Interreligious Leaders to Sign Historic Joint Declaration Against Human Trafficking

Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Orthodox leaders will come together at the Vatican for the first time in history on Tuesday to sign a joint declaration against modern slavery and human trafficking.

The signatories, who will include Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Rabbi David Rosen will declare their commitment towards the eradication of the worldwide scourge by 2020.

The initiative has been drawn up by the Global Freedom Network, a faith-based organization launched in March this year aimed at ending modern slavery and human trafficking.

The network defines modern slavery as the “systematic deprivation of a person’s liberty, and abuse of his or her body, for example through mutilation or organ removal, for the purposes of personal or commercial exploitation.”

According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, almost 36 million people are currently trapped in what Pope Francis has variously described as a “crime against humanity”, “an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” and “a scourge upon the body of Christ.” The International Labor Organization says the total profits obtained from the use of forced labor in the private economy worldwide amount to US$150 billion per year.

The joint declaration will be signed at 11am on Tuesday, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, in the Casina Pio IV building in the Vatican Gardens.

The full list of signatories will be:

•Catholic: Pope Francis 

•Hindu: Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) 

•Buddhist: Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) (represented by Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu 
Chan Khong) 

•Buddhist: The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia

•Jewish: Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka 

•Jewish: Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG, CBE 

•Orthodox: His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (represented by His Eminence 
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France)

•Muslim: Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (represented by Dr. Abbas Abdalla 
Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif) 

•Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi 

•Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (represented by Sheikh Naziyah 
Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah) 

•Muslim: Sheikh Omar Abboud 

•Anglican: Most Revd and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury 

For more information, see here. 

The signing will also be shown live on Vatican television (see live feed / recording above).

On 17 March this year, a Memorandum of Agreement and Joint Statement establishing the Global Freedom Network was signed by multifaith leaders.

The network has outlined six fields of action for achieving its vision. These include mobilizing faith based communities, supply chain proofing to promote ethical purchasing arrangements, improving the care for victims and survivors, advocating for law reforms and enforcement, facilitating and promoting education and awareness, and securing sizeable funds in order to carry out its task.

Pope Francis taken a keen interest in the issue and sponsored an international workshop at the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences in November 2013. The event identified 42 proposals for acting globally as a matter of urgency.

The idea to create a multi-faith, interdenominational movement to eradicate human slavery arose from a meeting between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope in July last year.

A joint plan of action was then drawn up, bringing together global faith leaders in support of a comprehensive strategy for the eradication of modern slavery by 2020.


Text of Joint Declaration:

“We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.

In the eyes of God*, each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.

We pledge ourselves here today 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 opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.”

*The Grand Imam of Al Azhar uses the word “religions”