We recognise that faith can play a vital role in fighting modern slavery because faith leaders are in a unique position to see into the hearts of their communities.
Modern slavery is an umbrella term which includes human trafficking, domestic servitude, the worst forms of child labour and forced and child marriage. As of 2022, there are 49.6 million victims of modern slavery. Walk Free has just released the latest edition of the Global Slavery Index (GSI) which breaks down this figure and shows the latest research on prevalence, vulnerability and government responses to modern slavery.
With a philosophy built on interfaith collaboration, GFN is grateful to the faith leaders who have come together to tackle modern slavery — an issue which strikes at the heart of human dignity.
GFN was founded in 2014, with the signing of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery at the Vatican, a world-first event which brought together leaders of many of the world’s biggest faiths in a common cause.
Since then, GFN has expanded around the globe, working with faith leaders who are building bridges between victims and law enforcement, cooperative connections with governments, social workers and victim support groups, especially in countries of strong faith and high prevalence of modern slavery.
By building relationships and collaborating with faith leaders and faith-based organisations we believe we can increase awareness, understanding, impact, and action.
We are grateful to faith communities and their leaders for their generous support of our joint efforts to protect human rights and strengthen communities.
More than 100 signatories have pledged to fight modern slavery. Representatives from all major faiths have participated including: Christians (Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Methodists, Baptists, Orthodox, Presbyterians and Quakers), Muslim (Shia and Sunni), Jewish, Hindu, Buddhists, Baha’i, Sikhs.
GFN has partnered with Compassion International Ghana to work together towards ending modern slavery. Compassion International has a network of over 400 church partners with which they work on a number of issues, including human trafficking and human right abuses.
One of our first joint activities was a training session about the Faith For Freedom App for Compassion International church partners in December 2022. In 2023, we will continue looking for ways to collaborate in Ghana to end modern slavery.
GFN is collaborating with IRCK to carry out a programme of work during 2023 and 2024 in Kenya. This involves forming an Advisory Panel to contextualise and expand the FFF App content, the creation of a Kenyan Federation of Faith Leaders to carry out activities aimed at eradicating modern slavery and a number of advocacy projects together with Walk Free.
We have also delivered two Government Engagement Workshops (GEW) for faith leaders in Nairobi and Mombasa to build on their government-facing skills and help them to use their platform to engage with human rights issues.
The Faith for Freedom App is a practical information tool for faith leaders and their congregations to help identify and protect their congregations from modern slavery and human trafficking.
Produced by the Global Freedom Network, this free app provides clear, concise information about the crimes of modern slavery.
It explains what modern slavery is, how to detect it, how to respond to people affected by it, and how and where to find help to address it. The app has country-specific information as well as an international mode.
The app was developed in collaboration with advisory panels of faith leaders. We recognise that faith leaders see into the hearts of their communities and can play a vital role in protecting their congregations from harm.
The Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery is a landmark document which demonstrates the commitment by faith and spiritual leaders from the world’s biggest religions to the common cause to eradicate modern slavery in all its forms.
The inaugural signing was in 2014, in a world-first event at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, coordinated and initiated by the Global Freedom Network.
The event was historic not only for its definitive commitment to work across religions to eradicate modern slavery, but also because it was possibly the first time ever that these faith leaders had met as a group, unified in a common cause, signing their names on the same document.
It was the first time since the establishment of the Catholic Church that the Pope had met with a Grand Ayatollah in person. And it was the first time since the Reformation that the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion had reached an agreement on a global initiative.
Furthermore, it was a rare joint initiative between Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders. They were joined by leaders from many countries of the world, representing the business, political and civil sectors.
The event included the powerful voice of survivors whose lived experience provides crucial guidance and expertise to the Global Freedom Network.
The declaration is contained in a leather-bound book which has now been signed by 110 faith leaders representing their faiths and religious orders.
Global leaders from the Christian, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox religions, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths signed the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City. This world-first event marked the beginning of the Global Freedom Network.
Australian faith leaders signed the declaration at Parliament House in Canberra, in an initiative led by the Salvation Army with the support and endorsement of the Global Freedom Network. Christian Evangelical, Baptist, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, Coptic Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, Muslim Sunni and Shia, Lutheran, Jewish, Hindu, Quakers, Uniting Church and Buddhist leaders took part.
Eight Indian religious and spiritual leaders signed from the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Baha’i and Jewish religions — representing more than 95 per cent of the Indian population — signed the declaration. Religious leaders and modern slavery experts discussed the eradication of bonded and forced labour in India.
Seven religious leaders representing all religions constitutionally admitted in Indonesia — Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism — endorsed the declaration at Indonesia’s Vice Presidential Palace, Merdeka Selatan, Jakarta.
In Buenos Aires, ten religious leaders from the major faiths in Argentina, including the Catholic Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, the Evangelical faith, the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish communities, the Sikh Dharma Community and the Argentinean Islamic Community, came together alongside the national government to pledge their opposition to modern slavery.
A historic event was held in Medellin, Colombia, where eight religious leaders signed the declaration at a GFN event organised in collaboration with the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM). The religious leaders united to commit to eradicating modern slavery through spiritual and practical actions.
HRH Queen Nanasipau’u of Tonga, together with senior church leaders from 12 Pacific islands gathered in Auckland to sign the declaration and mark the launching of the Pacific Freedom Network. The event occurred alongside the Pacific Conference of Churches’ General Assembly, a gathering of leaders and key representatives from across the Pacific.
Walk Free founding director, Grace Forrest, addressed the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth, telling approximately 6000 young delegates about Global Freedom Network’s role in helping bring faith leaders together in the shared cause against modern slavery. Walk Free experts also took part in a panel on conscious consumerism and engaged with participants through hands-on discussions about modern slavery.
A coalition of 14 faith leaders from many of the world’s biggest religions united for the first African signing of the declaration. The location, in the Ghanaian capital Accra, was poignant because it was the site of such inhumanity during the Transatlantic slave trade hundreds of years earlier. The event was attended by religious leaders from Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria, as well as government and law enforcement officials.
The Faith For Freedom smartphone app was launched, bringing a modern tool against an age-old problem. The app, which was developed in consultation with a special faith leaders advisory panel, gives faith leaders and their staff invaluable advice on how to identify, respond to and prevent modern slavery within their congregations.
We collaborated with University of Notre Dame Australia who created curriculum on modern slavery for their students. The Graduate Diploma and Certificate on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking is based on the belief that every student should learn about human rights and modern slavery and be empowered to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable people.
Her Excellency Ambassador Chiara Porro, Australia’s representative to the Holy See, hosted a special Global Freedom Network event with diplomatic representatives to the Vatican from around the world. This event fostered an understanding of modern slavery and the global challenge that we face in combatting it, and generated valuable discussion about how we can cooperate to bring international influence to bear in the fight against this abuse of human rights.
GFN partnered with The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome for a special two-day conference on the role of religion in eradicating modern slavery. This partnership examined international and local perspectives and practices and brought together leading academics, faith leaders and civil society members to discuss modern slavery and how religious groups can help prevent it.
In a landmark event with the Inter Religious Council of Kenya, faith leaders came together to agree to do what was in their power to fight modern slavery in their country. The ICRK’s tradition of interfaith cooperation was hailed as a model for tackling such tough problems which affect communities stricken by inequality and poverty. The gathering heard that faith leaders were uniquely suited for the battle against modern slavery.
Faith leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered in Kinshasa where they committed to fighting modern slavery in their country. It was acknowledged that extreme challenges faced many DRC citizens who may feel like submitting to extreme exploitation such as modern slavery was their only option. However, the positive and powerful influence of faith and faith leaders was a vital force that could protect congregations from modern slavery, especially with support and cooperation.
South African religious leaders gathered at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg — the site of the imprisonment of many human rights activists and now the location of the country’s Constitutional Court. They endorsed the declaration in a ceremony where it was acknowledged that poverty and inequality were driving forces of many forms of modern slavery.
GFN collaborated with Ghana’s Anti Human Trafficking Unit and a national transport union to roll out a poster campaign across Ghana. The posters were placed on public buses that run across Ghana and went to destinations in neighbouring countries and in stations to inform travellers of the police phone number to report suspicions of human trafficking, encouraging people to call if they or someone they knew were a potential victim of this crime.
GFN launched partnerships with Compassion International and Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) to enhance our reach across Africa
In Kenya (Nairobi and Mombasa) South Africa and Ghana, GFN delivered four Government Engagement Workshops for faith leaders to build on their public policy skills and teach them how to engage with state actors on human rights issues.
The GFN team undertook an engagement trip across Africa to have conversations with stakeholders in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. In Kenya we also used the opportunity to host 2 programme days with IRCK in Nairobi and Mombasa and introduce our partnership, the goals and upcoming activities to a range of faith leaders, faith based and community organisations. In Ghana, we hosted a high-level meeting to review the activities of the Federation of Faith Leaders including the Cross-Border Awareness campaign and the recent launch of the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (GEMS) report and how the information there relates to Ghana.
The Head of GFN, Franca Pellegrini, was invited by the African Union Youth Envoy to participate on a forum on the Sidelines of African Union Summit, where she presented on the work of GFN and the role youth play in ending modern slavery.
GFN met with the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE) in Addis Ababa to start planning a signing event of the Religious Leaders Joint Declaration against Modern Slavery in the later part of the year under the auspices of His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus.
GFN, in partnership with the Perth Archdiocese of the Anglican Church, hosted a group of multi-denominational faith leaders to discuss the creation of a specific profile of the Faith For Freedom App for Western Australia. GFN is now working with a group of faith leaders from WA to create a specific profile for Western Australia, which will serve as a template to develop similar resources for the other Australian states and territories.
GFN organised a networking event and training session on forced marriage for faith leaders in Western Australia. The training was delivered by Anti-Slavery Australia and taught participants how to identify and support people affected by forced marriage in Australia, how to access specialist referral pathways and what they can do to help prevent this issue within their families and communities.
We decided after meeting with faith leaders in Ghana that we needed a single platform so that faith leaders can share best practices and collaborate on work they do within their countries.
Signatories to the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery may join this international group of faith leaders so they may build a community of ethical leadership in the fight against modern slavery.
Faith leaders in Ghana have already cooperated on several initiatives and plan to continue their valuable work together: