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Religious Leaders in Africa Commit to end Human Trafficking at Joint Declaration

Religious leaders in Africa who signed a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Religious leaders from West and Central Africa have jointly declared to use their positions in the society to end slavery and human trafficking, which have been said to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffickers “preying on the vulnerable.”

Religious leaders who participated in the ceremony were from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, and Ivory Coast.

Fr. Lazarus Anondee, the Secretary General of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference (GCBC) who took part in the signing ceremony of the “Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery” described the vice as an abuse of people for profit reasons.

“Human trafficking is a particularly heinous crime, as it involves the exploitation and abuse of people for profit reasons,” Fr. Anondee says in a Wednesday, August 11 report by the information service of the Vatican's Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides.

A total of 14 representatives of religious leaders from the four African countries signed the document.

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The declaration is an initiative of the “Global Freedom Network” of the human rights organization “Walk Free”, which advocates a faster end to a crime of human trafficking that affects more than 40 million people worldwide.

Agenzia Fides reports that this is the eighth declaration of its kind since 2014, when Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, together with other leaders of many major world religions, jointly declared that modern slavery must be eradicated.

The term “modern slavery” includes human trafficking, domestic servitude, the worst forms of child labor, and forced and child marriage.

The spokesman for the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, said all religions have condemned modern slavery, which was said to include human trafficking, domestic servitude, the worst forms of child labor and forced and child marriage.

“As a religious leader you have a very special place in Ghanaian society,” Sheikh Shaibu said, and added, “You can see changes in people that others would ignore. So, they are in a unique position to identify victims and put them in contact with professionals to help them get out of the hands of their tormentors.”

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The co-founder of the organization “Walk Free”, Grace Forrest, who attended the signing ceremony in Ghana's capital, Accra, emphasized that religious representatives play a crucial role in the fight against modern slavery.

She said, “Religious leaders are in a unique position when it comes to observing and combating cases of modern slavery in their communities. This is especially true in Africa, where the faith is rooted in communities and where modern slavery is widespread.”