THE launch of a new interfaith anti-slavery movement, the Global
Freedom Network (GFN), by the Church of England and the Roman
Catholic Church on Monday has been hailed as a historic moment.
The GFN aims to combat slavery and human trafficking, which are
thought to affect between 12 and 27 million people worldwide.
The agreement was signed on Monday at the Vatican by
representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, and
the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, who is
considered by many to be the leading cleric in Sunni Islam.
The Walk Free Foundation, which was founded by an Australian
Anglican mining magnate and billionaire, Andrew Forrest, in 2012,
is in partnership with the GFN. Mr Forrest said on Tuesday that the
joint effort by the two Churches was making history. "This has not
happened since before the Reformation. We are living in a time of
great history and great leaders."
The joint statement issued by the signatories to the GFN urged
people of faith and goodwill across the world to join their
movement. "This evil is man-made, and can be overcome by
faith-inspired human will and human effort," it said.
Among the Network's initiatives to combat slavery is a world day
of prayer for its victims. The statement said that the "instruments
of faith - prayer, fasting, and almsgiving" - would be primary
weapons in the struggle.
Archbishop Welby's representa-tive to the Holy See, the Most
Revd David Moxon, said on Tuesday at Lambeth Palace that the GFN
had been born in a conversation between the Archbishop and Pope
Francis during their first meeting last year (News, 14 June).
He said: "During lunch, I heard Archbishop Justin say: 'I think
we should do something on human trafficking.' He knew that Pope
Francis had already been thinking about human trafficking and
modern slavery long before that, and deliberately brought it up
with a view to seeing if they could collaborate in some way."
Archbishop Moxon said that, now that Anglicans, Roman Catholics,
and Sunni Muslims were already on board, it was intended to invite
other faiths to join the project. This would remove any putative
religious justifications for slavery, Mr Forrest said. The faiths
were also uniquely capable of mobilising millions of supporters to
put pressure on governments to act.
The Revd Rachel Carnegie, who is co-director of Anglican
Alliance, a development agency, will sit on the council of the GFN.
On Tuesday, she said that the movement would seek to learn from
those fighting slavery on the ground. "For example, in the Eastern
Himalayas the Anglican churches are working on raising awareness in
their communities about the risk of trafficking, and the
interception of young women.
"We also want to work with businesspeople of faith and goodwill,
to find a common ground in examining supply chains, and seeking to
ensure that they are slave-free. From the C of E side, we are
working on theological materials for parishes, and on
In a statement, Archbishop Welby said: "The new Global Freedom
Network is being created to join the struggle against modern
slavery and human trafficking from a faith base, so that we might
witness to God's compassion, and act for the benefit of those who
are abducted, enslaved, and abused in this terrible crime."
No to reparations. Several Caribbean nations
announced last week that they may seek reparations from Western
countries involved in the slave trade to compensate them for the
effects of slavery.
A Church of England spokesman said, however, that the Church
remained committed to a 2006 General Synod motion which
acknowledged the Church's complicity in the slave trade, and
apologised for it, but had decided against paying reparations.