Rourkela (AsiaNews) – Sr Manjula Bars, a member of the Servants of Mary (Servites), works to improve the condition of women in Odisha (Orissa), a state in eastern India. "Christ's love drives me to rescue tribal women from human trafficking," she told AsiaNews.
Women trafficking in the Indian state "is becoming a real threat", she said. Women are lured with the promise of a good job but end up sold for a pittance. For this reason, “the diocese of Rourkela”, where she works, "has tackled for the past two years the problem of tribal women, saving them, and giving them back their freedom."
Sr Manjula explains that tribal women are often "lured by human trafficking syndicates that bring them to big cities across India on the pretext of low-paying, easy to find jobs. Instead, some of the tribal girls and women are sold as brides to poor peasants, whilst others end up in the human flesh trade."
Sundargargh district, which is in the diocese of Rourkela, "has become over the past few decades a regular place for human trafficking. Hundreds of women are sold in cities and this puts the victims, their families and the whole of society in grave danger."
The situation has prompted the diocese to look for ways to help the women. Together with her group and police, the missionary saves women and girls before they are moved to other cities.
After rescuing them, she provides psychological counselling as well as vocational training so that they can be motivated to live a dignified life and earn a living.
"Our biggest challenge and task,” she explains, “is to network with government agencies, civil society groups, Church authorities, ordinary Catholics, and all people of good will" in order to raise “awareness of human trafficking and propose steps to eliminate it altogether".
According to the nun, "our apostolic religious vocation encourages us to work together to build a world of justice and love in response to the needs of the Church and society. Our priorities are the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised."