For the first time in their history, people drawn from the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have joined forces to combat modern slavery and human-trafficking. Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed Global Freedom Network.
The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed today, March 17th by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt, Dr Mahmoud Azab and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”. The network has the resources it needs to carry out a five year plan.
Archbishop Moxon has been closely involved in the negotiations which have brought about this landmark in church cooperation. He says –
“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, 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.
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). The Network already 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.
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).
For the full joint statement, click read more
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. 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.
Only by activating, all over the world, the ideals of faith and of shared human values can we marshal the spiritual power, the joint effort and the liberating vision to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking from our world and for all time. This evil is man made and can be overcome by faith-inspired human will and human effort.
We salute all those already engaged in this struggle, and fervently hope that this new project will further encourage their commitment to set free the most oppressed of our brothers and sisters.
Despite the best endeavours of so many in so many countries, modern slavery and human trafficking continue to expand. Victims are hidden away: in places of prostitution, in factories and farms, on fishing boats, and illegal establishments, in private homes behind locked doors and in myriad other places, in cities, villages and slums in the world’s richest nations and poorest nations.
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.
Under the Agreement, all parties commit to pursuing all avenues and pathways to galvanise global action to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. Action plans for the first year will be developed to engage:
- All global faiths to modern slavery-proof their supply chains and investments and to take remedial action if necessary
- All global faiths to mobilize their youth sections to support programmes to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking
- Families, schools, universities, congregations and institutions to educate on the nature of modern slavery and human trafficking, how to report it and the destructiveness of harmful social attitudes and prejudices and social systems in relation to modern slavery and human trafficking
- Government leaders to modern slavery-proof public sector supply chains
- 50 major multi-national businesses whose CEOs are people of faith or of goodwill to commit to modern slavery-proof their supply chains
- 162 governments to publicly endorse the establishment of the Global Fund to End Slavery, with 30 heads of state publicly endorsing it by the end of 2014
- The G20 to condemn modern slavery and human trafficking and adopt an anti-slavery and human trafficking initiative and support the above mentioned Global Fund.
The Joint Statement then concludes:
Our world must be freed of these terrible evils and crimes against humanity. Every hand and heart must be joined to bring this freedom to all those who are trapped and suffering. This agreement is a beginning and a pledge – the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking will not be forgotten or ignored: everyone will know their story. We will walk with them to freedom.
The Memorandum of Agreement defines modern slavery and human trafficking as an umbrella term referring to the systematic removal of an individual’s freedom. It encompasses the following types of modern slavery, as defined by the following international instruments:
§ Human trafficking including forced prostitution - Palermo Protocol 2000, European Trafficking Convention*;
§ Slavery - The Slavery Convention (1926) and Supplementary Slavery Convention (1956);
§ Forced Labour - ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29, 1930) and Convention Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour (No. 105);
§ Children in armed conflict - Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict;
§ Child Prostitution - Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography*;
§ Worst forms of child labour - Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182);
§ Debt bondage and forced marriage - Supplementary Slavery Convention (1956).
§ Any other forms of modern slavery and human trafficking that the Board considers should be included within the vision and objectives of this Memorandum of Agreement.
*The focus is on forms of forced prostitution and pornography, which fall within these definitions of modern slavery and human trafficking.