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10 December 2018

Canadian Bishops Represented by SNJM Sister at the Forum on Migrants and Refugees held in Rome

Official Delegate of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Sr. Claudette Bastien SNJM, provided concrete examples of the work against human trafficking done by Canadian organizations. The meeting of the Dicastery for the Department of Integral Human Development: the section regarding Migrants & Refugees, held in Rome last July, brought together approximately fifty people.

The entire group of participants at the international meeting held in Rome last July.

Work done by Canadian organizations such as CATHII (Action Committee Against Internal and International Human Trafficking) generated a lot of interest among the participants.  Sr. Claudette Bastien’s practical presentation was especially appreciated since almost all other presentations were more oriented towards ethics, morals and spirituality.

Coincidently, the only other presentation along the same lines, was given by Sr. Colleen Jackons, RSC. A member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans). The latter also represented the Bishops of her country, Australia. It should be noted that of the 29 invited guests mostly Bishops and Brothers, there were four women, including two Religious.

The four women in the foreground, include two Religious representing the Bishops of Australia and Canada among the 29 invited guests (Bishops and Brothers).

An odious problem

The seven-minute presentations allowed enough time to focus on the current intolerable global phenomenon and to provide material for reflection as advance preparation for the writing of a document providing directives to the Catholic Church and to civil society.

This document, due in September 2018, should contain new directives and recommendations to address the challenges of migrants and refugees as well as challenges regarding human trafficking. “The goal is to improve civil laws, train judges and police officers and continue to raise public awareness of this issue, which affects all of our communities, including our own in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and many other smaller cities.” –  Claudette Bastien, SNJM.

Some significant meetings

Following her participation last year at the Talitha Kum (an international network against human trafficking) meeting, Sr. Claudette’s presence at this forum, convened by Pope Francis, has proven to be a rewarding experience in more ways than one. “In addition to the content of the presentations, it was interesting to make connections between the realities of each country and to identify the sources of the problems. It was particularly fascinating to note the similarities of information presented by the ACRATH organization in Australia, and CATHII in Quebec.”

Sr. Claudette Bastien with Pope Francis at the special celebration to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the sinking of a refugee ship near the island of Lampedusa.

“I was particularly moved by the sharing of a Congolese refugee, a former customs officer who fled from his country and had to leave his son behind.”  It seems unbelievable that this man was caught, deported to several countries and tortured before finally settling in a European country.  “This testimony and that of many others reveals so much human suffering which is hidden under the expression migrants and refugees”, rightly recalls this Sister, a long-time member of the Justice and Peace Committee of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).

Sr. Claudette has another good reason for remembering her trip to Rome in July, 2018.  She actually shook Pope Francis’ hand during a special celebration in commemoration of the sinking of a refugee ship, five years earlier, near the Italian island of Lampedusa.  Some 200 people, many of whom were affected by the tragedy, attended the celebration.  This once again demonstrated the Pope’s sensitivity to this current, burning issue.

In conclusion, let us highlight that the Canadian Council of Bishops had asked CATHII (Action committee against Internal and international Human Trafficking) to send someone to represent them at the Dicastery. The Canadian bishops considered this organization the best suited to offer a significant contribution to the debate.  Thus, CATHII designated Sr. Claudette Bastien SNJM, one of the founders of this organization, as the official representative.

To learn more about the Migrants and Refugees section of the Dicastery, visit the website: https://migrants-refugees.va/

Source: SNJM Sisters, www.snjm.org.