Address of His Holiness Pope Francis

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank all the reli­gious lead­ers gath­ered here for their com­mit­ment in favour of the sur­vivors of human traf­fick­ing, and all those present for their intense par­tic­i­pa­tion in this act of broth­er­hood, espe­cial­ly toward the most suf­fer­ing of our broth­ers and sis­ters. Inspired by our con­fes­sions of faith, today we are gath­ered for an his­toric ini­tia­tive and 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 and women, boys and girls, cur­rent­ly holds tens of mil­lions in inhu­mane and humil­i­at­ing bondage. Every human being — man, woman, boy and girl — is the image of God; God, who is love and free­dom, gives him­self through inter­per­son­al rela­tions; there­fore every human being is a free per­son, des­tined to live for the good of oth­ers in equal­i­ty and broth­er­hood. Every per­son and all peo­ple are equal and their free­dom and dig­ni­ty must be rec­og­nized. Any dis­crim­i­nat­ing rela­tion­ship that does not respect the fun­da­men­tal con­vic­tion that the “oth­er is like me myself” con­sti­tutes a crime, and very often an abhor­rent crime.

That is why we declare in the name of all peo­ple and of every­one of our own Creed that mod­ern slav­ery — in the form of human traf­fick­ing, forced labour, pros­ti­tu­tion or the traf­fick­ing of organs — is a crime “against human­i­ty”. The vic­tims of this are from every walk of life, but most are found among the poor­est and the most vul­ner­a­ble of our broth­ers and sisters.

We declare on behalf of those who are call­ing our com­mu­ni­ties to action, that every sys­tem­at­ic depri­va­tion of indi­vid­ual free­dom for the pur­pose of per­son­al and com­mer­cial exploita­tion be reject­ed entire­ly and with­out exception.

Despite the great efforts of many, mod­ern slav­ery con­tin­ues to be an atro­cious scourge that is present through­out the world on a broad scale, even as tourism. This crime of “lèse-human­i­ty” mas­quer­ades behind seem­ing­ly accept­able cus­toms, but in real­i­ty claims its vic­tims through pros­ti­tu­tion, human traf­fick­ing, forced labour, slave labour, muti­la­tion, the sale of organs, the con­sump­tion of drugs and child labour. It hides behind closed doors, in par­tic­u­lar places, in the streets, auto­mo­biles, fac­to­ries, the coun­try­side, in fish­ing boats and many oth­er places. And this hap­pens both in towns and vil­lages, in the recep­tion cen­tres of the wealth­i­est nations as well as in those of the poor­est. And the worst thing is that this sit­u­a­tion, unfor­tu­nate­ly, grows more seri­ous every day.

We call to action all peo­ple of faith, lead­ers, gov­ern­ments, busi­ness­es, all men and women of good will, to give their strong sup­port and join in the action against mod­ern slav­ery in all its forms.

Sus­tained by the ideals of our con­fes­sions of faith and by our shared human val­ues, we all can and must raise the stan­dard of spir­i­tu­al val­ues, com­mon effort and the vision of free­dom to erad­i­cate slav­ery from our planet.

I ask the Lord to grant us today the grace to con­vert our­selves in the prox­im­i­ty of every per­son, with­out excep­tion, offer­ing active and con­stant help to those we encounter on our path — whether it be an elder­ly per­son who has been aban­doned by every­one, a work­er unjust­ly enslaved or unap­pre­ci­at­ed, a refugee caught in the snares of the under­world, a young man or woman who walks the streets of the world, as a vic­tim of the sex trade, a man or a woman dri­ven to pros­ti­tu­tion by the decep­tion of peo­ple who have no fear of God, a boy or a girl muti­lat­ed for their organs — and who call to our con­science, echo­ing the voice of the Lord: I say to you what­ev­er you do to the least of my broth­ers, you do to me.

Dear friends, thank you for this meet­ing. Thank you for this trans­verse com­mit­ment, which involves us all. We are all reflec­tions of the image of God and we are con­vinced that we can­not tol­er­ate that the image of the liv­ing God be sub­ject to abhor­rent treatment.

Many thanks!