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Pope Francis has sent a video message to the Forum on modern day slavery, which runs from 5th-8th May, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pope Francis has sent a video message to the Forum on modern day slavery, which runs from 5th-8th May, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

In this file pho­to, Pope Fran­cis holds a sheet of paper read­ing in Ital­ian “Stop Slav­ery, let’s pray so that every child can be free and loved by his par­ents” as he meets par­tic­i­pants in the “World Day of Prayer, Reflec­tion and Action Against Human Traf­fick­ing”, at the Vat­i­can, Mon­day, Feb. 12, 2018. (Cred­it: L’Osser­va­tore Romano/Pool Pho­to via AP.)

 

ROME — In a new video direct­ed at his home coun­try of Argenti­na, Pope Fran­cis on Mon­day renewed his appeals to fight mod­ern-day slav­ery and applaud­ed ecu­meni­cal efforts among var­i­ous Chris­t­ian church­es to join forces in the struggle.

“Slav­ery is not some­thing from the past,” Fran­cis said in the video. “It’s a prac­tice that has deep roots and it man­i­fests itself today and in many forms: human traf­fick­ing, exploita­tion through debt, exploita­tion of chil­dren, sex­u­al exploita­tion and forced domes­tic work are some of its many forms.”

Accord­ing to the lat­est sta­tis­tics shared by Fran­cis in his mes­sage, there are more than 40 mil­lion peo­ple, men, but above all women and chil­dren, who are enslaved today. The pope said those num­bers are “prob­a­bly underestimated.”

Most experts say there are more slaves today than ever before, and it’s often con­sid­ered among the top three most prof­itable ille­gal indus­tries in the world, togeth­er with drug and arms trafficking.

Fran­cis was address­ing a May 5–8 forum on slav­ery pro­mot­ed by Ecu­meni­cal Patri­arch Bartholomew of Con­stan­tino­ple, as well as the Arch­dio­cese of Buenos Aires, which Fran­cis once led, and the Patri­arch Athenago­ras Ortho­dox Insti­tute of Berkley. It’s being host­ed by Buenos Aires’s Ecu­meni­cal patriarchate.

Fran­cis begins his video thank­ing Bartholomew and Angli­can Arch­bish­op Justin Wel­by of West­min­is­ter for inau­gu­rat­ing the forums: “It con­soles me to know that we share the same con­cern for the vic­tims of mod­ern slav­ery,” he said.

The scope of the forum is to gath­er pro­fes­sion­als, politi­cians, the­olo­gians and experts from around the world to con­tin­ue the dia­logue that began last year, with the first such meet­ing held in Istan­bul under the head­ing of “Sins in front of our eyes.”

“See­ing the trag­ic real­i­ty [of mod­ern day slav­ery], no one can wash their hands if they don’t want to be accom­plices in this crime against human­i­ty,” the pope said in the video, released by the Vat­i­can on Monday.

A first step to fight it, he said, would be to devel­op a strat­e­gy that allows for fur­ther knowl­edge on the issue, break­ing the “veil of indif­fer­ence” that seems to “cov­er this por­tion of human­i­ty that suffers.”

Accord­ing to Fran­cis, there seem to be some who don’t want to ful­ly grasp the scope of the prob­lem, per­haps because they’re “direct­ly involved with crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions, they don’t want for this to be spo­ken about, sim­ply because they receive high ben­e­fits thanks to the new forms of slavery.”

But, there are also those who, even know­ing of the prob­lem, the pon­tiff said, refuse to speak out because it would put an end to the “chain of con­sump­tion,” of the “ser­vices that men, women and chil­dren turned into slaves offer,” and which con­sumers enjoy.

“We can­not turn our eyes: we are all called to aban­don every form of hypocrisy, con­fronting the fact that we are part of the prob­lem,” he said. “We are not allowed to look away and claim igno­rance or innocence.”

Anoth­er strat­e­gy to fight this crime against human­i­ty, the pope said, is to work in favor of vic­tims, not allow­ing cor­rupt peo­ple and crim­i­nals to escape justice.

Yet hav­ing strong laws to pun­ish crim­i­nals, he said, is not enough if “after­wards, the caus­es, the deep­er roots of the prob­lem are not addressed.” Coun­tries with extreme pover­ty, he said, are unable to guar­an­tee the safe­ty or the essen­tial rights of the cit­i­zens, mak­ing them eas­i­er prey for orga­nized crime.

“Orga­nized crime and ille­gal human traf­fick­ing chose their vic­tims among those who today have scarce means to sur­vive and even less hope for the future,” Fran­cis said. “To be more clear: among the poor­est, the most rel­e­gat­ed, the most discarded.”

There­fore, he said, the answer is to cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for inte­gral human devel­op­ment, start­ing with edu­ca­tion, and con­tin­u­ing with job oppor­tu­ni­ties. In turn, he acknowl­edged, this requires “courage, patience and per­se­ver­ance, a com­mon and glob­al effort from all the actors of society.”

“The church­es too must work on this,” he said. “We Chris­tians, togeth­er, are called to devel­op an ever-greater col­lab­o­ra­tion, so that all kinds of inequal­i­ty and dis­crim­i­na­tion are over­come, since these are what make it pos­si­ble for a man to make anoth­er man a slave.”

Fran­cis has been involved in the strug­gle against mod­ern-day slav­ery since his time as arch­bish­op of Buenos Aires, where he spon­sored a local NGO called “La Alame­da” that fed him infor­ma­tion about slave labor in Argentina’s clan­des­tine sewing shops and also human traf­fick­ing for pros­ti­tu­tion. The future pope would often help find work and asy­lum for survivors.

 

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