When Pope Francis embarks on the 32nd trip of his pontificate Tuesday, headed towards Thailand and Japan, he will once again be visiting nations where Catholics are a small minority. In both countries, there’s one Catholic for every 200 people, as opposed to roughly one for five in the United States.
The Nov. 19-26 trip will be Francis’s fourth to Asia, following South Korea (2014), Sri Lanka and the Philippines (2015), and Bangladesh and Myanmar (2017).
Though his first priority will be to boost the small local Catholic communities, Francis is bound to focus most of his 18 scheduled speeches – all in Spanish – on issues close to his heart and which heavily affect these countries.
The wide range of topics likely will include human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in Thailand’s sexual tourism industry; the death penalty; corruption; and the high number of suicides among young people.
He’s also expected to call for peace and nuclear disarmament, especially during stops in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and care for the environment.
Just to put some of these priorities into context:
- Sexual tourism: Both girls and boys as young as ten years old are forced into prostitution in Thailand, either by local pedophiles or foreign sex tourists. Often they’re forced to service five to ten clients a day, constituting what Francis condemns as “modern day slavery,” and a “crime against humanity.” UNICEF describes child prostitution as “one of the gravest infringements of rights that children can endure.”
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