In a rare show of solidary and brotherhood, Catholics, Muslims and Anglicans around the world converged on Monday to sign a deal that would launch the Global Freedom Network that would work towards the elimination of human trafficking worldwide.
The Roman Catholic Church, Church of England, and Al Azhar, the Cairo-based seat of Sunni Muslim learning, in a rare joint statement, said they hoped the ground-breaking agreement will eventually eradicate 21st-century slavery, including forced labour and sexual trafficking.
"It's not politically correct to call this modern slavery a crime against humanity but we want to arrive at that in national and international law," Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo said on behalf of Pope Francis, who signed the new initiative.
New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, as well as Dr. Mahmoud Azab, representing the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Sunni Islam center were also present at the signing ceremony.
Also present was billionaire Australian magnate Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free Foundation, which is a major partner and organizer of the new network.
"If you look at the work of Catholic, Anglican and other faith missions over the last three or four decades, they have been engaged in the fight against human trafficking," Mr Moxon said.
The Global Freedom Network outlines a five-year business plan as well as clear objectives, among those seeking commitments from 50 major corporations to remove slavery from their supply chains. The accord also seeks to gain endorsement from the G20 and over 160 governments for anti-slavery programs.
Figures gathered by Independent Catholic News revealed there are around 12 to 27 million people worldwide enslaved into forced labour and sexual exploitation.
About 2 million people annually become victims of sexual trafficking, more than half of which are girls.The three faiths admitted the commonality of human trafficking brought them together into the fight.
"I think it's the first time we have worked together like this," Bishop Sorondo said. "But for other questions, human questions, the common values of humanity we can work together and this can be important for the theoretical path."
"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," Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Church of England and the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said in a statement. "We are struggling against evil in secret places and in deeply entrenched networks of malice and cruelty."