The Vatican recently posted the text of Pope Francis’ upcoming speech on New Year’s Day, also the 2015 World Day of Peace. In it, Francis addresses modern-day slavery – including both adult and child sex workers, those forced to marry against their will, and sweatshop workers.
Noting that there have been periods throughout history during which slavery was not only acceptable, but legal, the Pope said that:
“even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.
“I think of the many men and women labourers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labour regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights”
Pope Francis said his thoughts had turned to migrants who “experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse.” He also discussed “persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves,” and those held captive by terrorist groups.”
He blamed modern-day slavery on not just “the rejection of another person’s humanity,” which he called the “deeper cause,” but also on poverty, lack of access to education and employment opportunities, the “corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain,” and armed conflicts, violence, and terrorism.
He commended those currently working to aid those affected by these forms of current-day slavery, but said that their work alone was not enough to end it.
“States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore and the sale of items produced by slave labour,” wrote Pope Francis.
He called upon intergovernmental organizations to combat networks of organized crime involved in human trafficking, and said that “[b]usinesses have a duty to ensure dignified working conditions and adequate salaries for their employees, but they must also be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain.”
Francis also placed some of the responsibility on consumers, who “ought to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.’”
“The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters,” concluded Pope Francis, “requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.”
Read the entire speech from the Vatican.