VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christian churches can and must work together to educate their members about the reality of human trafficking and to provide assistance to victims of trafficking, said Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the pontifical council assisting migrants.

The cardinal and officials of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization of Catholic charities around the world, held a news conference at the Vatican April 29 to release a “Christian commitment” to fight trafficking. The Vatican-based organizations issued the commitment with an ecumenical group, Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Christian communities, they said, have an “obligation to engage in a coordinated global effort to combat trafficking in human beings,” a criminal activity affecting at least 2.4 million individuals and generating some $32 billion in annual profits.

The Christian commitment includes working to eradicate forced labor by educating those who are its first victims, the poor who are preparing to migrate in search of a job away from home.

But teachers, doctors, priests, nurses and social workers also need to be aware of groups who are at risk and the signs that someone they encounter is being forced to work against their will.

Additionally, the commitment outlines specific assistance churches can offer trafficking victims, such as providing secure shelter, and “social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance.” The commitment also recommends “vocational training to empower trafficked persons professionally.”

Obviously, it said, the churches also try to promote the spiritual healing of the trafficked persons, “in order to enable them to deal with the lifelong suffering that invariably is caused by trafficking,” it said.

Signing the commitment, members of the group also promised to work together in advocacy, including in wealthier “destination countries” to ensure proper legislation is in place to protect trafficked persons, punish traffickers and to promote decent working conditions generally.