International Labour Organization hails faith leaders' declaration to eradicate slavery

Logo of the International Labour Organization

GENEVA - The International Labour Organization has welcomed the Faith Leaders' joint Declaration Against Slavery signed at a ceremony in Vatican City on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

The Declaration's signers included Pope Francis, along with Christian Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives.

They, pledged "to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored," the Geneva-based ILO said in a statement on December 4.

"Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative," the faith leaders said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the global Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, was among the religious representatives who joined the December 2 signing of a joint declaration against modern slavery in the Vatican, the Holy See's news service reported.

The initiative, promoted by the inter-faith Global Freedom Network and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, grew out of a first meeting of the Anglican leader with Pope Francis in 2013.

Since then Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu leaders have all joined the campaign to stamp out the scourge of human trafficking.


The faith leaders said, "Slavery and human trafficking violate the human rights and dignity of millions of women and men around the globe.

"This Declaration is a major step forward in the fight against forced labour and represents a firm commitment to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery", said Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Deputy Director-General who assisted the signing of Declaration.

In June, governments, employers and workers at the ILO International Labor Conference decided to give new impetus to the global fight against forced labour by adopting a Protocol and a Recommendation.

This added to the ILO's Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29).

The Protocol strengthens the international legal framework by creating new obligations to prevent forced labour, to protect victims and to provide access to remedies, such as compensation for material and physical harm.

"Inspired by our confessions of faith, we gathered here today for an historical initiative and to take concrete action: to declare that we will work together to eradicate the terrible scourge of modern slavery in all its forms.

"The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men, women and children that is currently inflicted on tens of millions of people constitutes a form of dehumanisation and humiliation", said Pope Francis and the faith leaders.

The ILO, the United Nations agency for organized labor, said its participation in this historic gathering builds on a long-standing relationship with the Vatican.

This was strengthened further when ILO Director-General Guy Ryder met Pope Francis in November 2013, during a private audience at the Vatican.

They discussed the dignity of work and the situation of the most vulnerable, including child labourers, domestic workers and migrants. Both expressed their concerns for the victims of human trafficking.

Pope Francis reiterated this concern in his message to the International Labor Conference in May.

In it Francis said: "It is unacceptable that, in our world, slave labour has become common coin. This cannot continue! Human trafficking is a scourge, a crime against the whole of humanity.

"It is time to join forces and work together to free its victims and to eradicate this crime that affects all of us, from individual families to the worldwide community."

He also showed his support on the World Day against child labor in June, when he raised the Red Card to Child Labor.

This denounced child labour with the following words: "Tens of millions of children are forced to work in degrading conditions, and are victims of slavery and abuse, harassment and discrimination".

A first concrete initiative following this commitment is a series of workshops organized by the Pontifical Academy in 2014 - 2015 in which the ILO has been invited to participate.

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