2022 Assembly


Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery- 5 years later…


On December 2014 at the Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Orthodox Religious Leaders signed a

joint-declaration-of-religious-leaders-against-modern-slavery/  as a public statement of their commitment to work together in spiritual and practical action to eradicate trafficking in Human Beings (THB) and restore dignity and freedom to its victims.

Five years later, the widespread phenomenon of human trafficking persists in its devastating effects suffered by its victims, men, women and children. Besides the “classical” forms of THB (mostly, labour and sexual exploitation), other new realities have appeared or intensified, such as removal of organs, trafficking in recently newborn babies, etc.

This conference aims at bringing together different religions and denominations to express their understanding of the phenomenon of THB, their determination to fight against it, and to share their actions taken to prevent and counter this criminal reality which is, many times, invisible for our eyes in European societies.

  1. Introduction
  • MEP Javier Zarzalejos (EPP Group)
  • José Luis Bazan, Legal Adviser of COMECE
  • Renato Cursi, Don Bosco International, Executive Secretary
  • MEP Pietro Bartolo (S&D Group)
  1. Religious denominations’ commitment against THB
  • Sister Adriana Pérez Ayala, Community of the Good Shepherd, Brussels, RENATE
  • Sandra Iman Pertek, Researcher, SEREDA Project, Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham
  • Jamie Cresswell, Director, Center for Applied Buddhism, Vice-President of the European Buddhist Union.
  • Rev. Cristian PAVEL, President of Filantropia Timisoara.
  • Rabbi Avi Tawil, Executive Director, European Jewish Center
  • Heather Roy, Co-Chair of the Anglican Council of Belgium
  1. Final conclusions, MEP Javier Zarzalejos (EPP)

This was a wonderful opportunity to meet with so many people committed against THB, gathering exactly 5 years after the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, with Pope Francis. The event was on the initiative of the COMECE, the EP and Don Bosco International.

After the introduction to the event, linking our meeting to the signature of the Joint Declaration in the Vatican 5 years ago, Political and Religious people expressed their convictions, and the diversity in itself, on this burning topic, was really enriching.

RENATE member Sr Adriana Pérez, OLCGS,  Ayala: work of Religious women all over the world on different levels stated:

‘I would like to begin with a quote from Pope Francis from his speech at the signing ceremony of the “Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Slavery” five years ago.

Every human being, man, woman, boy and girl, is created in the image of God. Therefore, modern slavery, in terms of trafficking in human beings, forced labor and prostitution, as well as organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity. “Pope Francis, Dec 2014

I belong to the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, present in 72 countries around the world, who fight against human trafficking and work especially with women and children in distress. Our response to this scourge has its source in evangelical values. Jesus the Good Shepherd said, “The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy; I came for them to have life and to have it fully”. John, 10, 10

We have developed a discussion paper on trafficking in women and girls, which can be summarized as follows:

In all our work, we seek to analyze and address the root causes, examining and revealing the links between trafficking and policies of economic injustice, violence against women, discrimination against girls, militarization, inadequate support for migration and social acceptance of prostitution of women and girls. We encourage participation and leadership in networks and / or campaigns that support the end of trafficking and promote the empowerment of women and girls in all areas of work.

Our congregation is a member of the RENATE Network (Religious Network in Europe against Trafficking and Exploitation), a group of religious from different congregations of the Catholic Church fighting against human trafficking in Europe. “Networking is the strength of RENATE

RENATE’s commitment to trafficking in persons is at the heart of our vocation and our mission because it is about restoring human dignity; it is about restoring the image of God that is reflected in the face of so many victims of modern slavery. The leaflet below gives you the axes of our presence:

Sandra Imán Pertek: insisted on the holistic needs of the survivors: they need a faith support, because THB affects SOULS!

“What’s the relationship between SGBV, displacement and trafficking? Emerging evidence shows that the migration crisis fuels trafficking of migrants and refugees across their journeys and countries of transit. Europe needs a solution urgently; sexual exploitation and other forms of modern slavery are an everyday tragedy of enormous scale. A solution to these crimes against humanity must include a comprehensive response to the migration crisis and its root causes.

At the Conference on Trafficking in Human Beings, organised by Don Bosco & Comece with MEP Javier Zarzalejos & MEP Pietro Bartolo, a number of faith traditions shared joint principles and raised commitments 5 years after the joint Declaration of religious leaders against modern slavery.

Faith groups called on European Parliament to increase collaboration with faith actors in tackling human trafficking. I was honoured to share some stories of the survivors of sexual exploitation and emerging research findings, pointing to the spiritual dimension of human suffering, the strategies of religious coping by survivors and finally the urgency for faith communities to reach out and support survivors across different settings, especially people on the move.”

Jamie Cresswell: I know nothing on THB, but I feel we need a safer world

President of the European Buddhist Union. He is a member of the Soka Gakkai International -UK and has practiced Buddhism for 28 years. His Buddhist background includes a degree in Buddhist studies and practice and study in many traditions and schools.

Jamie is the Director of the Centre for Applied Buddhism. He is a member of the European Council of Religious Leaders and a trustee of Religions for Peace – UK.

Rev. Cristian PAVEL

Rabbi Avi Tawil: we felt the shadow of the Holocaust in his speech, and he expressed how difficult it is to be free after living under oppression, as for the victims of THB. “We would be colour-blind, religious-blind, etc. If peace and freedom were deeply in everybody, there would be no THB!”

Heather Roy: Anglican Church does not want to remain on ideas and words, we all have a responsibility: not to create conditions to increase THB; to do more; not to lose the understanding of Creation.

Then MEP Javier Zarzalejos gave the conclusion:

It is imperative that all states fight against trafficking in human beings and reinforced cooperation with religious entities that carry out invaluable work in the care of victims and the restoration of their dignity is reinforced. The wish was to eradicate THB at the end of 2020… we think it could not be possible, so maybe at the end of 2021!

Thanks to Sr Adriana, RENATE Member, for her input! May the fight against Human Trafficking unite us all faith-based organizations to free humankind of this scourge!