Women, my sisters
I belong to an inter-congregational group of 15 religious of different nationalities. Our common mission is to accompany women who are in Temporary Detention Centres. We go there once a week. Each of us meets with a group of women, according to their maternal language or language of communication. Like ourselves they come from all parts of the world and have found themselves in these Detention Centres because their identity papers are not in order or are considered clandestine.
Many of these women have already spent time in prison, having been found guilty of diverse offences, such as stealing or drug trafficking. Regarding the latter they may have been involved voluntarily or may have been the victims of manipulation or lies on the part of the drug barons. However the majority are the victims of the trafficking of women for prostitution. Victims of poverty, they are attracted by the promise of finding remunerative work and earning money to raise the standard of living for their families who are submerged in misery. They also want to fund education possibilities for their children. These latter live in nightmare conditions under the yoke of pimps and prostitution networks. On leaving their respective countries the women have their passports confiscated and so they are left without legal documents. The police pick them up from the streets (of Rome) and bring them to the Detention Centres until the Immigration Services decide their fate. This process takes about two months.
Each week, in my group, I meet women of different nationalities but who speak a common language. I go to meet them simply because I see them as sisters who are wounded by the injustices of today’s society and who, on their journey through life, have encountered criminals without pity, who wish only to dominate the world by the power of money. I wish to draw close to them, to welcome them, to listen to their stories with great respect, and offer them comfort. Together we can share on certain topics and there is also a space and time for personal sharing. I am always touched by their simplicity, their openness and trust, and I feel my own littleness in face of their situation. We also have a space in which to meet God in his Word. Even though the women are from various religious confessions they participate in this time of prayer and sharing on the Word of God with great mutual respect.
They are wounded women, victims of so many injustices and their dignity and human rights are scoffed. They arrive at the Centre discouraged about their future but little by little the silence and solitude of the environment and their weekly meetings enable them to re-read their harsh experiences and discover there a tiny sign of God. (We do not have activities except some sporting events for a few) However small these signs of God are for them, a new hope returns with another vision of life, and they desire to let-go of the past and look towards the future. By the end of their first month at the Centre I am able to help them take their lives in hand and plan for their future. One of the fantastic results of their reflection together is that these women invariably want to warn other women, especially younger ones, so that they do not fall into a similar trap. They risk this, in spite of the fact that their own lives are always in danger because the networks to which they belong do not wish to lose their pray. All of this shows the necessity of having Safe Centres in their own countries for their protection, and we therefore encourage religious congregations to mobilise their efforts to rescue these women from danger.
Each evening when I return home from the Detention Centre I feel as if I have spent the day in a profound encounter with God. These women challenge and evangelise me through their suffering, their faith in life, their conviction that with God all things are possible and that we must always hope against hope. I am very grateful that they have crossed my path in life, because I have been enriched by them and they have taught me to enlarge the space of my heart and my life.
There is still Maria, Jeanne, Claudia, Anita… so many of my sisters who, in the silence of the night, suffer the shame of being trafficked and forced to sell their bodies in order to cram the pockets of their merciless tyrants. I pray that the Lord will come to their aid, for nothing is impossible with him. I pray also for the tyrants whose craving for money has turned their hearts of flesh into hearts of stone, so that one day the light of the death and resurrection of Christ may find a place in their hearts.