At a ceremony at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on March 15, 2022, faith leaders in South Africa endorsed the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery.
The signing in Johannesburg is the eleventh since 2014 when Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Taqi al-Modarresi joined other faith leaders from many of the world’s great religions in declaring that modern slavery must be eradicated.
The Global Freedom Network, which convened the signing, is the faith-based arm of Walk Free, an international human rights organization. The Network is building a coalition of faith leaders to accelerate the end of modern slavery. Walk Free believes faith leaders can be a bridge between victims and law enforcement, social workers, and victim support groups.
Modern slavery is an umbrella term that includes human trafficking, domestic servitude, the worst forms of child labor and forced and child marriage.
Franca Pellegrini, director of the Global Freedom Network, who presided over the ceremony, said faith leaders were in a unique position to see into the hearts of their communities.
“Faith leaders occupy a prominent position and are well placed to lead the fight against modern slavery in their communities”, said Ms. Pellegrini. “The philosophy of Global Freedom Network is built on interfaith collaboration.
Pellegrini said that the Global Freedom Network was “acutely aware that poverty and inequality were driving forces of many forms of modern slavery”.
She noted that Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index rated South Africa a B – the top rating in Africa, which is accorded to nine countries on the continent. Ten countries – mainly in Europe – are rated A. The most recent Global Slavery Index was published in 2018, with an updated index due for release later this year.
The signing event coincided with the launch of the Faith For Freedom smartphone app, which was developed in collaboration with faith leaders to help guide them to tackle modern slavery in their communities and congregations.
“This a practical tool designed for and developed by faith leaders to assist with their important work addressing modern slavery in their congregations and communities,” Ms. Pellegrini said. “We are using modern technology to address an age-old problem.”