VATICAN CITY, Vatican – Marking a first-ever in history, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims joined together on March 17 and launched a project to combat global human trafficking. Representatives from the three religions met at the Vatican to sign the Global Freedom Network (GFN) into existence, a project designed to “help eradicate an injustice that affects up to 27 million people,” says the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS.)
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, respective representatives of the Roman Catholic and Anglican faiths, personally back the project and welcomed the cooperation from the Muslim community, according to the ACNS. The launch symbolized a step forward for Catholic-Muslim relations, says the Huntington Post, as ties between the Holy See and the Vatican collapsed during Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. Dr. Mahmoud Azab represented Egypt’s Grand Imam of al-Azhar and promoted Islam’s prohibition of slavery and human trafficking.
Australia’s Andrew Forrest, a prominent mining magnate and humanitarian, also signed the agreement. Forrest is the founder of the Walk Free foundation, which published the Global Slavery Index earlier this year. Chronicling the prevalence of trafficking in 162 countries, the Index “estimates about 16 million people are enslaved in Pakistan and India alone,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC.) This hits home particularly hard for Forrest, who was inspired to action after a trip to Pakistan where he met a 9-year-old Nepalese orphan impacted by human trafficking.
Though he will be working especially close with Pakistan–he has announced a plan to free 2.5 people from slavery in the Middle Eastern nation–Forrest is one of the main supporters of the GFN and its far-reaching goals. As reported in The Guardian, Forrest told Fairfax of his heartrending response to the launch of the project: “When I heard the news [that all parties had agreed to the venture]I have to admit I became emotional. This is going to change everything.”
The GFN will operate as a sort of company and aims to target the supply side of the trafficking business. It will work with all religious faiths to rid them of organizations in their supply chain that utilize slavery and trafficked labor, according to The Guardian. In addition, it seeks to gain the support of the 162 countries reported in the Global Slavery Index and partner with 50 multinational corporations to break ties with unjust organizations and labor forces.
Forrest offered a prayer at the launch meeting, reports the ABC, seeking support and affirmation as the GFN in its “unprecedented historical nature goes forward and does reach out successfully to the 162 countries which are measured in the Global Slavery Index.”
While the GFN’s objective is noble and inspiring, the eradication of slavery is a serious, hard-edged endeavor, Forrest expresses to The Guardian. “We are out to defeat slavery; we are not out to feel good. This is our mission.”
Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Anglican Communion News Service, The Huffington Post, The Guardian