Cardinal Vincent received the Hanno R Ellenbogen Award on 30th August 2018 on behalf of the Santa Marta Group (SMG). He shares his experience and the importance of the work of the SMG.
I was very pleased to receive the Hanno R Ellenbogen Citizenship Award on behalf of the Santa Marta Group (SMG) in Prague on 30th August. It is the 17th time the Prague Society has presented its award. The Society has its origins in the Resistance movement against the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia. It represents a coalition of benefactors, ambassadors and officials who strive to ensure that, in this post-Communist era, Prague society is committed to the liberal principles of freedom and democracy, and is free of corruption. The Prague Society recognised in the work of SMG the important aspect of the fight against organised crime.
On the same evening awards were made posthumously to Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušrínová, two journalists who strove to expose corruption within certain segments of business and public life.
The event in Prague enabled me to visit again the Cathedral of St Vitus, very much in memory of Cardinal Tomášek, who was Archbishop of Prague from 1977 (although he had been appointed administrator from 1965) and once described as ‘the father of our nation’. I also visited the Convent of St Agnes of Prague, who established the first Poor Clare convent outside Italy and was a contemporary of St Clare of Assisi. Her story is very remarkable.
I intend to donate the money from the award to Caritas Bakhita House in the Diocese of Westminster for their work to help victims of trafficking get back on their feet, whether they wish to return home or find stability in this country.
At the heart of the work of the SMG is the effort to build trust, particularly between forces of law and order and the Catholic Church. A key ingredient of trust is honesty. At our last SMG meeting there was a very remarkable moment when Cardinal Bo from Myanmar spoke of the terrible human trafficking from Myanmar into China. He said, ‘I have very little good news for you and I’m very sorry.’ And the bishop who was supervising that session said to him, ‘Cardinal, we’d rather have bad news that’s true than good news that’s false.’ This illustrates the growing level of openness and trust in addressing the issues facing us in this fight.
We are now beginning to focus on specific projects around the world. Recently, we launched a major training exercise through the Apostleship of the Sea for seafarers and those who work in major ports around the world.
We have also done a lot of work in Edo State in Nigeria in collaboration with the Dioceses of Benin and and Uromi, developing agriculture and job opportunities through a project called GrowEdo. This is proving very successful in helping young people at risk of human trafficking develop livelihoods, skills and confidence. This project is significant in the fight against modern slavery, as 90% of people trafficked from Nigeria come Edo State.