In a progressive world, more globally interconnected and technologically advanced than ever before, it is difficult to comprehend that up to 45.8 million human beings are trapped in modern slavery. It is the greatest number of slaves in history.
Slavery, taking many tragic forms, is a blight on modern civilisation that has been described as a crime against humanity. Its ugly tentacles stretch through almost every country in the world, not discriminating between religion, nationality or age. Modern slavery involves the ancient forms of slavery itself, human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, organ trafficking, forced or servile marriage, and the sale and exploitation of girls, boys, women and men.
Over hundreds of years, many have battled the seemingly impossible task of ending slavery. In modern times, organisations have applied their brightest brains, backed by significant resources and the best intentions, to the issue. Yet, on a global scale, only small dents have been made in the armoury of the evil creature that is slavery.
It is a problem that continues to grow, largely uncensored, and particularly in places where poverty and greed are different sides of the same coin. The moral, political and economic outcomes of modern slavery are pervading and harming countless societies and people.
Change is long overdue, and that change has begun.
On Tuesday, 2 December 2014, the inaugural signing of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery took place at Casina Pio IV, Vatican City. Faith leaders from across the world breached cultural, religious and political divides to come together to pledge an end to modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020. They were joined by leaders from many countries of the world, representing the business, political and civil sectors.
In a watershed event, global leaders from the Christian Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox religions, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths, signed the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery. Initiated and coordinated by the Global Freedom Network, the 2 December event was historic not only for its definitive commitment to work across religions to eradicate modern slavery, but also because it was possibly the first time ever that these faith leaders had met as a group, unified in a common cause, signing their names on the same document. It was the first time since the establishment of the Catholic Church that the Pope had met with a Grand Ayatollah in person. In addition, it was the first time post the Reformation that the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion had reached an agreement on a global initiative. Furthermore, it was a rare joint initiative between Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders.
On Wednesday, 2 December 2015, the second signing of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery took place at Parliament House, Canberra, precisely one year after the inaugural signing in Vatican City. On this occasion, it was Australian faith leaders who were pledging to do all that they could to take spiritual practical action to end slavery. This initiative was led by the Salvation Army with the support and endorsement of the Global Freedom Network. Christian Evangelical, Baptist, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, Coptic Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, Muslim Sunni and Shai, Lutheran, Jewish, Hindu, Quakers, Uniting Church and Buddhist leaders took part in the event.
On Thursday, 3 December 2015, the third signing of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery took place at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India. Before an audience of 300 people Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Baha’i and Jewish leaders made the pledge to unite on the vision of eradicating modern slavery. Unlike the events in Vatican City and Australia, the Indian event was followed by a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Eradication of bonded and forced labour in India’. There were seven speakers including Chief Guest and Key Note Speaker, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and survivor advocate, Susheela.
GFN is committed to eradicate modern slavery and trafficking within this generation.
GFN will continue to engage and unite faith leaders around the world to take spiritual and practical action to eradicate modern slavery. We will empower faith leaders to mobilise their efforts and work in collaboration with the private, public and civil sectors to fight modern slavery.
The Global Freedom Network is continuing to build on the momentum achieved through the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery in events in Vatican City, Delhi and Canberra in 2014 and 2015. Engagement is ongoing with other world faiths that share the aspiration for a world without modern slavery. Faith Leader forums are planned in other countries including Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
GFN will work with the Governments of the ten leading economies of the world to support them to enact laws, and ensure budget and capability for enforcement, to hold organisations accountable for modern slavery in their supply chains.
As part of their commitment to end slavery we will seek to have the leaders of these countries join faith leaders in signing the Joint Declaration Against Slavery.
The Chairman of the Global Freedom Network has been asked to lead a new Business track of the Bali Process that will engage leading business figures from member countries to join the fight to detect and prevent trafficking in persons. The Bali Process members have acknowledged the importance of engaging private industry in genuine partnership and of promoting good practise in industry supply chains.