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Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis back Anglican-Catholic anti-slavery and human trafficking initiative

March 17, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby meeting with Pope Francis in 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed on 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; Dr Mahmoud Azab on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt; and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”.

The joint statement by the Global Freedom Network signatories, which underscores the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking, calls for urgent action by all other Christian churches and global faiths. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support the initiative.

In a statement Archbishop Justin said: “Anglicans and Roman Catholics have, since 1966, been in serious and prayerful dialogue with each other, to seek the unity that Christ wills for his church in the world. Jesus has said “ May they all be one,” and this imperative has inspired and sustained the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, for many years as an act of faith.

“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.

“Many are already engaged in the struggle and we join them with much to learn as well as much to contribute. All are called to join common cause to end this crime and suffering. The more we share the pain and oppression of the poor and suffering in the name of God, the more God will draw us closer to each other, because we will need each other’s strength and support to make the kind of difference that is needed. We are struggling against evil in secret places and in deeply entrenched networks of malice and cruelty. No one of us is strong enough, but together we are ready for the challenge God is placing before us today, and we know that he will strengthen us so that all people may live in freedom and dignity.”

Inauguration of the Global Freedom Network

About the Global Freedom Network

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.

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).


Eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020 is the objective of a ground-breaking agreement announced today at the Vatican. This unprecedented agreement among representatives of major faiths inaugurates the Global Freedom Network (GFN) which also has the Walk Free Foundation as a major partner.

The Memorandum of Agreement and Joint Statement establishing the Global Freedom Network had the following signatories:

  • On behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences
  • On behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt, Dr Mahmoud Azab
  • On behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, The Most Reverend Sir David John Moxon, his representative to the Holy See
  • On behalf of the Walk Free Foundation, Mr Andrew Forrest, founder.

The Joint Statement by the Global Freedom Network signatories underscored the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking and called for urgent action by all other Christian Churches and Global Faiths. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support this initiative.

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 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 manmade 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 abovementioned 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.