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UN Taps African Religious Leaders in Fight Against Human Trafficking


The United Nations is seeking to enlist religious groups in Africa in the war against human trafficking. The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime announced the initiative during a visit to South Africa. Southern Africa Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

The head of the U.N. office on drugs and crime, Antonio Maria Costa, says faith-based groups have a major role to play at various levels of human trafficking.

"Religious-based organizations can play a very active role in increasing awareness, in making sure that individuals who offer themselves and eventually become victims of trafficking are alerted about the severity of the tragedy they may face," he said.

He said faith-based groups also have the power to pressure governments to strengthen efforts against human trafficking and enforce the laws against it.

Finally, he said religious groups can help persuade those who engage in human trafficking or exploit its victims that they are involved in what he called an evil trade.

He called the meeting positive and noted that religion can be a powerful motivator against evil in human beings.

"We may organize a very major inter-faith forum so we can launch a very strong message about the severity of the problem and the importance of religious leaders and religious-based organizations to do something about it," he added.

The archbishop of Capetown is seeking to organize a gathering of religious leaders from around the world in anticipation of an international conference in Austria later this year. The conference is to produce a plan of action and a special fund to fight human trafficking.

The United Nations says millions of people in more than 120 countries are victims of human trafficking and their bondage produces an estimated $32 billion per year for their exploiters.

During his visit, Maria Costa also discussed with South African officials ways to strengthen the fight against illegal drug trafficking and consumption. He said these have increased in Africa in recent years, in part, because of successful campaigns against them in wealthier nations.

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