Pope Francis' Address at Signing of Declaration Against Modern Slavery

«We declare, in the name of each and all of our Creeds, that modern slavery, in terms of traffic of persons, forced labor, prostitution, exploitation of organs, is a crime against humanity»

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At 11 o’clock today, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, a ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for the signing of the Declaration of Religious leaders against slavery. This solemn ceremony follows the agreement signed last March 17 in the Vatican, which instituted the Global Freedom Network, to uproot –between now and 2020 – modern forms of slavery and the traffic of persons.

Signing the Joint Declaration with Pope Francis were the eminent representatives of the Orthodox, Anglicans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

– For Catholics: Pope Francis

– For Hindus: Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)

– For Buddhists: Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) (represented by the Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong)

– For Buddhists: The Most Venerable Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia

– For Jews: Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka

– For Jews: Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG, CBE

– For the Orthodox: His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (represented by His Eminence the Metropolitan Emmanuel of France)

– For Muslims: Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (represented by Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Under-Secretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif)

– For Muslims: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi

– For Muslims: Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (represented by Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special Adviser of Grand Ayatollah)

– For Muslims: Sheikh Omar Abboud

– For Anglicans: Most Reverend and Right Honorable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The following is a translation of the text of Pope Francis’ address, during the course of this morning’s ceremony.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am grateful to all the religious leaders gathered here for their commitment in favor of human trafficking survivors, and all those present for their intense participation in this ceremony of fraternity, especially for our most suffering brothers.

Inspired by our confessions of faith, we have gathered today on the occasion of an historic initiative and a concrete action: To state that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms.

The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men, women, boys and girls at present, chains tens of million of persons to dehumanization and humiliation.

Every human being, man, woman, boy and girl is an image of God; God is Love and liberty who gives Himself through inter-personal relations; thus every human being is a free person destined to exist for the good of others in equality and fraternity.

Each and all persons are equal and they must be given the same liberty and the same dignity. Any discriminating relation that does not respect the fundamental conviction that the other is like oneself, constitutes an offense and, very often, an aberrant offense.

Therefore, we declare, in the name of each and all of our Creeds, that modern slavery, in terms of traffic of persons, forced labor, prostitution, exploitation of organs, is a crime against humanity. Its victims are of every condition, but more often they are among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

In their name, they are calling our faith communities, without exception, to action; they reject completely all systematic privation of individual liberty for the purpose of personal or commercial exploitation. In their name, we make this declaration.

Despite the great efforts of many, modern slavery continues to be an atrocious scourge, which is present on a large scale throughout the world, including as tourism. This crime against humanity is masked in apparent accepted customs, but in reality it makes its victims in prostitution, the traffic of persons, forced labor, slave labor, mutilation, the sale of organs, the evil use of drugs, and child labor, It hides behind closed doors, in private homes, in streets, in cars, in factories, in fields, in fishing boats and in many other places.

And this happens both in cities as well as villages, in the emergency villas of the riches and poorest nations of the world. And the worst thing is that, unfortunately, this situation gets worse every day.

We are calling to action all persons of faith and their leaders, Governments and enterprises, all men and women of good will, to give their unwavering support and join the movement against modern slavery, in all its forms. Sustained by the ideals of our confessions of faith and our shared human values, we all can and must raise the standard of spiritual values, joint effort, and the liberating vision to eradicate slavery from our planet.

I pray to the Lord to grant us today the grace to become every person’s neighbor, without exception, and to always give active help to anyone we come across on our path, be it an elderly person abandoned by all, a worker unjustly enslaved and scorned, a female or male refugee trapped in the bonds of an evil life, a young man or young woman who walks through the streets of the world as a victim of sexual commerce, a man or woman prostituted with deceits by people without the fear of God, a boy or a girl whose organs have been mutilated, who appeal to our consciences, echoing the voice of the Lord: I assure you that every time you did it to the least of my brothers, you did it to me.

Dear friends, thank you for this gathering; thank you for this transversal commitment which binds us all; we are all a reflection of God’s image, and we are convinced that we cannot tolerate the image of the living God being subjected to the most aberrant human trafficking.

Thank you very much.

[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]
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