According to the Vatican Information Service (www.vis.va) on March 17 an unprecedented interfaith agreement was reached to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020. It is a call to Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims, all governments and people of goodwill to join the movement against modern slavery and human trafficking.
Called the “Global Freedom Network”, this is an agreement between the representatives of these great world religions in collaboration with the Walk Free Foundation based in Perth, Australia.
The speakers at the conference were:
- Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, on behalf of Pope Francis;
- Mahmoud Azab, on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt;
- Rev. Sir John Moxon, on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby,
- Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation.
The joint statement made by the signatories underscores the “searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking” and calls for “urgent action by all other Christian Churches and global faiths”.
According to the Joint Statement, “Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanisation and degradation. Every day we let this tragic situation continue is a grievous assault on our common humanity and a shameful affront to the consciences of all peoples. Any indifference to those suffering exploitation must cease. We call to action all people of faith and their leaders, all governments and people of goodwill, to join the movement against modern slavery and human trafficking and support the Global Freedom Network”.
Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, have personally given their backing to the newly-formed Global Freedom Network.
Plague on a Vast Scale
According to the Nairobi-based news agency, CISA, the network has the resources it needs to carry out a five year plan. As Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop David Moxon has been closely involved in the negotiations which have brought about this landmark in church cooperation.
He said: “Human slavery is a plague on a vast scale in many countries across the world today. This situation is not improving but is probably deteriorating. To quote Pope Francis, ‘We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society.’ Today representatives from our Churches have made an agreement to act together: one Church for one world – God’s world – where everyone can walk free.”
Archbishop Moxon said that the Anglican Centre in Rome would support this new network in every way and would integrate its own time and energy into the cause as an example of practical mission-based ecumenism, where Anglicans and Roman Catholics working in good faith together with many others, will coordinate their efforts to challenge one of the world’s worst evils and greatest forms of suffering. Mission would drive ecumenism in this way: “We will find that as we walk together on the pathway of Justice, that our talking together will improve, and on this Emmaus journey we will meet the risen Christ who falls in step between us. This Christ is not divided, so neither will we be. The Emmaus journey led to a deep and abiding communion when Christ was recognised in the midst.”
The Global Freedom Network has some of its earliest roots in the deep concerns about modern slavery shared when Archbishop Justin Welby visited Pope Francis in June 2013, followed by a conference held at the Vatican in early November on the initiative of Pope Francis, the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science (PASS).
Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, Mr Andrew Forrest, John McCarthy, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Archbishop David and Antonia Stampalija, a faith-based strategic planner from Western Australia, helped facilitate the process that led to the Network being created. The Revd Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance Network is a member of the new Global Freedom Network Council. The Network has a Muslim representative partner on its Council and will seek to include other faiths over time, as there needs to be a multi-faith approach to this multi-national tragedy.
According to the Vatican Information Service, it is estimated that between 12 and 27 million people worldwide are enslaved into forced labour and sexual exploitation. Each year, about 2 million people are victims of sexual trafficking, 60% of whom are girls. Human organ trafficking is rife: annually around 20,000 people are forced or deceived into giving up an organ (liver, kidney, pancreas, cornea, lung, even the heart).
“Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation. Any indifference to those suffering exploitation must cease. We call to action all people of faith and their leaders, all governments and people of goodwill, to join the movement against modern slavery and human trafficking and support the Global Freedom Network,” said the network.
“The Global Freedom Network will take up the instruments of faith – prayer, fasting and almsgiving. There will be a world day of prayer for the victims and for their freedom. Everyone of faith and everyone of goodwill will be requested to join in reflection and action. Dedicated prayer networks will be formed in all parts of the world,” the network concluded.