South African Catholics Combat Sex Industry

Interview With Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier

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By Mariaelena Finessi



DURBAN, South Africa, MAY 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In 36 days, the 2010 FIFA World Cup will begin in Johannesburg, South Africa. As Church and civil leaders prepare for the event, human trafficking is a top concern.

ZENIT spoke with the archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, about the Church's initiatives to fight human trafficking, which generally increases at major sporting events.

Several hundred thousand soccer fans are expected to arrive for the June 11-July 11 World Cup, and child and human rights organizations have warned that human trafficking could worsen. They warn that with the influx of tourists and soccer fans, there is an increased demand for sexual services, motivating trafficking rings to smuggle adults and children into the country from Asia, Eastern Europe and other parts of Africa.

The Church has been at the forefront of the preparation for this sporting event and the prevention of human trafficking. Catholic leaders in South Africa sponsored the creation of a "Church on the Ball" Web site with various initiatives for the World Cup.

In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Napier speaks more extensively on these initiatives, and the action of the Church at the service of human rights.

ZENIT: Your Eminence, what is your view on the risk that the World Cup could increase child prostitution?

Cardinal Napier: Already there are signs that the human trafficking rings, cartels, or mafias have swung into action.

There are increasing reports of missing children, increasing instances of youth and young adults becoming entrapped in job opportunities "too good to resist."

ZENIT: Are there specific activities that the Church would like to promote to respond to these issues?

Cardinal Napier: We are doing a lot of awareness and information distribution, using [stories of] actual cases where applicable.

We are engaging schools but also Catholic women's organizations to spread the news of trafficking far and wide.

To its credit, the government is also doing a great deal and is open to working with non-governmental organizations.

ZENIT: Is the Catholic Church the only one to intervene?

Cardinal Napier: Other Churches and Christian denominations, as well as people of other faiths are getting more involved.

For example: the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the KwaZulu Interreligious Council, and the National Religious Leaders' Forum.

ZENIT: The true spotlight of the anxiety is over increased HIV transmission due to the increased demand for sex workers. And this week, Britain stated that it would give 42 million condoms to South Africa after a request of the country's leaders, which has established an HIV prevention program specifically for the World Cup. What is your point of view on this?

Cardinal Napier: The government of Jacob Zuma never ceases to amaze me!

Here we are, within weeks of a highly publicized anti-HIV/AIDS campaign, which has set its target at having 15 million people counseled and tested to verify their HIV status, and the next thing you know, the same government is accepting, or it is "requesting and accepting" 42 million condoms from Britain.

It boggles the mind!

If the condoms are for the World Cup and only 250,000 to 300,000 football fans are expected to attend, and obviously not all of them are promiscuous profligates, who are the condoms really destined for?

Isn't it another example of the decadent West willingly purveying its merchandise of decadence to the fast-catching-up decadent emerging elite?

ZENIT: Regarding the debate over the context and legality of a sex industry: The "experts" say that the only way to prevent the human trafficking is to decriminalize prostitution and promulgate anti-trafficking laws. In your opinion, what could be done?

Cardinal Napier: This is like saying: "The only way to cure alcoholism is to give free drinks to all alcoholics."

It doesn't make sense to remove even the tenuous legal restraints to wholesale trafficking in girls and young women.

Anti-trafficking laws will in any case have to be directed against the same people -- those who enslave the trafficked individuals and those for whose benefit they have been trafficked, namely the men who use prostitutes

ZENIT: A final question: What about the special prayer for the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

Cardinal Napier: The prayer as well as other means of spiritual care that the churches will be making available during the World Cup are being put together at different levels: bishops' conference, diocesan and parish levels.

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On the Net:

Church on the Ball: http://www.churchontheball.com/