An Interview with Father Mark Odion

by Gordon Nary


Gordon: Why did you join the Missionary Society of St. Paul?


Father Mark: I joined the Missionary Society of St Paul to serve God and humanity by making known the gospel message of God’s love and care for all people.


Gordon: What initially interested you in the challenges of Human Trafficking?


Father Mark: The crime of Human Trafficking is an activity that degrades human dignity. I feel touched by the deplorable condition that the victims of Human Trafficking experienced. Some are abused sexually, some are used as domestic workers, some work as labourers with little or no pay. Seeing the disgraceful situation that our sisters and brothers who are trafficked go through, it makes me want to help them to fight for their freedom. The victims of Human Trafficking are enslaved, their dignity and freedom abused, and human beings are been commodified. These deplorable state of our sisters and brothers challenge me to find ways of bringing the gospel of freedom to these enslaved children of God.


Gordon: How has the Missionary Society of St. Paul addressed Human Trafficking?


Father Mark: The Missionary Society of St. Paul is addressing the issue of Human Trafficking through education. Many of the victims of Human Trafficking are mostly youth who are not educated or are dropped out from schools. Though the major reasons for the youth not able to continue their education are finance, the Missionary Society of St Paul is able to support youth by establishing schools, providing scholarships, assist young people in securing jobs, awareness raising of the evil of Human Trafficking. In the course of the formation of our seminarians, they are sent for pastoral placement during the summer. Many of the seminarians in the during the pastoral placement engage in youth ministry. One of the vital elements during their encounter with the youth is educate the youth of the danger of Human Trafficking.


Gordon: What are the major challenges of Human Trafficking in England and how has the government addressed them?


Father Mark: Human Trafficking is a hidden crime, and it poses a lot of challenges to many countries around the globe. In England, many victims of Human Trafficking are afraid to come forward to report their perpetrators. Also, the victims of the crime are often ashamed to be identified with such a horrible experience in their life. They do not want to retell their story because it may hurt them. Even though the government is making effort to see how the victims can be supported by creating the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), there are still much left undone.


Gordon: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on Human Trafficking?


Father Mark: The experience of Covid-19 pandemic influenced or impacted the expansion of the criminality involved in the crime of Human Trafficking. Despite the lockdown around the world emanating from the pandemic, the criminals embroiled in the activities of Human Trafficking capitalized on the situation of the pandemic to traffic their victim through irregular route and porous borders. In some countries, the Covid-19 pandemic has helped to reduce the activities of Human Trafficking. The impact of the pandemic on Human Trafficking is both positive and negative, depending on who is involved.


Gordon: How common is suicide amount those who have been trafficked?


Father Mark: Nowadays, suicide is not very much common among the victims of Human Trafficking. Most often, the victims of Human Trafficking who contemplate committing suicide are those who find it very difficult to knit to gather the fragment of their life and the experiences of the various abuses they would have gone through in the hands of their traffickers and the stigmatization it brings upon them. Nevertheless, some still think that the only way “to cover the shame” they think the may face is to commit suicide.


Gordon: How common is organ trafficking in England?


Father Mark: I have not encountered a victim of organ trafficking in England, but I have heard that it exists. I have heard that organ harvesting take place at the back of vans and that the victims are often those trafficked for labour exploitation in farms. I have heard that it occurs either because the victims refused continuous exploitation or that they are not able to work to meet the demands of their traffickers. The steps that are taken by the government to stop this crime is to ensure that all farms get their labourers from register agencies.


In general, the crime of Human Trafficking is a global problem that needs a global response with a localize approach. The local approach is very important because traffickers adopt local situation to recruit their victims. The process of the recruitment of the victim of Human Trafficking is often fuelled by the high level of corruption and poverty which is localized within a nation. There is need, therefore, for each nation to “look inward”.


Gordon: Thank you for your help in having us better understand the challenges of human trafficking.

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