria were also in attendance. Lady Justice Roselyn Naliaka Nambuye from the Court of Appeal in Kenya was also invited to provide an insight on the Rule of Law and Protecting the Vulnerable.
Looking into the future with lessons learnt: The Papal reflection
According to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, since the Santa Marta Group was established in 2014, it has “devoted itself to fostering an ever-greater understanding of the scope and nature of human trafficking and to strengthening cooperation on the international, national and local levels so that effective ways to end this scourge may be found and that its victims may receive needed care, both physically and spiritually,” the pope said.
“Sadly, modern forms of slavery continues to spread,” even in wealthier nations, he said.
The Pope said he hoped the fight against human trafficking would expand its scope and include promoting “the responsible use of technology and social media, as well as the need for a renewed ethical vision of our political, economic and social life, one centered not on profit but on persons.”
The global conference focused on exploring “what works, what doesn’t work and how the Santa Marta Group can make good on its initial promise to bring decision-makers together from around the world to share their experiences and initiatives, learn from each other and find solutions to human trafficking.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England and the President of the Santa Marta Group explained that the aim of the conference was “to refocus and re-energize activities in light of a worsening situation across the world caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and continuing conflict and instability in many regions,” he said, and to create an “action plan that will help to guide local and regional activity” and “the way forward for Santa Marta Group over the coming year.” The action plan includes efforts for prevention, education, listening to victims and strengthening collaboration between the church and civil society.
The cardinal said attention must be on healing the wounds of victims and defending their dignity.
During the conference, Fr Mark Odion, Coordinator SMG-Africa Region and Mr. Mutuku Nguli, SMG-Africa Vice Chair presented a paper titled; “A review of the African Church Context in Combating Human Trafficking.” Another African representative from Kenya, Lady Justice Roselyn Nambuye (Court of Appeal) presented a paper on the “Rule of Law and Protecting the Vulnerable.”
Group photo: SMG global conference at the Vatican city, Rome Italy.
Mr. Mutuku Nguli presenting at the conference.