(Vatican Radio) Representatives of the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim worlds gathered for the first time ever in the Vatican press office on Monday for the launch of a Global Freedom Network aimed at eradicating human trafficking by the end of the decade. Philippa Hitchen went along to witness this historic event:
The groundbreaking agreement to work closely together across the different faith communities was signed by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo on behalf of Pope Francis. The Argentinian bishop is chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences which brought together a broad coalition of anti-trafficking experts for a workshop last November. He was joined by New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre here in Rome and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See. Also on hand to sign the founding declaration was Dr Mahmoud Azab, representing the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, one of the most important centres of Sunni Islam located in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
The other key figure who put his signature to the document was Australian businessman Andrew Forrest, founder of a philanthropic organisation called the Walk Free Foundation. Set up after Forrest’s daughter travelled to Nepal where children were being caught up in a trafficking for prostitution ring, its aim is to stamp out this modern form of slavery by galvanizing and supporting action at local, national and international level. Planned actions include urging governments to publicly endorse the establishment of the Global Fund to End Slavery and persuading multi-national businesses to commit to eradicating slavery from their supply chains. By mobilizing the world’s major faith communities, this new Network hopes to bring an end by 2020 to what Pope Francis has dared to call a crime against humanity: Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo:
“It’s not politically correct to call this modern slavery a crime against humanity but we want to arrive at that in national and international law….”
Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims mark just the beginning of what organisers sincerely hope will expand to include representatives of all other faith communities as well. They’re also aware that much work is already being done to tackle prevention, prosecution and protection of trafficking victims. What’s been missing up until now, says Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, is a joined-up approach to the problem:
“If you look at the work of Catholic, Anglican and other faith missions over the last three or four decades, they have been engaged in the fight against human trafficking…..”
Statistics show some 30 million men, women and children are currently caught in the clutches of human traffickers and that figure is believed by many to be just the tip of the iceberg. Organisers of this Global Freedom Network are hoping to touch the hearts of all believers to help put an end to this exploitation which they call a shameful affront to our common humanity.