Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury unite to combat slavery and human trafficking
Some ecumenical pursuits are laughably delusory; others are supremely vital. The fight against modern slavery and human trafficking is of the latter category, and ought to unite Christians across all denominations.
It is therefore a cause of great joy that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat this evil. The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed today by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia 'Walk Free'.
In a statement the Archbishop of Canterbury said:
“Anglicans and Roman Catholics have, since 1966, been in serious and prayerful dialogue with each other, to seek the unity that Christ wills for his church in the world. Jesus has said 'May they all be one', and this imperative has inspired and sustained the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, for many years as an act of faith.Salvation is not only concerned with eschatology and eternity: it can be realised in a believer's 'freedom' and redemption here on earth, as the first-fruits of what we anticipate and hope for. The freedom we have in Christ includes the removal of psychological barriers - liberation from "the bondage of the will". St Paul often contrasts the gospel of liberty with the law that binds, because Christ came to deliver us from the incapacity to obey. The law simply reinforces our impotence, rendering us nervous paralytics.
“We are now being challenged in these days to find more profound ways of putting our ministry and mission where our faith is; and being called into a deeper unity on the side of the poor and in the cause of the justice and righteousness of God. For this reason, 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.
“Many are already engaged in the struggle and we join them with much to learn as well as much to contribute. All are called to join common cause to end this crime and suffering. The more we share the pain and oppression of the poor and suffering in the name of God, the more God will draw us closer to each other, because we will need each other’s strength and support to make the kind of difference that is needed. We are struggling against evil in secret places and in deeply entrenched networks of malice and cruelty. No one of us is strong enough, but together we are ready for the challenge God is placing before us today, and we know that he will strengthen us so that all people may live in freedom and dignity.”
To be free we must be able to respond as we wish. Those who are bound in will or restricted in action may be free in spirit, but they cannot be free to participate in the fullness of the created order: in Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. This means not only that we can do now what we could not do before, but that we may do now what we were not permitted to do before.
This effort by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope is founded upon a clear scriptural principle - freedom for captives. These modern-day slaves will be liberated from the living death of isolation, depression, shame, abuse and hatred. They will given a new life in creation and a worthy place in community. They are walking side-by-side in the footsteps of William Wilberforce and giving meaning to the term 'humanity'.