World religious leaders have pledged to help stamp out modern slavery and trafficking by 2020.
Pope Francis joined Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian leaders in signing a declaration in which they called forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking “a crime against humanity”.
The document was also signed by the head of the Anglican Communion, two rabbis, a Hindu from India, a Vietnamese Buddhist, an Egyptian imam and an Iraqi ayatollah, among others.
“The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men and women, boys and girls, is chaining tens of millions of persons to inhumanity and humiliation,” Pope Francis said before signing the pledge to do “all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond” to end modern slavery.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics called modern slavery “an atrocious plague” at an unprecedented interfaith summit at the Vatican Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, addressed the group via a video link-up from his base in Istanbul.
The event was organised by the Global Freedom Network, a multi-faith anti-slavery group.
A global slavery index released last month by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based human rights group, estimated that almost 36 million people are living as slaves, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or born into servitude.
Organisers said religious leaders could inspire their faithful to combat slavery and human trafficking through education, funding, demanding legal reform and enforcement and promoting ethical purchasing to avoid buying goods that could be the product of forced labor.
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