The last homily of Saint Oscar Romero delivered in the mass in which he was assassinated in El Salvador

Homily of Archbishiop Óscar Romero on March 24, 1980 during the mass being offered for the first anniversary of the death of Sara Meardi de Pinto, mother of Jorge Pinto, publisher and editor of El Independiente, a small weekly newspaper.

The Gospel reading was John 12:23-26.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains infertile. But if it dies, it produces a great yield. Those who love their own life lose it; those who hate themselves in this world will be preserved for life eternal. Let whoever wants to serve me, follow me; and my servant will be where I am. Whoever serves me will be rewarded by my Father.

Because of what Jorgito has written in today’s editorial in El Independiente, I have some understanding of his filial emotions on the anniversary of his mother’s death. In particular, I can glimpse her noble spirit, how she placed all of her refined education, her graciousness, at the service of a cause that is so important today: our people’s true liberation.

You have just heard Christ’s Gospel, that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life which history demands of us.

My dear brothers and sisters, I think we should not only pray this evening for the eternal rest of our dear Doña Sarita, but above all we should take up her message, which every Christian ought to give intense life to. Many do not understand, and they think Christianity should not get involved in such things.

But, to the contrary, you have just heard Christ’s Gospel, that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life which history demands of us, that those who would avoid the danger will lose their life, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about because it dies, allows itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed. Only by destroying itself does it produce the harvest.

From her place in eternity, Doña Sarita wonderfully confirms the message of the following passage from Vatican II, which I have chosen on her behalf. It says:  We do not know when the earth and humanity will be consummated, nor do we know how the universe will be transformed. This world’s present state, deformed by sin, is to pass away. But God teaches us that He is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice dwells and whose blessedness will fulfil and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart. Then, when death has been overcome, God’s children will arise in Christ. What was sown as something weak and corrupt will be clothed with incorruptibility. Charity and its fruits will endure, and all the creatures that God created with human beings in mind will be free of the bondage of futility.

We are warned that it profits one nothing to gain the whole world and lose oneself. Nevertheless, the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for perfecting this earth, where the body of the new human family grows, a body that even now is able in some way to foreshadow that new age. And so, to the extent that temporal progress can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of serious concern for the kingdom of God, even though temporal progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

Let us do what we can. We can all do something, at least have a sense of understanding.

For after we have spread the benefits of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom across the earth in the Lord’s Spirit and following his command, we shall rediscover all those good effects of our nature and of our efforts, but clean of every stain, brightened and transfigured. Then Christ will hand over to the Father “an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” [Preface from the Mass of Christ the King]. “On this earth that kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns, its perfection will be accomplished” [Gaudium et Spes, No. 39].

This is the hope that inspires us Christians. We know that every effort to better a society, especially one that is so enmeshed in injustice and in sin, is an effort that God blesses, that God desires, that God demands of us. And when one finds generous people, like Sarita, and her thought incarnated in Jorgito and in all those who work for these ideals—one must try to purify them, of course, Christianize them, clothe them with the hope of what lies beyond. That makes them stronger, giving us the assurance that all that we work at on earth, if we nourish it in a Christian hope, will never be a failure. We’ll find it in a purer form in that kingdom where our merit will be in what we have worked at here on earth.

I think that to aspire is not without purpose at a time of hope and struggle, on this anniversary. We remember with gratitude that generous woman who was able to sympathize with the concerns of her husband and of her son and of all who work for a better world, and who added her own part, her grain of wheat, in her suffering. Beyond a doubt, this will guarantee that her heavenly reward will be in proportion to that sacrifice and understanding, which many lack at this moment in El Salvador.

I beg you all, dear brothers and sisters, let us look at these matters at this moment in our history with this hope, with this spirit of giving, of sacrifice, and let us do what we can. We can all do something, at least have a sense of understanding. The holy woman we remember today could not do many things directly perhaps, but she could encourage those who can work, could sympathize with their struggle, and above all could pray. Even after her death, she sends a message from eternity that it is worthwhile to labour, because all those longings for justice, peace and well-being that we experience on earth become realized for us if we enlighten them with Christian hope. We know that no one can go on forever, but those who have put into their work a sense of very great faith, of love for God, of hope among human beings, find it all results in the splendours of a crown that is the sure reward of all who labour thus, spreading truth, justice, love and kindness on the earth. It does not remain here, but, purified by God’s Spirit, is harvested for us and given us for our reward.

This holy Mass, the Eucharist, is itself an act of faith. With Christian faith we know that at this moment the wheaten host is changed into the body of the Lord who offered himself for the world’s redemption and in that chalice the wine is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body immolated and this blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain—like Christ, not for self, but to impart notions of justice and peace to our people.


Let us, then, join together intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer for Doña Sarita and for ourselves.

[At this moment the fatal shot struck Archbishop Romero, and he fell mortally wounded.]



The Property Market addressing the core issues – Tonio Fenech

Recently the PM expressed satisfaction that 80% of the population have become richer thanks to the increase in property prices. Sounded like we should we thankful to this untamed property inflation period this country has gone into. If indeed 80% of families are “richer”, this was thanks to policies of previous Governments from both sides of the House who pushed policies focused on home ownership making normal families owners of their own home at affordable prices and which today have become unaffordable.
Let us also appreciate that if 80% have notionally become richer the remaining 20% significantly and really become poorer, some even homeless.
Also, 80% of the notionally richer 80% (taking the Pareto principle) may own more expensive homes but their wealth has not really increased, as selling you expensive home to buy an alternative home that is equally expensive effectively leaves one neutral not richer.

Not in this statistic are our immediate future families, so called first time buyers looking for a reasonable home, who also are worse off as they cannot afford a reasonable home and make ends meet, as both buying and renting a property has become unaffordable.

The stories that tell the difficulties that young professional couples are facing in acquiring a home and reported by the Times of Malta on the 23 September put another serious concern on the present situation. The young professionals interviewed concluded that it is becoming more affordable to move abroad (avoid completely this over-crowded and over-congested island) then buy an expensive low quality property in Malta. These professionals’ annual income as a couple was claimed to be around Euro 55,000, clearly not on the lower side of the average income, and yet they can’t find a decent apartment. If they can’t make ends meet, what about those first time buyers that average Euro 25,000 to Euro 35,000 a year, indeed the more common? These people are trapped in poverty as going abroad is not really an option.

The untamed rise in housing prices is causing serious economic risks to our country, outpricing ourselves economically, an over-heated economy, and so on. However, there is another risk called brain drain. As cheap labour continues to relentlessly fill vacancies, today even in the professional sphere, accounting, IT, etc. the youth we have educated with our taxes at University, MCAST or ITS are considering leaving this island as with the qualifications they hold they can get better jobs in other EU countries and afford to buy or rent reasonable homes in places that offer a better quality of life.
The market is not fine, there are other consequences beyond the mere buying and selling or renting and the commissions and profits that estate agents and developers make. It’s not fine for the low income earners, the first time buyers, and those becoming poorer.
At the pace of growth in prices, the only hope for average income earners is that this bubble will burst unless Government seriously provides not only social accommodation, but equally important affordable accommodation for first time buyers and other average income families seeking a more adequate home.

Frankly, the MDA’s PPPs proposals are no solution. Why should the Government give free land to the private sector to provide housing units at Euros 400 a month when building such these units through the Housing Authority the contractor can get his fair share of compensation of around €55,000 for a 3-bedroom unit that the family can repay through a home loan that will cost the occupants merely Euro 250 a month for 20 to 25 years. Frankly why should MDA and the likes be given an extra Euro 150 a month for every unit built rather than passing that benefit the families.

The strategy to address the housing challenge is not rent controls, or limiting who buys and sells what and to who as again the MDA proposed when in alluded to some New Zealand model. The real solutions can be found by understanding what made the so called 80% richer, i.e. state run home ownership scheme.

I urge the Government to restart building adequate housing units, that are affordable to average income families and first time buyers and build the units needed for social housing. Only such a policy will tame market prices, as it is market based. Reframing from building housing units and assisting first time buyers to buy from the private sector when there was an oversupply of property and reasonable prices, made sense, but this is not the reality today and so government policies must change accordingly.

Secondly Government needs to address the income disparity that property inflation and the import of cheap labour has caused. Malta’s economy cannot be deemed successful if it remains reliant on cheap labour. We rarely see Maltese waiters because Maltese cannot afford to sustain their family at such pays and therefore they prefer knocking on the Minister’s door for a job. In the meantime, hotels and restaurants boast of ever increasing profits (good luck to them) while paying peanuts in wages because the Government keeps allowing them to fill their staff shortages with foreign workers willing to work for peanuts for a couple of months.

Joseph Muscat when Leader of the Opposition had advocated in favour of the living wage. We are in an economic situation that merits a serious but short discussion. If developers are running this country and making Euro 4 million from every apartment, they should at least be obliged to pay more fair compensation to their workers and also contribute more to the national coffers to attain social justice.

These are the touch decisions that low average and income families, first time buyer and the poor are expecting from this Government, and not a white paper that will propose restrictions on who sells to who and buys from who merely to continue benefiting the big developers that seem to want everyone to buy only from them after ruining the life of everyone around them with their mega towers.

This article appear as an Opinion piece on the Sunday Times of Malta of the 7th October 2018.

Tonio Fenech is the Coordinator of Catholic Voices Malta


Opinion: The property market bubble: a state of denial? Tonio Fenech, Catholic Voices Malta

The message in a recent conference on the property market was that the market is fine, that there is no property bubble, but urged government to do more to help for those who can’t afford today’s prices.

Sign of a bubble?

Kurt Xerri from the University of Malta was reported to have said that there is no bubble “right now” however our over-reliance on foreign buyers vulnerable to external economic realities posed a risk.

Signs of a bubble?

Economist Gordon Cordina made the point that poverty in Malta was masked, because in the past people were able to rent very cheaply. This is no more the reality and therefore poverty is being created. Cordina stated that the risks of implosion (burst of the bubble) is low however depended on whether present economic activity and population expansion, key drivers to property inflation, can be sustained. In simple words, as long the economy does not face a downturn and foreigners keep coming in we are fine as property prices will continue to increase. This means that the poor will become poorer, the low income families will become poor and first time buyers will have to adapt to even more inappropriate dwellings.

I hope we remember the economic principle of what goes up must come down as resources and demand are not infinite.

There are two challenges to the population expansion issue. Firstly we must ask, how much more and at what cost? Congestion, infrastructure, waste, less open spaces, air quality overall poorer quality of life. Which begs the next question, what will we sell?

Secondly, we are today not only importing financial services and online gaming professionals, but even more cheap labour. The property inflation of the past five years is forcing professionals to look elsewhere around the island, from the traditionally sought areas, for more reasonable properties and cheap labour sharing apartments, even rooms to make ends meet. Both these two phenomena are taking up properties that previously targeted average income earners and first time buyers, pushing up prices and making them unaffordable for locals.

Imported cheap labour is a double whammy for Maltese families, as their over-supply is keeping the wages of certain job categories ridiculously low.  They take up jobs that Maltese can’t afford to work in, preferring thus to put pressure on Government to engage them in the public sector. Expecting the Maltese to take up these jobs and decently provide for their families a home and a living is unjust and unrealistic. Growth and Surplus statistics may be great but they are not providing workers with a fair deal, a fair deal that allows them to afford a decent family home.

When house and rental prices are consistently rising at a rate far higher than average income year on year, we are blowing a bubble even if those with a direct interest in the sector want us to believe otherwise.

Gordon Cordina was also reported to have said that overdependence on occupier ownership is not healthy in terms of the optimal use of scarce land resources. “There should be a balance between those who own their home, and those who rent,”. While I can understand the economic theory behind such reasoning, we know that total economically liberalism creates poverty and injustice. Pope Francis reminds us that our economic systems should reflect our moral values that include the fair distribution of wealth and solidarity.

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis clearly states that “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

If home ownership was not an integral part of our economic system and equitable method of distributing wealth, the crises we have today we would have faced 10 years ago, the property crises today would be more serious on poor people, low income earners and first time buyers toward whom the Government has an obligation to protect.

Homeownership, our “savings” culture and internalised public debt were the cornerstones of our resilience in the times of worst crises. Past Governments have sought to ensure reasonable housing provision to lower income families through a number of initiatives, some less fair then others. On the rental front, the old rent laws gave unfair protection to the occupier of a property, by paying pittance in rent while guaranteeing life-time occupation. This was nothing else but extortion, and the Government shying from its responsibilities to provide housing by imposing this obligation on property owners. I agree with Cordina, this masked poverty and solved the problem unfairly.

However, past homeownership schemes did create social and affordable housing alternatives, initially by passing land to first time buyers and average income families, and subsequently through the building of thousands of apartments by the Housing Authority to meet social and affordable housing.

This was not masking poverty, this was social justice, and giving a reasonable start to everyone, rather than making families prey to the whims of the housing market. If it is fair that a prime land is granted to a developer for €15m to build a massive project that will sell apartments at €4 to €10 million each, then it is only fair that families are treated by the same generosity if we truly believe in equality and justice which should not stop with civil rights.

Developers did not like Home ownership schemes and protested with Government that these competed unfairly with the private sector. Social and affordable housing is not about market competition but social justice. Many have forgotten that the Maltese economy was built on the principles of a social market economy and not a liberal (capitalist) market economy, where property owners take advantage of their dominant position and while they become richer as rest become poorer.

We are seeing more of this today because unfortunately Government gave in to this pressure and has not built any housing project in the last 5 years and the schemes that offer support are today inadequate.

The comments of Philippa Tabone from Frank Salt in the same conference confirms this. Ms Tabone stated that “Locals can’t afford three bedroom properties in St Julian’s, they look for one bedroom places in the south. They need help, and something has to be done to tackle the situation”.

This is what a total liberal market does, something needs to be done fast.

Tonio Fenech is a member of Catholic Voices Malta

Catholic Voices Malta is a network of Catholics that willing to engage in a dialogue with the Maltese society through debates, programs, seminars, printed and electronic media.

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This article appeared on the Opinion page of the Malta Independent 3rd October 2018.

A Church purified of its sin – by Nadia Delicata

For months I have followed the never-ending drama of child sex abuse by members of the clergy in the Catholic Church. I have read formal reports, divergent opinions, awkward apologies, exasperated calls for justice, and poignant stories of victimhood. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of those suffering in silence; of the faithful indignant and confused; of clergy who feel shame; of perpetrators of abominable acts; of Church leaders responsible to oversee the horror.

It did not take long to realise that my categories were too neat: that abusers could themselves have been victims; that those entrusted to shepherd too often protected the institution over and above their flock; that those rightfully outraged were not just reeling at the disgrace, but maybe also desperate to blame; that some victims had been consumed by anger and could find no solace.

Allegory of Abuses by the Authorities of Church and State, an oil on panel painting by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert, c. 1570-80.

Allegory of Abuses by the Authorities of Church and State, an oil on panel painting by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert, c. 1570-80.

I have wondered how an institution that teaches so eloquently about human dignity, that has done so much to improve the living conditions of countless poor, could hide so much rot. I have grappled with how the institution’s structure and relational dynamics created the conditions for systemic abuse of power and for exploiting the most vulnerable. Cynically, I have also mused whether the Catholic institution can survive this onslaught of its own making. But, as a Christian, I trust there is another story hidden in the innards of this tragedy. The real Church is no institution; rather, the systemic annihilation of all ‘institutional’ trappings is the medicine the doctor ordered. The Church as pilgrim people must be cut open, its cancers exposed, its sufferings endured. But the hope remains the constant one of purification – and not just from overt filth, but from the lies that we live as Catholics.

We profess that the Church is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, not that it should be run like a monarchy or a corporation. It is a sweet (and sobering) irony that secular culture, the birth child of ‘Christendom’, teaches ‘the institution’ how to run its affairs with greater transparency and accountability. But the Church must still go beyond all binding human justice to become the body of Christ marked by the gospel.

The Church must atone for abandoning victims in our midst; for allowing the corruption of power to fester; for the structural sinfulness that failed to safeguard the vulnerable or to rein in the strong; for failing in our mission of witness of reconciliation. But in healing and atoning – with a power that is not our own, but of the Spirit – we must nurture new relationships, new ways of coming together, where victim, abuser and enabler face each other and are reconfigured as one body in Christ.

Nor is this a process that will ever be complete, as sin and brokenness remain deep in our individual hearts, and therefore in our relationships. This is why the process of healing must take unique routes for each member and for each diocese of the universal Church – even if in its essence, it remains the painful reckoning with the truth of my guilt, of my wound, of my innocence, of my complicity, in every heart, in every ecclesia, who desires the liberating experience of our being loved in our particular wretchedness.

The last thing we as Church should do is defend each other’s indefensible actions and decisions. But nor should we allow our anger to become resentment, mutual hatred, or indifference. Expulsion, even of the most despicable, is not the logic of the Gospel. Retaliation, even by the most innocent, is not the logic of the Gospel. Rather, the logic of the Gospel is that the Lamb chooses to bear the sin of all, even accepts to be slaughtered for all, to manifest God’s triumph over evil.

This crisis can bring the Church to its senses, as it is stripped naked from all the trappings of worldliness that have made it a scandal to the world. May we re-awaken… humbled, honest and open to be re-conformed to bear witness to the reconciliation that Christ offers.

An inspiring article by Dr. Nadia Delicata a moral theologian and a senior lecturer at the University of Malta’s Faculty of Theology, that speaks of the sentiments of many Catholics in this difficult moment for the Church.

This is an Opinion piece that appeared on the Sunday Times of Malta, September 30, 2018

Becoming waste-wise – Simone Vella Lenicker

World Habitat Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly and is commemorated every first Monday of October. Its aim is to focus attention on the state of our towns and cities and to the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It also reminds us that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.

This year’s theme is Municipal Solid Waste Management, a global issue that affects everyone. The amount of waste produced by individuals is growing daily and often costs local authorities a large proportion of their budget. Poor solid waste collection and disposal can lead to serious health problems, caused by uncontrolled dump sites and waste burning as well as polluted air and water.

A change in public attitudes to minimise waste and stop littering, increased recycling and reusing, sufficient funding and solid waste planning, including adequate landfill sites, can help cities to improve the current state of solid waste management and save money to become ‘waste-wise’.
In 2010, it was estimated that 292 kilos of waste are produced by every person in the world each year.

Compare this to the estimated 483 kilos per capita in the EU member states and a staggering 621 kilos per capita in Malta (Eurostat, 2016). While over 44 per cent of waste is recycled in the EU, less than 10 per cent is recycled in Malta.

These are alarming figures, both because they indicate that the issue of waste is one of the most pressing our country faces today and also as they indicate that, despite a number of nationwide campaigns over the past years, we are still not sufficiently aware of the impact of our individual consumption patterns on this growing problem.

These high levels of waste generation are symptomatic of our ‘throwaway culture’ and, as such, merit a concerted effort by the government to instil changes that can be considered to be significant. The recent announcement that compostable waste will now be collected from households is indeed excellent news, however, this is not enough. We need to look at all other waste streams such as packaging, plastic and household electronic goods as well as issues such as marine litter, to name but a few, if we are truly to achieve any impactful change for the benefit of our society.

Architecture and engineering can contribute greatly to an improved quality of life

UN-Habitat promotes an ‘integrated solid waste management framework’ approach as a solution, which envisages good waste collection services, environmental protection through proper treatment, disposal and resource management as well as cost-effective, affordable and inclusive solutions that also recognise the role of informal and micro-enterprise sectors in achieving high rates of recycling.

Education and awareness activities also have a key role to play and local governments can engage with civil society and advocacy groups to raise public awareness with schools as a possible focus.

The Waste Management Plan for the Maltese islands proposed a strategy for the period 2014-2020. Measures outlined therein have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. Others, however, exist only on paper. It is now high time to review this strategy, to take into account the realities of our current economy, population, consumption patterns, infrastructure stresses and waste disposal sites before we reach a critical point that will take its toll on the quality of life of our citizens.

World Habitat Day is also commemorated by the architectural profession which celebrates World Architecture Day concurrently. In a statement to fellow architects, Thomas Vonier, president of the International Union of Architects, reminds us that “architecture can help our planet face two of its gravest problems – environmental degradation and ever-greater human needs. Architects can help to reverse patterns that destroy heritage, degrade habitat, squander resources and perpetuate social imbalances”.
Architecture and engineering can contribute greatly to an improved quality of life, through the implementation of sustainable development principles.
Being aware of this critical role our profession has in our society is the first step in ensuring that the interventions we carry out today are mindful of their impact on future generations.

I conclude by inviting readers to join the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers in celebrating World Habitat Day, World Architecture Day and European Engineers day (on October 5) and to visit the upcoming exhibition of thesis projects by the latest group of Master graduates from the Faculty for the Built Environment.

The exhibition will be open to the public during Notte Bianca on Saturday and will mark the launch of the second edition of the highly successful Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia, organised by the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers.

Simone Vella Lenicker is vice-president of the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers and also a speaker for Catholic Voices Malta

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece Monday, October 1, 2018

Combating Human Trafficking Today Conference Detailed Report

Combating Human Trafficking Today – Taking stock of evidence-based research and sharing experiences from Europe

Report on a Conference held at the University of Malta organised by the Association for Equality, the Centre for Labour Studies at the University of Malta and Dar Hosea by Tonio Fenech for Catholic Voices Malta

Dr Anna Borg representing the Association for Equality introduced the conference objectives and talked about the link between human trafficking and prostitution. According to the ILO 99% of all victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sex work are women, the other 1% are children, transgender persons and gays. These women are generally forced through violence, coercion or deception. Dr Borg noted that unfortunately we do not have any figures for Malta however when on looks at EU Reports on the subject, say in the Netherlands who was one of the first countries to legalise prostitution 60 to 70% of prostitutes claimed to have been forced into the activity.

Dr Borg asserted that human trafficking is demand driven and therefore if you create more demand for “sex services” you will create a demand for human trafficking.

Hon Julia Farrugia Portelli, Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms spoke about the importance of combating human trafficking. She described human trafficking as an illness or a plague and the need that we give hope to victims. She claimed that the Government was determined to address this issue. She however also mentions that there are other areas of human trafficking that need to be address as in Malta three fourths of human trafficking relates to employment with particular mention to domestic servitude.

When however, combatting prostitution Hon. Farrugia claimed that every model has its pros and cons making reference to both the Nordic Model and the New Zealand Model. She therefore stated that Malta needs to create its own model. She claimed that the objective of any such legislation should be to eradicate human trafficking and support victims, without necessarily distinguishing amongst gender. She also spoke of the efforts that the Police have taken address Massage Parlours and Gentlemen’s Clubs.


Ms Julie Bindel a journalist, broadcaster and writer, author of the book The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth spoke how the so called sex industry sought to make prostitution look anything but trafficking, marketing it as enjoyable, empowering and liberating for the woman that is actually being abused. There may be the exceptions of women who want to have sex for money, and we are not here to stop such women, but legislation can never rely on a minority.

There are also those who try and make a distinction between legalisation and decriminalization. Ms. Bindel claims that there may be some legal differences but they are in fact closely linked and both offer the same negative impact on women, indeed failed experiments.

Ms. Bindel made it clear that no person who is selling sex should be criminalized, today we still see women who are the abused, the victims arrested while the John (persons buying sex) and the pimps untouched. The she claimed is an aberration. Ms. Bindel also claimed that she uses less the word human trafficking as not all prostitution is trafficking, and as trafficking is a process by which international and local pimps transport women to the places of prostitution.

She also asserted that trafficking would not exist if our countries would not have a vibrant sex industry. When we normalized regimes (i.e. legalise or decriminalise prostitution) trafficking grows as demand grows and it becomes no longer a law enforcement issue.

New Zealand has been claimed by some to be the way to follow in decriminalising prostitution. The facts however show a very different picture; more women are in fact on the street, figures show that they have quadrupled.
When legalized prostitution makes a bigger disaster when the Netherlands decided to legalized prostitution in the year 2000, they used the same arguments that the New Zealand Government used, and other Governments looking in the same direction use. Governments promise this will eliminate the underground trade and sex workers will operate in a safer environment, eliminate under age sex, drugs, tackle or eliminate the pimps, reduce HIV and make Johns better behave better.

In reality this did not happen, today even the Dutch Authorities are starting to accept that the model failed. Looking through the brothels windows in Holland once only sees Africans and Romanians, can one really believe that these came out of their own steam? That they have not been trafficked? Why is it that Dutch prostitutes are so rare that when there is a Dutch prostitute they actually place a sticker on the window with the initials NL to promote this rare occurrence.

Legalisation get rids of the pimps because it calls them Managers, trafficked prostitutes are called migrant sex workers and the Johns are called clients. When the clients rape the sex worker then it is no longer a crime but a breach of contract. Has in fact the reality of abuse changed? And if sex work is a “Job” why do we need exit strategies? asks Bindel.

When Holland legalised prostitution it created specific zones and also created a Union to sell the idea that sex workers were protected, Government gave it money to do research on how well the system was working. It its height of membership had it only represented 100 individuals from the 25,000 prostitutes on the streets.

The situation became so bad that the Mayor of Amsterdam decided to abolish the zones that had been created as he acknowledged that the reverse of what was promised had happened.

Bindel focused on the Old Red Light District in Utrecht in the Netherlands where prostitutes can operate from 7am to 7pm under police monitoring and social workers who distribute condoms and in Bindles words “stitch beaten women up and sent back to the street”.

The place is made of performance boxes for having sex. When Bindle interviewed the prostitutes in the zone they all wanted to leave but had no idea how and what to do as there were no exit programs. A system of sex oppression. A Policeman man had gone so far as to tell Bindle that they were considering painting the boxes is different colours so when the women reported to be abused, or raped they could trace the box and seek to pick the DNA of the men (if indeed possible). This place has also been closed by the Mayor of Utrecht due to the increase in human trafficking. The question however remains who is helping the woman?

In Nuremberg, Germany the Government boasts of exit programs. In reality Germany is the Mecca of brothels that take up to 600 men, offered “all inclusive” services that include beer and many women they desire for Euro 60.
Those that argue that it is the right of the woman to choose what to do with her body for legalising position are only using the woman as a human shield.
Bindle dispelled the myths of the New Zealand which uses the word decriminalisation stating that its effects where no different to legalization and effectively introduced the concept of brothels of up to 4 prostitutes that requited no licence, and this increased significantly their proliferation. Factually rapes and murders related to street prostitution increased, and by far outdid the countries with the Nordic Model put together. Because now it is deregulated there is no support for the women that are trapped.

Bindel’s appeal to Malta is to tackle the men running the industry and adopt ta version of the Nordic model and make Malta a no go area for traffickers.

The discussion “Prostitution and Trafficking – can they be tackled separately” was moderated by Ms. Helen Burrows UK Top 100 Slavery Influencer.

Ms Burrows through the question how Malta a Catholic country was still legging in the protection of women from prostitution and had not yet adopted the Nordic Model.

Ms Julie Bindel made the point that a secularist she worked with many people of faith who worked with the victims of prostitution. This she asserted is an issue of women’s equality with men, and that prostitution remained a beacon of the inequality.

Dr Katrine Vella, from the JRS spoke about the reality of young women forced or induced to make the journey promised work and a future and along the way are abused and trapped into prostitution. The experience leaves the girls so traumatised that they feel that now they are not good for marriage and that therefore there is no future for them other than prostitution. It is not enough to fight prostitution as an activity without offering women the support and shelter they need.

Inspector Joseph Busuttil spoke about the difficulties that the force finds in prosecuting Pimps as prostitutes are afraid to speak out. He also spoke at the changes in legislation to make harsher penalties and that they are on a number of cases that they hope to conclude and arraign people shortly.
The audience mentioned situations where prostitutes in the night have nowhere to go when police stop them loitering and they are afraid to go back to the Pimp without money.

It was also questioned how serious was law enforcement about fighting this issue of there was not prosecution of human trafficking in 6 years.


Dr Anna Vella from Dar Hosea focused her contribution on the real stories of prostitutes and their life of abuse. Michelle a woman that Dr Vella had been following since she was 17 years old and would go to her office to draw with crayons. Her mother, herself a prostitute, who introduced her to prostitution, calling her a dirty girl because she did not clean herself after being used by man as a child and before going to school.

She always wanted to know her father and once her mother identified him to her at a bar. She approached her and he took her in a secluded place simply to rape her. At 40 she was in and out of Mount Carmel hospital with schizophrenia. Amazingly when her father died, and she discovered he was going to be buried without a funeral, she promised the hospital authorities to get the money in 24 hours, making €700 to give her father who she only met once, and who raped her a dignified funeral.

Many prostitutes start because of abuse or grooming from their own families. Do these women have a choice? asks Dr Vella. Caroline was thought to be a prostitute by her grandmother and was pimped by her father. How can we judge these people and understand their world? They never choose freely, and when you speak to them they tell you that they were coerced, forced and groomed.

Donna had a new pimp who Dr Vella knew he was a criminal. When she asked him why is she with him, Donna replied “because he feeds me and gives me a bed”. Soon he started also giving her drugs until she nearly killed herself when hitting wrongly an artery and fainted bleeding to death. Her pimp was in the house and saved her life but that night still wanted her to work. She was so abused that Donna at some point wanted to leave and Dr Vella helped her negotiate and exit ransom of €50 a day for 6 months. In reality today she is with another partner / pimp as she sees no other way to live.

Through the Daphne project, the research team tried to identify whether what led these women to prostitution was drugs or prostitution itself. Research showed that it was none of the two, it was in fact childhood sex abuse.
Dar Hosea is the Church response to support prostitutes that seek help and give them shelter. When Donna came to Dar Hosea for the first time and we offered her coffee she was astonished that it was free as she was made to pay for everything with her body.

Liza at 13 was already abused. As a prostitute she had seven children, none with her all in different homes. When Mariah was born, she was sent to 30-months imprisonment because of various offences such as theft. Custody was given to the father who had no interest in the child. When Liza came out of prison, and was given the child who was then 3 years old, the child had no learnt to even walk or do her needs. She was however resolved to change her life, and with the support of Dar Hosea, and a box file of police conduct (mis0cinduct) she today works proudly as a cleaner earning in a month what she earned in a day, but her uniform gives her dignity.

Dr Lara Dimitrijevic from the Women’s Rights Foundation gave an overview of the present legal framework.

Our law provides for 12-years imprisonment for acts of human trafficking. The act of trafficking is any form of recruitment, transportation, transfer or sale of persons, harbouring or receipt of person. The low in no way specifies cross border activity as many imagine when such term is used. A pimp taking a prostitute from one place to another is therefore trafficking a human being. Another element the law consider is the means by which that person has “accepted” to be trafficked. These include the use of threat, fraud, force, abduction, the abuse of vulnerable persons and other means that in essence allow no alternative to the individual being trafficked but to submit. The third element is the purpose, slavery, prostitution, removal of organs and also included trafficking of persons for the purpose of pornography. For human trafficking the issue of consent is irrelevant as the act, means and the purpose make any collaboration in such an activity a crime.

The White Slave Trafficking Act makes in effect does not make prostitution illegal, but criminalises soliciting and loitering. Also, keeping someone against her will even if initially she consented is a crime as well as living from earnings from prostitution and managing a brothel i.e. one partakes of the profits or manages the operation.

When one looks at local trends the majority women of prostitutes trafficked are women from various nationalities such as Chinese, Moldavian, Ukrainian, Russian, Colombians, Romanian, Bulgarian, Thai Maltese and Nigerian. Ethnicity and age also vary and we also had the occasional children.
Demand in Malta is high and so trafficking is high, just count the number of strip clubs and massage parlours around the island plus the various flats, streets prostitutes and online forum webpages and Facebook groups that exist.

Dr Dimitrijevic spoke also of the experience of two roma (gypsy) victims that were brought to Malta and made to work in flats not even able to speak English. Pictures where taken of them and put on website and moved from one place to another. They saw 20 men a day, and had no way how to escape due their inability to speak English.

Strip clubs and massage parlours should be scrapped. Today massage parlours need to licence and to have a strip club one needs only a Class 6 license for a bar that becomes in strip club, that has girls in the street to lure men. Many of the women brought are not allowed to make roots, and made to pay for their lodging, cloths, food even travel costs, that means that they get very little of what they actually sell themselves for.

Dr Dimitrijevic concludes that prostitution is all about gender inequality fruit of social and economic inequalities that make women and girls objects of male power and privilege.

The discussion “Is prostitution a free choice or a form of violence” moderated by Dr Miriam Naudi.

Dr Dimitrijevic reminded the Government that when coming to legislate all human right declarations oblige governments to act against prostitution. The notion of this issue being the free choice of woman is a false concept, as persons trafficked are in the main vulnerable people that are exploited.

Dr Neil Falzon from Aditus Foundation, while stating that from a Human Rights perspective the woman should have the freedom over her one body, Human Rights also speak of the right to be protected for inhumane treatment. He also stated that the new socioeconomic reality that many are facing today with the high rent costs are pushing people towards this activity. Dr Falzon mentioned the experience of a person who not able to pay a rent of €800 per month was contemplating seriously this as the only option not to be thrown out in the streets.

Dr Anna Vella in her intervention emphasised that this is not a real choice, as vulnerable people find themselves trapped.

Comments from the floor made the interesting points that once you sell your body you are losing your rights over it and giving them to someone else.
Others commented that everyone is seeing these massage parlours everywhere and yet nothing is being done about them.

The Swedish ambassador stated that the purpose behind the Nordic model is the eradication prostitution. Structures to helping the vulnerable were already in place, 10 years before the new bill was introduced. She also emphasised that the aim of the bill was not to help the vulnerable (as this was already in place) but distinctly a moral issue in terms of what type of society do we want. As a feminist nation public was against any form of exploitation of women.


Ms Kaysa Wahlberg – Detective Inspector, Head of the Swedish Police Authority’s Human Trafficking Unit gave a detailed exposition of the Swedish Model.  Fundamentally the law prohibits purchase of sex services, by criminalising the pimps and who acquires the service, increased efforts on prevention (legal and educational) to discourage demand.

Sweden has a long standing position towards gender equality and the protection of women and prostitution is clearly seen as violence against women. Prostitutes have social security exit programs.

Ms Kaysa made an interesting comment when she asked “why is sex work for women and pleasure for men?” There was strong support for the change and the law had a huge impact on the reduction of crime.

Sweden is a moralistic society and this is the perspective the legislators approached their reforms in this sector in 2011. A person acquiring sex services can land himself an imprisonment of 1 one year or a fine that is related to their income. In a particular case the fine even went up to €7,500.
The bill has one single purpose that of discouraging man from paying for sex. The Swedish Approach was restrictive, closing down massage parlours and other places such as brothels and support women. Since 1999 the number of prostitution in streets fell from 60 to 10.

Traffickers and criminal rings see Sweden as a bad market to operate in and prefer countries that legalized or tolerate prostitution. Malta is mentioned as one of these destinations. Police can easily find the places of prostitution, it’s in issue of priorities, asserting “fire the police if they are unable to find them”. The law must not only be enforced but seen to be enforced. Also regular training needs to be given to police and judges. Money needs to be put into implementation, including the police force and not for buying a new fleet of cars, but for training and other related activities.

One will be amased how many police hold wrong perceptions of the problems like “this is an agreement between two, so not the police business or it is women who tempt men, or man need women, they feel unable to prosecute and we had cases of feeling sorry for the Johns.

In Sweden it has been proven that when you reduce prostitution you reduce also other crimes. Also, our experience is that the absolute majority of prostitutes are forced into the activity. Prostitutes are the group at risk and the law gives them the freedom to report to police when they are victim of violence or rape. Therefore, there is no tension between prostitute and police. Police also work with social workers who provide shelter, support and counselling. Social workers also offer support to the man arrested who is also offered support to come out of his behaviour.

The discussion “What model should Malta adopt” moderated by Nana Mallet Cardoza a Swiss lawyer and researcher on trafficking

Ms Harpdeep Walker from the UK National Crime Agency stated that in the UK they refer to individuals as sex workers as they feel this give them dignity. On the other hand they hold pimps as exploiter. The UK made a nation assessment which clearly evidenced an increase in sexual exploitation especially through on line marketing. The Government decided to be more forceful and also increased to life imprisonment people caught in human trafficking.

To prosecute trafficking the victim does not need to testify or prove that she has been coerced by the John. The Unit also monitors online website focusing on sites that create suspicion of human trafficking and exploitation.

Ms Marietheresa Gatt from the Association for Equality spoke at length of the failings of the New Zealand model which went for full decriminalisation in 2013. Government argued that this was necessary to remove the stigma and make prostitution a normal job. This they claimed would control the industry when in effect the opposite happened as it became more prolific. A recent Government review concluded that no only things are as bad as before and but they are actually worse. Demand has increased and this saw the introduction of illegal child trafficking for compete with prostitutes.

Competition caused prices to fall, increased more sex without condoms and prostitutes forced to have sex even when at risk of STDs. The review report found that most children where internally trafficked from the Maori people.
In reality woman still have stigma and woman have not been empowered but further exploited. Also people are not liking the proliferation of brothels with Auckland petitioning to stop such brothels.

In Europe Germany and the Netherlands are also failed models. What has proved to work is the Swedish or Nordic model applied in Norway, Iceland, France, Ireland and recently Israel. The Association for Equality advocates clearly for the adoption of the Nordic Model in Malta.

Mr. Andrew Azzopardi from the Safeguarding of the Children Commission mentioned the need to change mentality through education and praised the YouMe movement. He also questioned what messages are we giving boys when they are growing up through what they see through internet pornography. The message is sex is an entitlement, sexual narcissism where why pleasure is more important than your pain. In the Netherlands child prostitution, since liberalization increased from 5,000 (in 1996) to 15000 in 2001. Mr. Azzopardi concluded that we need firmer punishments for abuse of children and vulnerable women.

Hon Buttigieg Claudette MP Spokesperson for the Opposition stated that dignity of the woman is at the core of the issue and providing a dignified a way out is fundamental. She appealed that the Government works with the Opposition on the issued and hopes that a meeting will soon be set with the Minister.

Ms Kajsa Wahlberg stated that prostitution is always underground even when decriminalised. In Ipswich in 2006 there was a murder of 5 women, who when the man was apprehended it was discovered that he was trusted by prostitutes as he gave the impression he was a decent man. The last prostitution related murder in Sweden was ion 1988.



All victims of sex are women or girls this is modern slavery. EU reports point at organized crimes. Ending human trafficking is a fight against organized crime. We also need to fight poverty which creates this environment and provides the traffickers with supply.

The eradication of poverty is gaining more focus with the context of migration and the G8 has recently spoken on the need of economic equity to end human trafficking. We need more international policies and efforts, we need to act now and build cooperation amongst nations.

The President spoke of the need to explore the models of Sweden, France and Germany and apply these to our national contest. We need to also listen to women that are exploited and eradicate the objectification of women. Let’s rescue and support these women. While there may be diverse opinion on the manner to do this the protection of the vulnerable should be a point of convergence.

Braveheart and power

It is said, “We are all equal but some are more equal then others”.   Unfortunately many see power as an end in itself and not a means to an end.   Politicians are not powerful people, they are Stewards, in a Democracy, chosen and entrusted by the people, charged with the responsibility of managing our country not for their interests but the common good.

In the movie Braveheart when William Wallace confronts the other native leaders of Scotland he tell them, “There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.”

Psalm 15 is more then an excellent piece of advise for any politician,

Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honours those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Ben Cort’s TED talk – What commercialization is doing to cannabis

Ben Cort’s passion for recovery, prevention and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since June 15, 1996, Cort has been a part of the recovery community in almost every way imaginable — from a recipient to a provider to a spokesperson. Cort has a deep understanding of the issues and a personal motivation to see the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse minimized.

Cort’s first book, Weed, Inc.: The Truth About the Pot Lobby, THC, and the Commercial Marijuana Industry, was released in September 2017. He resigned from his position with the University of Colorado Hospital in their chemical dependency treatment service line in January 2017 to focus on marijuana education and consulting in the substance use disorder treatment field.

In Malta, the Parliament of Malta recently approved the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal Use Act, allowing for the creation of medical cannabis products for sale both locally as well as abroad.  Three weeks earlier Malta passed another bill that legalised medical cannabis.

Following the passage of Coloradro (United States) Amendment 64, which outlined a new state-wide drug policy for cannabis, Cort was appointed to the Board of Directors of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) as well as NALGAP (the National Association of Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Treatment Providers and their Allies). Cort’s intersection of recovery and public policy makes him frequent guest in the media and he outlines the serious dangers and pitfalls of this so called industry.

We hope we know what we are going in for.

How do we treat migrants and refugees?

The message of Pope Francis is clear, the way of the Gospel, to welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

This does not mean that the State does not exercise its duty to maintain security in our country and to ensure that migrants and refugees learn to appreciate our culture, traditions, values and way of life. However, these latter aspirations are more easily done by us then State officials. As we interact with them, in our parishes, our circle of friendships, our homes they come to respect us, and see us for who we are, a generous and friendly people.