Chioma’s Talitha Kum Interview

istock Image

Yesterday when Dushan and she returned to the hotel after they visited Archbasilica of Saint John in Laterano and Scala Sancta, she got a call from someone from Talitha Kum saying that her interview was with Sister Frances. She couldn’t speak to any of the former trafficking victims but one of the nuns who worked with them, helping them to heal and reclaim their lives, might be willing to be interviewed as well as one of the Youth Ambassadors. Chioma was quite satisfied with the arrangements and while Dushan was sleeping, she prepared for the interviews.

That morning, after Dushan and she had breakfast, she cleaned up and left the hotel. They arranged to meet at Piazza di Ponte Sant’ Angelo. She was going to call him as soon as the interview was over so that he would know when to head over there.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning as Chioma walked to the church near Talitha Kum’s location. She went into the sanctuary where Sister Frances was waiting for her. The nun’s face broke into a smile when she saw her. After they shook hands, she invited Chioma to have a seat in the pew next to her.

Chioma sat down. “Sister Frances, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.”

“It’s my pleasure. What’s your name?”

“Chioma Krasnova.”

“Chioma. Are you Nigerian?”

“Yes, I am. I’m from Abuja. Are you Nigerian too?”

“No, I’m from Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. I came to Rome a several years ago right after I decided that I wanted to be a nun.   Your surname Krasnova isn’t African.”

“No. My husband, Dushan’s family is from the Slovak Republic but he was born in England when his parents moved there from Bratislava. He’s here with me in Rome. On Friday, we’re going to visit the Jewish Ghetto. Dushan is Jewish.”

“And you’re a Christian?”

“Yes. Dushan has been reading the Bible daily and we study it together.”

“That’s good. I’ve never visited the Jewish Ghetto but one of these days I plan to.”

“Have you always been a Catholic?”

“Yes. My parents were raised Catholics and their parents before them.”

“I know that English isn’t widely used in Eritrea but you speak it very well.”

“I learned English as a foreign language when I was in secondary school and attended University of Asmara. The university was founded in the 1950’s by the Italian government, Catholic Mission and the Ethiopian Negus. Unfortunately, it was closed down by the government of Eritrea in 2006.” 

“Why was it closed down?”

“The official rationale was that this would democratize access to tertiary education and encourage growth across Eritrea. Many people were skeptical about that. Some felt that it was an attempt to weaken students’ revolutionary potential, disperse them to seven locations around Eritrea so that they would never form a critical mass while others suggested that the government was deliberately trying to produce a less-educated and therefore more subservient population.”

“What did you believe?”

“I wasn’t sure what to believe, to be quiet honest but I was very upset that the government shut it down.”

“Eritrea has a reputation of treating its prisoners inhumanely and of targeting religious minorities for particularly harsh treatment. “

“Yes, I’ve heard horror stories of Christians and other religious minorities living in abysmal conditions. Survivors of Eritrea’s several prison camps have reported suffering from the worst abuse imaginable, including severe torture and grossly inhumane living quarters. Me’eter Prison, located near the Red Sea is the customary holding place for Eritrean prisoners of conscience and is notorious for its regular use of torture, including to induce religious recantations. It’s like a modern day concentration camps for Christians. It’s no different from the concentration camps where Jews were taken and subjected to cruelty, starvation and worst, put to death. There is a war on Christianity which has been raging for centuries and it will continue to rage until the Lord Jesus Christ comes.”

“We know that the enemy is behind the persecution of the Christians just as he was of the Jews.”

“Sadly, for some who become Christians, their enemies are their own families.”

“Yes, Jesus warned that these things would happen.”

“He said in the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved’ I’ve read and heard stories of men and women who have have faced persecution from and in some cases brutally beaten, even killed by family members because they have given their lives to Christ.”

“Despite these things, though, the rewards are far greater. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved and have eternal life.”

“Yes. The rewards far outweigh the afflictions, opposition, persecution, suffering and horrors we will face in this life because of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

“I agree.” Chioma took out her tape recorder. “Shall we begin the interview?”

Sister Frances said to Chioma in a low voice, “We shall do the interview in the meeting room which is empty.” Just then, a woman walked into the sanctuary and went to the third pew where she knelt after genuflecting.

Chioma nodded and the two of them got up and walked out of the sanctuary. They walked along a corridor until they came to a good size room with lots of natural light. “When did you decide that you wanted to become a nun?” she asked the nun when they were seated.

“I’ve always wanted to serve God and felt that to be able to fully devote myself to his service, I had to become a nun. When I read Paul’s words they seemed to speak to me.”

“Do you remember those words?”

“Yes. They were, ‘The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband’.  I wanted to give my life completely to God, not divide it between Him and a family.”

“How did you family feel about you becoming a nun?”

“They were surprised but supportive.”

“How did you go about fulfilling your desire to be a nun?”

“I spent two years, speaking with nuns, visiting convents, attending retreats and praying about which order I would join. I found an order and joined it. For a period of two weeks I lived with the other nuns of her order and after they determined that I was a good fit, I was accepted into a postulancy. After several months of living in the order and taking classes, I entered as a novitiate. It was at that time that I Was assigned a new name so I chose the name Frances after Saint Frances of Rome. After two years as a novice, I took my first vows, and then after three more years, I took my final vows.”

“Tell me more about Saint Frances of Rome and why you chose to take her name.”

“Saint Frances a devoted and loving wife who longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor. When she was eleven years old, she wanted to be a nun, but, at about the age of twelve, her parents forced her to marry Lorenzo Ponziani, commander of the papal troops of Rome and member of an extremely wealthy family. Although it was an arranged marriage, it was a happy one and lasted for forty years. She and her husband lost two children to the plague. When he was severely wounded in the occupation of Rome, Frances nursed him for the rest of his life. She had the gift of healing and opened a section of her house as a hospital. She also had the gifts of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel and had revelations concerning Purgatory and Hell. She foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience. She founded a society of women bound by no vows and who simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor. Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but remained at home with her husband for seven years until he passed away. For the rest of her life, she lived with the society—serving the poorest of the poor. I chose Frances for my namesake because of her dedication to others–her family, the community and especially to the poor. I have always been interested in charitable work–helping people. I became involved in social work, helping the poor and visiting the sick.”

“When did you first learn about Talitha Kum?”

“One of the Sisters I live with told me about it and I visited their website. I was very impressed with the work they have been doing and asked if I could be a part of their organization. I was invited to meet with the Coordinator. After that meeting, I was offered the opportunity to be a member of the Coordination Committee and I accepted.”

“What exactly is Talitha Kum?”

“Talitha Kum is Rome based, international Catholic charity dedicated to ending the plight of human trafficking. It was formed in 2009 by a network of religious sisters in response to human trafficking which was on the rise. The name comes from the story of Jairus’ daughter in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, He took the child by the hand, and said to her, ‘Talitha, cumi,” which in Aramaic, means, “Maiden, I say to you, arise.’ It is based in Rome and operates in 92 countries, was formed 10 years ago to coordinate the actions of Catholic nuns who fight human trafficking. It supports women sold into prostitution, as well as the thousands of people — including children — who are sold into forced labor or slavery. It also lobbies for better laws to fight human trafficking. Through Talitha Kum, shelters, safe houses, counseling and legal assistance are available to victims. We also train local people in vulnerable regions to be aware of signs of human trafficking. We provide other services such as training women in vocational skills and providing assistance for micro-industries.” 

“Is the report true which said that Sisters have disguised themselves as prostitutes in order to infiltrate brothels and rescue women?”

Sister Frances smiled but instead of answering the question directly, she said, “The zeal to protect the oppressed, the exploited and the vulnerable is very strong.”

“Were you a part of the march to stop Human Trafficking in 2020?”

“Yes. The sisters I live with and other nuns as well as priests took to the streets to show our and the church’s commitment to fight human trafficking. Some of the victims decided not to participate because they didn’t want to be identified.”

“Tell me about your program, Super Nuns.”

Sister Frances smiled. “Super Nuns is a fund-raising program. The project involves street artists and comic book artists who create new pieces focused on the nuns’ work with trafficked women. They are called Super Nuns because of their extraordinary work. On Vatican Radio, Sister Patricia Murray described their work as ‘very hidden and dangerous work at times’ The first image appeared on a wall in Brooklyn, New York. It was meant to be a new way of speaking about trafficking that would resonate with people.”

“Art is a very effective way of getting a message across.

“Yes, it is.”

“Talitha Kum has been hailed for its great work in 2021.  In just that year the organization prevented and rescued more than 26,000 women from being trafficked, worldwide.  That’s very impressive. What are some of the measures in place which you believe have made the organizations’ fight against human trafficking so effective?

“Since 2020, Talitha Kum has been offering online webinars on human trafficking to strengthen prevention and awareness. It was a slow and difficult process moving online at first but it began to bear fruit and in 2021, the online presence increased, making it possible for Talitha Kum to expand its mission to Vietnam and Bangladesh. We have Sufficiency Economy Program, helping women and young people in villages and mountainous areas to manage natural food resources, such as herbs and vegetables that can be found in the local forests. We have youth training. The program for this was launched in 2021. Its goal is to train youth leaders in skills to identify and lend aid to trafficking victims, as well as raising awareness of human trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking Youth Ambassadors program is meant to engage more young people with the vision and mission of Talitha Kum. Recently, I was asked to be a part of the youth training program and I gladly accepted because I find that I love to work with young people because they represent our future. They are the next generation which will continue the fight against human trafficking when the older generation is no longer around to do so.”

“What are some of the ways for people to get involved in Talitha’s work to end human trafficking?”

“People can support us by donating, networking, by contacting Talitha Kum in their respective countries so that they are kept informed, praying, joining the artists community and becoming a Super Nuns Patron. They can visit the website for more information and they can also subscribe to the Newsletter.”

“What message would you like to share about the fight against human trafficking?”

“Fight against Human trafficking is not Talitha Kum’s fight alone. It’s a universal fight because it affects all of us. Human trafficking is a violation of human rights and should be treated as a crime against humanity. Those who are responsible should be tried, convicted and imprisoned. For profit and greed, they have exploited and enslaved the innocent and vulnerable. It is time for them to be put in chains for their crimes. As Pope Francis rightly said, ‘Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.’. I appeal and encourage people to join the fight against human trafficking. Don’t think of it as something that is happening elsewhere so, it doesn’t affect you. We are all affected. Human trafficking is a moral issue which must be addressed and defeated. Do what you can to help. Make a difference where you are. Together, we can fight against this moral evil which has been destroying lives and communities worldwide.”

“Thank you for an inspiring interview, Sister Frances. I pray that this will encourage more people to join the fight against human trafficking.”

Sister Frances smiled. “Thank you for giving me a chance to share the work of Talitha Kum. I hope and pray that this interview will motivate others to get involved in the fight to end human trafficking.”

Chioma turned off the tape recorder. Sister Frances took her to meet Sister Martha who worked closely with the trafficking survivors and Leonardo, a youth ambassador so that she could interview them. When she was finished, Chioma thanked them all and promised to send complimentary copies of the magazine featuring the interviews. They, in turn, thanked her for doing the interview which would help to raise awareness. She left there with a couple of brochures, a copy of the Talitha Kum’s Study, Prayer and Action Pack: Women and Human Trafficking, a copy of their 2021 Annual Report and their 2022 Report to the Superiors General.

As soon as Dushan and she returned to London, she would get busy putting the story together. First, she had to read all the information she had been given but that could wait. She was looking forward to spending the rest of the afternoon with Dushan who was waiting for her at Piazza di Ponte Sant’ Angelo. They were going to have lunch first and then go on a tour of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Sources:;; African Arguments;; BBH Church Connection; Britannica; Wikipedia; Franciscan Media; Wikipedia; New York Times; Aleteia; The Exodus Road; United World Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: