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Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims have joined forces for the first time over a major interfaith initiative to eradicate slavery and human trafficking.
Members of the Global Freedom Network, which was launched today by representatives for Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Grand Imam of Cairo's Al Azhar University, Dr Mahmoud Azab, will use their combined influence to lobby governments, businesses and charities.
The Network, which will expand to include members of other faiths, plans to “slavery-proof” member faiths – for example, through ethical investment, and educate congregations and schools about human trafficking.
The initiative emerged from a meeting Archbishop Welby had with Pope Francis last June. Discussions continued during a Vatican conference on trafficking in November, a 9-10 April follow-up to which will be chaired by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.
In a joint agreement signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon, and the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, the Network pledged to “marshal the spiritual power” necessary to eradicate slavery “for all time”.
In its first year, founders want to persuade 50 major multi-national businesses whose CEOs are people of faith to commit to eradicating slavery from their own supply chains.
They also want governments to endorse the establishment of a Global Fund to End Slavery, and want 30 heads of state publicly endorsing it by the end of 2014.
They call for the G20 nations to adopt measures to combat trafficking and work toward eradicating slavery.
In the agreement, the faith leaders also pledge to establish a world day of prayer for the victims of trafficking.
In a statement Archbishop Welby said that followers of different faiths were “being called into a deeper unity on the side of the poor and in the cause of the justice and righteousness of God,” he said.
The Joint Agreement that established the Global Freedom Network called human trafficking “a grievous assault on our common humanity and a shameful affront to the consciences of all peoples.”
The Global Freedom Network was established with the help of an Australian anti-slavery organisation Walk Free, whose founder also signed the network's inaugural agreement.
Above: Pope Francis returns from last week's Lenten retreat with cardinals and bishops. Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters