The fight against contemporary forms of slavery was the theme of the address given by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations, during the 27th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The archbishop referred to a number of tragic forms of contemporary slavery that have recently attracted the attention of the media and the international community, such as “massive kidnappings and sale of young girls under the false premises of religious teachings as is done, for example, by Boko Haram in Nigeria or by the so-called Islamic State group in northern Iraq”.
“Some 250,000 children are forcibly conscripted and even used as “human shields” in the front lines of armed conflicts”, he continued. However, there are “other, subtler forms of slavery that deserve specific attention, including the 5.7 million children who are victims of forced and bonded labour, domestic servitude, early, forced and servile marriage … and caste-based forms of slavery, which affect the lives of so many and are not confined to developing and poor countries”. Factors that may contribute to the promotion of all forms of slavery include “the increasing incidence of absolute poverty among many families affected by the economic crises, the lack of education and illiteracy, long-term and apparently irreversible unemployment which force people into the informal-sector work without adequate pay or social protection, involuntary migration, and human trafficking”.
Although the international community has already developed international conventions and agreements to protect against contemporary forms of slavery, the Holy See observer remarked that greater political will is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of such instruments and to increase public awareness. “We need to break the silence about this ‘open wound on the body of contemporary society’ and motivate ‘men and women of good will who want to cry out, Enough!’” he continued, noting that Pope Francis takes every opportunity to denounce the “many abominable forms of slavery [that] persist in today’s world” and has “joined with leaders from other major religious traditions to promote the ideals of faith and of shared human values in order to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking … for all time”.