‘Caught in the Net’: the 24th World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea in Taiwan

‘Caught in the Net’: the 24th World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea in Taiwan
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Kaohsiung (AsiaNews) – The 24th Apostleship of the Sea World Congress was held in Kaohsiung, the largest port city of southern Taiwan, from 1 to 7 October.

This year’s convention was born out of close collaboration between the Vatican, the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference and the Taipei Foreign Ministry, receiving a telegram from Pope Francis.

The initial press conference highlighted the great support of the Taiwanese government and universities: in addition to more than 250 local priests, island fishermen and foreigners, experts and scholars from the industry also attended.

This year’s theme was ‘Caught in the Net’, a slogan that wants to express concern for people who work and live by the sea. Problems related to this life include conditions such as the oppression of the workforce and the trafficking of people. Many fishermen are not masters of their lives and go from one type of exploitation to another: first they are underpaid, then their situation gradually gets worse until they fall in the hands of criminal organizations becoming victims of forced labor.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to a small number of cases and regions. The whole world is subject to this threat and to the power of organized crime, which has a horrible influence on the existence of many men and women in the field, and often involves even children.

During his report, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, originally from Ghana, and prefect of the Dicastery for Integral human development, reports that “many children have been forced into slavery and continue to be.” For this reason he also told reporters that “this is the Holy See’s commitment: to promote a sensitivity to the problem of breaking these chains of bondage “.

With these motives Pope Francis instituted the Dicastery for Integral human development of which he is prefect. There is also the Apostleship of the Sea, born as the official Church ministry for people on the sea, on October 4, 1920 in the port of Glasgow, Scotland. Since then it has developed globally and cared for people working on the sea regardless of nationality, race, religion. The main mission is to teach, provide basic education to fishermen and their families.

For the Catholic Church of Taiwan, Bishop of Tainan, Msgr. Bos Chi-nan emphasized that since 1974 the Church has established a centre in Kaohsiung and one in Keelung. Currently, Hualien and Taichung have created two more service and training centers for sailors and fishermen. The service was expanded in 1995.

Professor Hu Nianzu, director of the Sun Yat-sen University Oceanographic Research Institute, made a valuable academic assessment of the legal protection of sailors of the fishing crew on the basis of international regulations and conventions in force.

The basic document is that of the International Labor Organization, a specialized UN agency, which 10 years ago presented the 2007 Fisheries Work Convention document which is now under review: an updated version should be definitively ratified on November 16.

In this spirit of collaboration and research at various levels, the 24th World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea found ample room for local media and wants to give an important impetus to the protection of those who work daily in the sea as a fisherman or as a member of the ” crew on freight vessels.

The World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea takes place every five years in a different country and is an important mission for the Catholic community in protecting workers and in denouncing the illegal trafficking of migrant workers.