Reporter: Rosie Lewis, The Australian
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest will today join with more than a dozen religious leaders to clamp down on slavery across the country, declaring no one should be enslaved in Australia after five years.
Launching the Australian Freedom Network at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Forrest and leaders from the Hillsong church through to a Shia mosque in Sydney will commit to taking “measurable actions” towards ending slavery until at least 2020.
About 3000 people are slaves in Australia, according to the Global Slavery Index, and an estimated 35.8 million people are enslaved around the world.
Salvation Army commissioner James Condon, who is leading today’s event, said the cases of slavery Australia knew about — in areas like agriculture, food production, retail franchises and the sex work industry — only represented the “tip of an iceberg”.
“Faith communities can play a critical role in this and be part of a global movement that prevents slavery in the first place. All of the world’s major faiths share universal values of dignity, freedom and social justice.”
One year after the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery was signed in Vatican City, Mr Forrest, chairman of the Global Freedom Network, said it was “incredibly important” that religions called out slavery as a “major problem in the world”.
“It is in fact the distortion of the definition found in the holy text and distortion of the integrity of those religions which has led to the suffering,” he told The Australian.
“Where distortion exists it can only be laid to blame at the feet of the teachers and leaders of religion, which must become active across the world that they no longer can tolerate distortions of their texts which allow slavery and violence against the innocent.
“There should be no slavery measured in Australia after five years.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek are expected to attend the launch of the network.
Faith leaders who will be at the event include chair of the National Council of Australian Baptists, Reverend Bill Brown, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, Right Reverend David Cook, director of Al Sadiq Foundation, Sheikh Ali Jaber and Sheikh Youssef Nabha, an imam at the Masjed Al Rahman mosque in Kingsgrove, Sydney.
Today marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.