Malaysian Buddhist leader joins interfaith pact to end slavery

The Star (Reuters), Dec 4, 2014

The Vatican -- Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, the Maha Nayaka Thera of Malaysia, joins world religious leaders in signing a declaration to end modern day slavery.

<< United against slavery: The signatories of the "Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery" pose for the media in Vatican City. The Most Venerable Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, is standing third from the left in the middle row. – Reuters

Calling modern slavery “an atrocious plague”, head of the Catholic church Pope Francis leads a distinguished gathering of Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders from around the world in signing a historic multi-faith pact to end modern day slavery by 2020.

The religious leaders – including the Most Venerable Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, the Maha Nayaka Thera of Malaysia – were brought together for the signing event in the Vatican City on Dec 2 by the Global Freedom Network, a multi-faith organisation that vows to end modern day slavery.

The organisation says that religious leaders can inspire their faithful to combat slavery and human trafficking through education, funding, demanding legal reform and enforcement and promoting ethical purchasing to avoid buying goods that could be the product of forced labour.

“The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men and women, boys and girls, is chaining tens of millions of persons to inhumanity and humiliation,” says Pope Francis, before signing the pledge to do “all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond” to end modern slavery.

The other signatories of the declaration include:

  • Her Holiness “Amma” Mata Amritanandamayi from India
  • The Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong from Vietnam (represented by Buddhist Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh)
  • Jewish Rabbis Dr Abraham Skorka from Argentina, and David Rosen from the US
  • Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi from Iraq
  • Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb from Egypt (represented by Dr Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman)
  • Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi from Iraq (represented by Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar)
  • His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church (represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel)
  • Sheikh Omar Abboud from Argentina; and
  • Most Revered and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England

The second Global Slavery Index released in November by Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based human rights group, estimates that almost 36 million people are living as slaves. The Index defines modern day slaves as individuals who have been trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, are victims of debt bondage or were born into servitude. – Reuters