Christians and Muslims join forces to combat modern slavery

Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:30pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church, Church of England and al-Azhar, the Cairo-based seat of Sunni Muslim learning, came together on Monday for a rare display of interfaith action among them in calling for an end to modern slavery within 20 years.

Their joint statement setting up the "Global Freedom Network" they declared that "physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children" trapped 30 million people worldwide in slavery.

As well as establishing a world day of prayer for victims of slavery, the faiths agreed to "slavery-proof their supply chains and investments and to take remedial action if necessary" and press governments and companies to do the same.

Relations between the Vatican and the Church of England are cordial, even though they differ over women bishops and gay issues, while Rome's ties to al-Azhar are thawing after three years of frosty separation.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who signed the document for the Vatican, said Pope Francis had described human trafficking and modern-day slavery, raging from forced sex work to indentured agricultural labor, as a "crime against humanity".

He said the rare example of cooperation between the Catholic and Anglican communities and al-Azhar in Cairo could help build closer ties between the faiths.

"I think it's the first time we have worked together like this," he told journalists at the signing ceremony, adding that interfaith relations required careful study and treatment.

"But for other questions, human questions, the common values of humanity we can work together and this can be important for the theoretical path," he said.   Continued...