“Churches Engaging in the Pain of the World”
Archbishop Sir David Moxon addressed the annual CWS Supporters’ Council
Speaking in Hamilton, Archbishop Sir David Moxon urged greater support to end human trafficking and modern slavery. Churches are engaged in other places, assisting refugees and migrants heading and brokering peace in South Sudan.
From the first stories in the Hebrew Scriptures of slaves escaping from Egypt, people of faith have been concerned about finding liberation from oppression. The search for freedom has always been part of the story of God and God’s people – we are not free until everyone is free.
For example, religious sisters in Sloan Square, London are working to free people from the forced sex industry. They do not wear habits and live near one of the brothels. They get to know the women in the brothels and they (very carefully) ask if they want to leave. They then provide safe houses and a corridor to freedom, as well as protecting against recrimination against their families.
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again you did not know” William Wilberforce.
There were 3 million slaves in Wilberforce’s time – there are now 30 million
The harm caused by human traffickers continues to rise as growing numbers of people are caught up in their schemes. In vulnerable and often poor communities, the traffickers or the people they employ promise better jobs and opportunities that never eventuate. Instead many are locked in and are forced to work for no pay. Their passport is taken and they cannot leave.
Despite global efforts to combat the practice, numbers keep growing. The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated 35,800,000 people, but they are difficult to calculate because of the hidden nature of much activity. Victims are trapped in factories, brothels, agriculture, horticulture, homes, the fishing industry and more. An estimated 1,000-3,000 victims of trafficking are resident in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In 2014 while working in Rome as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative, Archbishop David was part of a group bringing together world faith leaders on the issue, the first time that such an interfaith agreement has been reached. Their Joint Declaration against Modern Slavery begins by affirming the freedom of every person and the fundamental dignity of every person as God’s intention. Together they committed themselves to action.
Faith communities should challenge businesses and governments to develop policies that combat slavery and prosecute traffickers, stopping the supply chains that keep the trade going. There are many examples of faith-based organisations providing care and sometimes safety for survivors.
“From an interfaith perspective this is a unique opportunity to collaborate and work from the values and spiritual heart of the faith experience to rid the world of this evil, and to actively seek justice and freedom for those who suffer so much from this crime,” he said.
Archbishop David spoke of the way churches provided a corridor of support for refugees and migrants seeking safety in Europe. In South Sudan, the churches are playing a critical role in peacemaking efforts. Being part of global networks has helped South Sudanese churches pressure both sides of the conflict to reach the “rough peace” that continues to hold. This is work we can do together as God’s people seeking liberation from conflict and oppression.
Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery December 2nd 2014, written in Rome, and hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Science and Social Sciences, care of Monsignor Sanchez Sorondo:
“We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of goodwill 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 inequality 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.”
This declaration has gone all over the world and has been acted on one way or another by the following religions, represented at the time of the signing by the following signatories:
- Catholic: Pope Francis
- Hindu: Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)
- Buddhist: Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) (represented by Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong)
- Buddhist: The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia
- Jewish: Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka
- Jewish: Rabbi Dr. David Rosen
- Orthodox: His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France)
- Muslim: Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (represented by Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif)
- Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi
- Muslim: Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (represented by Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah)
- Muslim: Sheikh Omar Abboud
- Anglican: Most Revd and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
This declaration is beginning to be used as a challenge and guide to the interfaith struggle against modern slavery and human trafficking . To take one example, this declaration was responsible for the convening of a similar local Global Freedom Network hosted event signed an agreement to combat slavery in India. This occurred in New Delhi under entirely new circumstances, from multi-faith representatives in early December 2015, as the Reuters news agency noted:
“In Thursday’s declaration, 11 spiritual and religious leaders in India pledged to do all within their power to work “for the freedom of all who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored.”
As well as Shankar, the signatories included Hindu leaders Morari Bapu and Purjya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Muslim Mufti M. Mukarram Ahmed, Christian leader Alwan Masih and Jewish leader Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar.
With thanks to Kate Boardman and Archbishop Sir David Moxon
St Peter’s Cathedral lounge
October 12, 2019
The Supporters’ Council is made up of partner churches, organisations and individuals committed to the vision, values and objectives of Christian World Service and who have provided financial support for CWS work in the past two years.