Vatican, Church of England and al-Azhar join forces to combat modern slavery
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.