In this momentous Declaration the leaders committed themselves to an unprecedented joint initiative “to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world for all time.”
The faith leaders pledged “to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.”
The event had been organized by the Global Freedom Network (GFN). This is a faith-based global network with a vision to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking throughout the world and for all time. Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, is on the GFN Council and was present at the event.
Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi and Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, and Bishop Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby in the Church of England, also accompanied Archbishop Justin to the Vatican to witness the signing of the Declaration.
There was a particularly poignant moment when two survivors of slavery, from Ghana and Mexico, read the Declaration back to the faith leaders. Their stories – and the brutalised lives of over 30 million others in slavery around the world – are a compelling reminder of why a global movement against slavery is so vital.
Pope Francis opened the event with an impassioned statement. He said, “We are inspired by our faiths and we have joined together here for this historic initiative. We wish to declare that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms.”
In his speech, Archbishop Justin said, “In Christ we find our liberation restored. God treated humanity with such loving respect by choosing to take human form among us – so we must show that love and respect to all human beings.”
“The evils we seek to combat will not yield without struggle. The complex global environment is why we need the strongest possible collaboration between national governments everywhere, with the business sector, police forces, civil society, faith communities and all those who long to see all humanity live in freedom,” he added.
Global leaders from across the faith traditions – Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist – all spoke, their words resonating strongly with the sense of common purpose: “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society… Human beings, in accordance with the nature and purpose of procreation, are equal… Dignity was given to human beings by God and there can be no dignity without freedom… The body and productivity of others are not ours to own. They are only ours to respect and treat with dignity… All forms of slavery should be considered a crime against humanity… The root of modern slavery run deep and the root causes and the networks and structures are complex which is why we need to build a community to continue this work.”
The full list of signatories is given below. Their speeches can be found on the website of the Global Freedom Network at http://www.globalfreedomnetwork.org
Andrew Forrest, Founder of the Walk Free Foundation and a Board Member of the Global Freedom Network, said in his speech: “This is an unprecedented demonstration of the faith leaders of the world coming together to draw a line in the sand to end the scourge of slavery.”
One of these survivors participating in the event, James Kofi Annan, was a former child slave, sold into the fishing industry in Ghana at the age of six. James had also been a participant in the recent Anglican Alliance consultation on Modern Slavery in early November. James had told the group that his job, as a child slave, was to dive underwater to free entangled nets. He said that the boys cost just $20 while the nets cost $200, so it was clear which was expendable. Of the six boys taken from his village, only three survived. James himself escaped after seven years, educated himself and later set up an NGO to end child slavery.
After yesterday’s extraordinary event expressing such deep solidarity amongst the faith leaders, there is a recognition that something very significant has been started. The task now is to see these commitments bless, mandate and motivate more effective and collaborative action on the ground to end slavery in all its forms.
In the wider Anglican Communion, the Anglican Alliance is working to connect and promote collaboration amongst the inspired and courageous individuals and churches who are called to tackle modern slavery in their own context. Some of these had gathered at the recent Anglican Alliance consultation on modern slavery.
The recommendations from the meeting envisioned more effective collaborative action and included agreed actions such as: joining wider faith networks for more coordinated response on slavery; helping churches to understand the national and local context of slavery; helping support a movement of survivors, for their mutual support and to mobilise churches to be agents of local action; promoting a Communion-wide Freedom Sunday to ensure local churches raise awareness; advocating with governments, police and judiciary for stronger laws and more effective implementation of those laws.
Other denominations, such as the Roman Catholics and the Salvation Army, have been working for many years to tackle slavery and human trafficking. As Anglicans we are now working to link our many initiatives together so that we can work more effectively as a global Communion and partner for greater impact with other faith groups and secular entities.
Such is the mandate from the faith leaders who signed the Declaration to end modern slavery yesterday at the Vatican:
- Pope Francis
- Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)
- Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong (representing Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh)
- The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia
- Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka
- Rabbi Dr. David Rosen
- His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew)
- Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif (representing Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar)
- Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi
- Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah (representing Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi)
- Sheikh Omar Abboud
- Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
In the picture: Archbishop Justin signing the Declaration. Credit: Global Freedom Network