Pope Francis attacks exploitation of women, children as he begins Thailand trip
Pope Francis arrived in Thailand yesterday for the first visit here by the head of the Roman Catholic Church since St. John Paul II in 1984. He will speak publicly at two Masses, one of them at a stadium before a projected crowd of 50,000 where he will talk about human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children, both of which are longstanding issues in the region. Refugees are another relevant concern he may tackle.
Pope Francis opened his Nov. 20-23 trip to Thailand Wednesday by denouncing exploitation of women and children, urging a welcoming stance to migrants and promising that the Catholic Church is ready to help build a just and inclusive society. Cruxnow.com reports.
Francis said he thinks of “all those women and children of our time, especially those who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse.”
The pope was speaking during a meeting with local authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the “Inner Santi Maitri” Hall within Bangkok’s Government House.
Forced prostitution, including children, is one of the consequences of Thailand’s sex tourism industry, with thousands of foreigners arriving yearly to pay for sex.
Despite the fact that Thailand is one of the world’s foremost destinations for sexual tourism with minors, prostitution is banned by law. Most of the children abused are foreigners hailing from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who have fallen in with networks that traffic human beings. Even though child prostitution is illegal, enforcement of the law is weak.
If you take a short walk around some areas of Bangkok, you will find pimps directing children to throw themselves at foreigners.
Francis also said that “today, more than ever” societies need “artisans of hospitality,” committed to the integral development of each person, “within a human family committed to dwelling in justice, solidarity and fraternal harmony.”
In this year marking the thirtieth anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and Adolescent, Francis said everyone is called to protect children, their social and intellectual development, access to education and psychological and spiritual growth.
As he has done before, Francis expressed skepticism for a globalization that is “all too often viewed in narrowly economic terms, tending to erase the distinguishing features that shape the beauty and should of our people.”
Instead, the pope said, societies should aspire to a unity that respects diversity, serving as an inspiration for those concerned about the “world we wish to leave to our children.”
After leaving Thailand on Saturday, the pontiff will travel to Japan, before returning to Rome on Tuesday.
In his remarks, Francis said that he wanted to “personally assure” those present of the commitment from the “small but vibrant” Catholic community. Many of the rural Catholic communities include descendants of refugees who fled persecution in Vietnam.
He pointed out, there are just about 400,000 Catholics in the country – and that they should maintain the “distinctive” characteristics of the Thai people: “peaceful and loving, but not cowardly.”