(Transcript from World News Radio)
Representatives from the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim faiths have united to fight slavery through a new global network to tackle human trafficking, forced prostitution and child labour.
Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest came up with the idea of a Global Freedom Network last year.
The new network says it will aim to pressure governments and businesses to free millions of men, women and children from slavery by 2020.
Michael Kenny reports.
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At a ceremony in the Vatican, representatives from the three religious faiths released a statement, declaring that physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children trapped 30 million people worldwide in slavery.
They promised to work alongside governments, businesses, educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labour by 2020.
And they emphasised that slavery occurs in a variety of settings including those forced to work as maids, prostitutes, child soldiers and manual labourers.
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest believes the new network has taken the boldest step forward yet towards tackling slavery in the modern world.
“I ask really ladies and gentlemen for your prayers now as the work of the Global Freedom Network, in its unprecedented historical nature, goes forward and does reach out successfully to the 162 governments which are measured in the Global Slavery Index, reaches out to the millions of churches and mosques around the world and effectively brings them with us, in one great army.”
Alongside Mr Forrest at the launch was Mahmoud Azab who was representing the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, Ahmed el-Tayeb.
The university is widely recognised as a key centre of Sunni Muslim teaching around the world.
Mr Azab read out a statement, declaring the university’s strong support for the new network.
(Through translation) “It doesn’t matter in what form, classic or modern Islam, the Quran, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, all the believers reject 100 per cent all forms of slavery and aggression to the human being whose dignity is sacred to the Lord, as the Quran says.”
Mr Azab says he hopes the shared commitment to combating slavery will in turn help to foster closer ties between the different religious faiths.
That is a goal shared by the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson.
The Ghanaian cardinal says he believes too many people take a narrow view of slavery and he hopes the new network can help to broaden their perceptions.
(Through translation) “Many people think that human trafficking and slavery are very far away problems. It’s not far away. Where you have an ageing population, for instance, where people need home assistance, there you can easily find instances of slavery.”
The document to combat slavery was also signed by Anglican Bishop David Moxton who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican.
He hopes the new network can help inspire closer collaboration between faiths on tackling a common concern.
“What is new is joined up thinking, global co-ordination and networking. Threshold of slavery was getting so high as the Global Slavery Index indicates- probably about 29 million people in this category- so it was just getting to a threshold where the faiths needed to talk to each other and to look to each other on this major crisis of injustice.”
Andrew Forrest says he hopes the network can help inspire greater political leadership to tackle slavery at the G20 summit in November.
As the chair of the G20, Australia will be hosting this year’s summit in Brisbane.
The Director of Anti Slavery Australia at the University of Technology in Sydney, Jennifer Burn, says it will be a good opportunity to promote the need for global action against slavery.
“It would be an excellent initiative to bring it to the focus of G20 membership. Slavery is a global problem and we don’t know exactly how many people are affected. It’s a terrible indictment in the global world. Really it is so important for us all to bring whatever strength we have to addressing this issue at a systemic level.”