Talitha Kum celebrates 15th anniversary

Over 200 Talitha Kum delegates representing member networks located in 90 countries gather in Rome from 18-24 May for Talitha Kum’s 2nd General Assembly which also marks its 15th anniversary of foundation.

May 20, 2024

Talitha Kum member engaging in an awareness raising activity, 2023 (Photo Credit: Talitha Kum)

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Over 200 Talitha Kum delegates representing women and men religious, laity, young people and survivors actively engaged in combating human trafficking will gather for Talitha Kum’s 2nd General Assembly. This Assembly falls as this International Network of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking celebrates the 15th anniversary of its establishment in 2009 under the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). Delegates will gather outside Rome at the Fraterna Domus in Sacrofano  from 18-24 May 2024.

Talitha Kum’s history
Member congregations of UISG have been involved in ministering to the victims of trafficking since 1998. Their first contribution was the production of training materials by a study group formed under the Commission for Justice and Peace. The materials produced were translated into about 11 different languages and were very instrumental in raising awareness about the challenge of human trafficking at that time.

Then in 2001, Superiors General attending the UISG plenary in Rome made a commitment to work together to address the plight of women and children suffering abuse and sexual exploitation. That led to the development of a training program and the establishment of several regional networks in collaboration with what was then known as the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Various sisters and members of the IOM traveled to various parts of the world holding workshops and conscientizing sisters about the challenge of human trafficking in their own country and worldwide.

Later in 2009, the UISG formally established Talitha Kum. Sisters who were being trained in different parts of the world began to gather in a network. In the 26 years since UISG began its involvement in human trafficking, and in the 15 years of Talitha Kum’s existence, many sisters have united their efforts to bring an end to this evil.

Sister Pat Murray, Executive Secretary of the UISG, reflecting on Talitha Kum’s journey says, “We are very proud and pleased in terms of the work that has been achieved, but we know that much more needs to be done to really combat this scourge on the body of humankind.”

Talitha Kum today
True to its founding mission, Talitha Kum still engages at the grassroots level. Sr Abby Avelino, International Coordinator of Talitha Kum explains, “The expression ‘Talitha Kum’ refers to the transformative power of hope, compassion, and mercy, defining the mission of our global umbrella network.”

Member networks engage in a person-and-community-centered approach that helps them draw near the girls and boys, women and men trapped in human trafficking or on the path to healing.

“When we speak of human trafficking,” Sr Abby continues, “we are referring to a complicated, multidimensional reality. Tens of millions of boys and girls, men and women, are victims of human trafficking. The voice of women religious and our collaborators sustains the survivors and helps them to rise and reclaim their human dignity. Talitha Kum’s networks of women religious and our collaborators walk together with survivors along the path of healing as they regain a deep awareness of their inner value as individuals and members of their families and communities.”

Talitha Kum, a network of networks
Talitha Kum International has become a network of networks. It includes national, regional, and continental networks. Talitha Kum’s ability to network continues to develop. It’s 60 networks are present on every continent in 107 countries. Recently, Talitha Kum set up sub-regional hubs, particularly in Asia and Africa, and in 2023, new networks were established in Togo and Puerto Rico.

The Talitha Kum network combines the collaboration of 5,871 active members and collaborators, including 777 congregations of women religious (115 more than 2022), almost 93 congregations of men religious, and 48 interfaith collaborators. This network allowed Talitha Kum to reach a total of 753,392 people in 2023, an increase of 34.4% over 2022.

In addition to its own network members and collaborators, Talitha Kum networks have formed impressive partner  relationships with Catholic organizations, NGOs and governmental and intergovernmental organizations. In 2023, Talitha Kum Networks collaborated with 297 Catholic organizations, 219 NGOs, and 204 governmental and intergovernmental organizations, a cumulative increase of 14.6%.

Sisters Anti-Trafficking Awards
In 2023, the inaugural Sisters Anti-Trafficking Awards, the SATAs were held in London. Sr Mary Barron, UISG President explains, “The SATAs is the annual celebration for three sisters, as representatives of their congregations and networks, who have demonstrated exceptional courage, creativity, collaboration and achievement in the protection of their communities from human trafficking.”

Talitha Kum Youth Ambassadors
The involvement of young people  in the Talitha Kum Youth Ambassadors  of Anti-Trafficking program began in September 2021 in Asia. This program has grown and expanded worldwide, moving to Oceania, Africa, and Latin America. Last year, in Africa alone, 14,800 young people were reached through this program.

As part of their mission to be protagonists among their peers in combatting human trafficking, Youth Ambassadors have participated in the February 8th Marathon of Prayer since 2022. In 2024, they debuted in St Peter’s Square and were acknowledged by the Pope.

Youth Ambassadors were also present at the Talitha Kum booth at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Day after day, young people lined up at the Talitha Kum booth where Youth Ambassadors spoke with them about how to get involved in anti-trafficking efforts. They were also invited to get their hands dirty with paint and add their hand print to a 16 meter banner with the words “No to trafficking” on it. This banner was then given to Pope Francis as a concrete sign of what young people around the world had committed themselves to during World Youth Day.

On January 30, Talitha Kum Youth Ambassadors targeted young people with an invitation to get involved in caring for trafficked persons through its new Walking in Dignity App developed in 2023. The App invites young people to walk together with their peers. As users unlock content through the steps they “donate”, they can also engage in the effort to eliminate human trafficking as they discover how Talitha Kum performs its mission. In addition, steps that App users donate are matched by donors who support Talitha Kum’s mission.

Talitha Kum looks to the future
Talitha Kum International hopes to continue to expand its network to respond to the world’s great needs. In 2024, Talitha Kum looks forward to responding to requests to establish networks in the Pacific Islands, Angola, Congo, Cuba, Malawi, Burundi, and Malaysia.--Vatican News

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