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AoS XXIV World Congress

28th September 2017

The trafficking of migrant fishermen, forced labour on board fishing vessels and illegal fishing will dominate discussions at the XXIV World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) to be held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from October 1 to 7.
             Carrying the theme ‘Caught in the Net’ the Congress will explore how the Church, through the work of AoS port chaplains and volunteers in ports and harbours globally, can further enhance its support for fishermen, often called the ‘forgotten seafarers’. 
             Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development at the Vatican, under which AoS’ ministry falls, said the pastoral care of fishermen is part of the daily work of many AoS chaplains and volunteers who, along with spiritual and material assistance to seafarers, provide support to fishermen and their families. 
             “The theme of the Congress – ‘Caught in the Net’ - expresses the concern of the Apostleship of the Sea which is not limited to issues of climate change and overfishing, but is especially focused on the human issues, namely fishermen who work in inhumane conditions often ending up in the hands of organised crime, becoming victims of trafficking for forced labour,” said Cardinal Turkson. 
             He added, “This phenomenon is not only limited to certain geographical areas, but is growing all over the world involving men, women and even children. Pope Francis has defined human trafficking as a crime against humanity. We want to commit ourselves to fight against this shame that is unfortunately present in various ways, even in the fishing industry.
AoS World Congress in Taiwan 2017
              Cardinal Turkson said the Congress is therefore vital for what the Apostleship of the Sea can do in this field, in the context of a pastoral obligation that does not exclude any aspect of protecting the integrity and dignity of human beings. 
              He said, “The theme expresses the Church’s concern not only for the common good but also for human beings and their fundamental rights. This Congress will undoubtedly help increase our awareness and consciousness towards fishers and to reaffirm that the Church does not forget them but walks with them.” 
              More than 250 participants from 52 countries have confirmed their attendance at the gathering, including two Cardinals, 17 Archbishops and Bishops, 67 priests and eight deacons, all of whom work as part of AoS’ global network. 
              Cardinal Turkson will present a keynote address titled ‘Let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of one another and of the environment’ and a message from Pope Francis will be delivered by Monsignor Slađan Ćosić, Chargé d’Affairs of the Holy See to Taiwan. 
             Among the topics that will be discussed include protection of fishermen and sustainability of fisheries, human rights and welfare laws, preventing and fighting trafficking and modern-day slavery in ports, and the situation of Myanmar fishermen and the Rohingya people. 
             AoS is present in 311 ports worldwide with 216 port chaplains offering support to fishermen and seafarers daily.