By Jan Butter, ACNS
For the first time in history, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims have joined forces in a project to “inspire practical and spiritual action” to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.
High-level representatives from each faith community were at the Vatican today to sign an agreement launching the Global Freedom Network to help eradicate an injustice that affects up to 27 million people.
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed organisation that aims to eradicate slavery by encouraging governments, businesses, and educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labour.
Their representatives, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science Monseigner Sanchez Sorondo and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See Archbishop Sir David Moxon, signed the historic agreement at a media conference held in Rome this morning.
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Egypt’s representative was Dr Mahmoud Azab who made it clear in several languages that Islam “prohibits slavery and human trafficking 100 per cent”. He and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the global anti-slavery organisation in Australia "Walk Free", also signed the agreement.
Sharing a statement from Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop Moxon said, “Modern slavery and trafficking in human beings is one of the greatest scandals and tragedies of our human age. It is intolerable that millions of fellow human beings should be violated in this way, subjected to human exploitation and deprived of their dignity and rights.”
Stressing that the new initiative had much to learn from those who had been involved with the struggle against human trafficking and slavery for many decades, he said, “This outrage should concern each one of us, because what affect one part of humanity affects us all.”
In a separate statement issued on Archbishop Welby’s website he said, “We are now being challenged in these days to find more profound ways of putting our ministry and mission where our faith is; and being called into a deeper unity on the side of the poor and in the cause of the justice and righteousness of God.
“For this reason, the new Global Freedom Network is being created to join the struggle against modern slavery and human trafficking from a faith base, so that we might witness to God's compassion and act for the benefit of those who are abducted, enslaved and abused in this terrible crime.” Read his full statement at http://bit.ly/1p2XQcI
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.
Monseigner Sanchez Sorondo, Mr Andrew Forrest, John McCarthy the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Archbishop Moxon 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, is a member of the new Global Freedom Network Council and was one of several people who signed the agreement as a witness.
The Global Freedom Network will be based at the Vatican and have Antonia Stampalija as the chief executive responsible for implementing a five-year business plan. Objectives include getting the G20 to condemn modern-day slavery, persuading 50 major corporations to commit to slavery-proofing their supply chains and convincing 160 governments to endorse a seven-year, $100 million fundraising effort to implement anti-slavery programs globally
Archbishop Moxon, who is also the director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, concluded his speech with a prayer written by the project’s chief executive:
“Lord, in this moment we stand beside every victim who has been human trafficked or enslaved. In this moment we know you bear their excruciating fear and pain. May they feel your peace and grace wash over them. We pray for justice to be served. We pray for their release from the unbearable dehumanisation anguish and humiliation they feel. We pray for their liberation from being held captive against their will and by your grace for good Samaritans to restore their lives. We pray for the healing of victims and for their loved ones. We pray as part of a united, worldwide movement for the empowerment and ability of all churches, of all faiths, international and civil society organisations, governments, national authorities, business communities and people of goodwill everywhere to put an end to modern slavery. We pray never to forget what it feels like to be in this moment to stand in solidarity with victims of slavery consumed with fear and pain. We pray that you will use us in some way to help end this human traged. Lord with have faith that your presence, your love and your spiritual embrace will always be with the victims of modern slavery. Lord God, Heavenly King, mighty God and Father hear our prayer.”