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Australian religious leaders call for action on modern slavery

Posted on: December 7, 2016 4:38 PM
Photo Credit: Ira Gelb / Flickr

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Primate of Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, has joined other religious leaders in Australia in calling for a new law to tackle modern slavery. He has co-signed a joint open letter asking the country’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to introduce a Modern Slavery Act.

“As faith leaders united against modern slavery, we express our concerns about the welfare and human rights of thousands of migrant workers who are either at risk of or are experiencing forced labour in Australia,” the religious leaders say in their letter. “We believe it is vital that Australian governments and businesses take all reasonable steps to ensure their procurement activities ensure the people producing the goods or services have decent jobs and are free from forced labour or human trafficking.”

They say: “Australia has robust legislation criminalising the spectrum of slavery and slavery-like practices and we believe a Modern Slavery Act would be a vital next step. Australia has an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to learn from what has worked and not worked in other countries to identify, mitigate and eradicate modern slavery.”

Commenting on the letter, Archbishop Freier said: “We join together to recognise the God-given dignity of each human person to know freedom, to live without their lives being owned by others, and to express themselves to the fullest potential that God has given them.”

He added: “Every person deserves to live a life of freedom. As people of faith we have pledged to work together to overcome this terrible evil still being suffered by so many of our fellow human beings. The eradication of modern slavery needs to be a national priority for all of us – Government, business and civil society. It’s only by working together that we can succeed in abolishing slavery.”

In addition to Archbishop Freier, the letter was signed by Australia’s Roman Catholic Leader, Archbishop Denis Hart, as well as Baptist, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, Coptic, Lutheran and Hillsong churches, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders acting through the Australian Freedom Network.

The network was launched last year to work towards the eradication of slavery, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labour and forced marriage.