It is estimated that between 70,000 to 120,000 children arrive unaccompanied onto train platforms across India every year.
Many of these “runaway children,” as they are known, have been separated from their parents on the overcrowded train carriages or have been sent by their impoverished families to find care and education among various humanitarian groups.
Unfortunately, with thousands passing through these train stations each day, child traffickers are prevalent and find little resistance in preying on these vulnerable children and ultimately selling them into slavery.
Helping to safeguard these children is the Railway Protection Force (RPF), an anti-trafficking unit of the Indian government, and a number of organisations and religious communities who patrol the platforms.
Recognising the efforts of these religious communities and inspired by the recent anti-trafficking film Sound of Freedom, local Catholic charity Somascan Missions hosted a fundraiser at Hoyts Wetherill Park on 25 September.
One hundred parishioners from Sydney’s west filled a theatre for the special screening of Jim Caviezel’s powerful film based on the true story of Tim Ballard, a Homeland Security agent who, after rescuing a young boy from ruthless child traffickers, learns the boy’s sister is still captive and decides to embark on a dangerous mission to save her.
After being confronted by the realities of this evil in the world on the screen, Vincent walked away with mixed emotions, the strongest being hope.
“My heart sank a few times, I looked away, I felt anger, I cried tears of sadness and joy but at the end I felt hopeful,” said Vincent, who works as a Faith Education Officer and Special Projects in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the Archdiocese of Sydney.
“I felt hopeful that a movie such as this is creating awareness of child trafficking in which millions of people, mostly young children, are taken away from their families to be enslaved for numerous evil things.
“It was one of the best movies I’ve seen.”
The screening was organised to bring awareness to the plight of child trafficking and raise funds that would go directly towards the anti-trafficking work of the Somascan religious brothers in Bangalore, India.
“Our Somascan Brothers together with other Religious fight against trafficking by waiting at the train and bus stations to try and intercept the unaccompanied children before the traffickers take them,” said Fr Prabhakar Madanu CRS, Superior of the Premalaya Somascan Seminary in Bangalore, India.
“Our brothers feed, bathe and clothe the children and temporarily care for them while trying to repatriate the child back to their families.
“If reuniting the child with their family isn’t possible, government authorities entrust the children to the Somascan’s permanent care in our orphanages.”
These religious brothers not only fight against trafficking by caring for those abandoned children but they also minister in the neighbouring slums.
They assist the impoverished families with education, catechesis, community building activities for the slum children and where children can’t be cared for, these families entrust their children to the care of the order’s orphanages.
“This presence in the slums also prevents traffickers from entering and deceiving the poor families into allowing their children to go with them under false promises of giving them a ‘better future’ only for the children to be sold and abused,” said Fr Prabhakar Madanu CRS.
The funds raised from ticket sales will assist with the temporary care and repatriation costs of these unaccompanied children and will assist the costs associated with the children’s program, educational materials and meals that the Somascans deliver in the slums.