Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, has called human trafficking a criminal activity that is rapidly increasing in the world and that is heaping shame on humanity.
She was speaking at a four-day ecumenical meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, that ended Tuesday, the World Council of Churches said in a statement.
Ezeilo, a law professor from Nigeria who has degrees from London and Uppsala universities, said that not a single country or entity has yet been able to stop human trafficking, and the magnitude of this problem is enormous.
"The responsibility of faith-based organizations in addressing human trafficking, together with governments, U.N. agencies and civil society, is paramount," she said at the meeting.
Titled "Migration and Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery?" the gathering was organized by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia. The event was hosted by the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and drew participants from Africa, Asia, the Arabian Gulf, Australia and Europe.
Ezeilo said that the increasing trend of "human trafficking is adding shame to humanity."
In many parts of the world, she noted, human trafficking is organized by criminal syndicates for organ transplantation and sexual exploitation of women and children.
Bishop Philip Huggins, chair of the Migrant and Refugee Working Group of the Anglican Church of Australia, stressed the urgency of addressing the issue of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis causing immense suffering. Addressing this issue effectively requires unprecedented cooperation between religious leaders, their organizations, along with U.N. agencies and governments," said Huggins.
Bishop Chibuzo Raphael Opoko, of the Methodist Church in Nigeria and a member of the WCC's executive and its main governing body, its central committee, spoke about the situation of child trafficking in Nigeria.
He said that, in Nigeria, human trafficking cases have been reported from hospitals, orphanages and clinics where teenage and single mothers were often forced into illegal bonding agreements.
Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA, said that human trafficking is a phenomenon intimately linked to transnational migration.
The rights and security of migrant workers require special protection as they continue to face blatant human rights violations and exploitation by organized criminal groups.
"Faith-based organizations in many countries are taking leading roles in preventing human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Therefore, there is a considerable scope for developing an ecumenical advocacy to address human trafficking more comprehensively," Chunakara said.
Sophia Wirsching from Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World, Germany) said, "It is necessary to de-link trafficking in human beings from cross-border irregular migration.
"Anti-trafficking engagements should contribute to de-stigmatization and de-criminalization of victims of trafficking in order to improve their legal status and well-being," she said.