Anglican/Episcopalian Collaboration in the struggle to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking from a faith base, through the creation of the Global Freedom Network
If you had asked me five years ago what I thought about ‘slavery’, I would have used the past tense. But, as we are becoming more and more aware, this could hardly be less right. At the moment the Walk Free Charity estimates that there are more than 35,000,000 people enslaved across the world.
That is more than at any time in history. When we talk about slavery we are talking about people with no passport, no pay, and no basic freedoms. Some – especially in the West – are sex slaves; most are old fashioned slaves in the fields, in mines, in fishing boats, on construction projects. The countries with the highest numbers of enslaved people are India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Nobody chooses to be enslaved. This goes without saying. Millions, however, find themselves in this position, and understanding how is essential for working out how to stop it. For people to be enslaved, they almost always have to be moved from their home communities. Sometimes this is a movement within their own country; often it is to another country. Many people voluntarily choose to move – for the promise of a job; with the prospect of a degree; in the hope of love. In the effort to get into another country, people end up without their passports, with no prospect of a job, at the mercy of the people who trafficked them into the country. The enormous number of people being trafficked illegally into Italy raises the devastating prospect that tens of thousands of recent migrants will find themselves in slavery in a land they hoped would be their redemption. The only chance we have for this not to happen is if we work out how we can welcome the stranger into our lands.
The issue has risen in our consciousness over the last five years, and thank God it has. The voice of people of faith has been crucial to this – not least our Anglican / Episcopalian voice. Two years ago, when Archbishop Justin Welby came to visit Pope Francis for the first time, they pledged that our two communions should walk together “as if we were already one.” They decided that we should work together, most especially, on the issue of Modern Slavery.
Because of work already being done by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences and – on the other side of the world – by the Walk Free Foundation in Perth, Australia, those two bodies joined with the Anglican Centre in Rome in setting up the Global Freedom Network. This Network agreed to harness the faith communities of the world in the fight against slavery and grew from being an Anglican-Catholic initiative to being something which leaders from across the world’s faiths later signed up to: Orthodox Christians, Jews, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Zen Buddhists, Hindus, and the original Anglicans and Catholics.
On Tuesday 2 December 2014, the Global Freedom Network invited world religious leaders to unite their efforts by becoming signatories to this Joint Declaration and held a unique gathering of these leaders in the Vatican. Together they signed this Joint Declaration:
Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery
“We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historical 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.”
But how does this work in practise? What will it actually mean? It’s all very well coming to Rome and making promises, but for slavery to end, slavery must be bankrupted. These are the areas we plan to focus on, which we think could make slavery functionally impossible in the near future – but only if we all actually work together.
1. Mobilizing faith based communities
We will engage with existing faith networks to raise awareness, create opportunities for joint action, and to mobilize faith-based communities on specific issues such as: reinforcing inter-confessional and ecumenical networks to create an ever growing pool of physical, human and financial resources; training and education opportunities; support and care for victims and survivors; and the creation of a world day of prayer, fasting and reflection.
2. Supply chain proofing
We must work with companies, governments and faith-based communities to promote ethical purchasing arrangements. This includes advocating for, and supporting, the introduction of supply chain policy frameworks; risk assessments; supplier audits and on-site assessments; corrective action plans to eradicate the areas of non-compliance; and engagement with suppliers.
3. Care for the victims and survivors of modern slavery in terms of forced labour and prostitution, and organ trafficking.
We have to work with all religions to identify existing services and facilities to better support survivors (eg medical care, counselling and emergency accommodation) as well as networks to create a pool of resources to help victims and give them access to long term housing and accommodation.
4. Law reforms and enforcement
Lobby for improved legislation, enforcement of laws and increased prosecution rates as well as the introduction of new and enhanced international legislation to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. There is a need to work with governments and national authorities to ensure that businesses are sufficiently regulated, and that assets of criminals are fully confiscated and are channelled towards survivors.
5. Education and Awareness
Promote enhanced awareness raising campaigns that concentrate specifically on prevention, different forms of exploitation, and at risk and vulnerable cohorts and communities. It will also arrange meetings with key stakeholders on targeted issues relating to modern slavery and human trafficking to identify, develop and promote the implementation of eradication strategies.
Given the vast sums generated by these modern crimes against humanity, there is a need to seek resources from private donors, national and international organizations, and governments . To this end, it may also be advisable to establish a ‘Global Fund to End Slavery’ in the form of a private-public partnership to provide better co-ordination, effectiveness and transparent measurement and assessment of in-country anti-slavery initiatives.
This has become the biggest campaign of my career. As a Christian – as a human being – it makes me sick to think that the fish on my plate or the gold in my iPhone may very possibly have got there thanks to the enslavement of a human being. We are made in the image and likeness of God but that image is trashed when the dignity of another human being is trashed and they are made a slave of another human being. By the grace of God this scourge will not survive another generation.
- In what ways can a refugee become a slave?
- How might our societies bankrupt slavery?
- How do we as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. respond to the existence of slavery in modern society?
About the Author
Archbishop Sir David Moxon is a New Zealand Anglican bishop. He is currently the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He was previously the Bishop of Waikato in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, the archbishop of the New Zealand dioceses and one of the three primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. In the New Year Honours for 2014 he was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Anglican Church.
To download a .PDF of this reflection in English, please click here.
To download a .PDF of this reflection in Italian, please click here.