Forum on Modern Slavery Held at the Phanar

“Lord, free the captives. Remember those in mines, in exile, in harsh labor, and in every kind of affliction, necessity, or distress . . . For You, Lord, are the helper of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, and the savior of the afflicted.” (From the Liturgy of St. Basil)

Under the auspices of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a Forum on Modern Slavery, co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of England took place in Istanbul from February 6–7, 2017. The Forum grew out of a conversation between His All-Holiness and His Grace Archbishop Justin of Canterbury during the formal Patriarchal visit to Lambeth Palace from November 2–4, 2015, which was in response to Archbishop Justin’s first visit to the Phanar from January 13–14, 2014.

The aim of this gathering was to bring together distinguished scholars, practitioners, and policymakers from around the world to discuss modern slavery and emphasize the protection of human dignity and freedom as of vital importance for the Church as well as worldwide religious and human-rights communities. This priority was clearly articulated at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete (June 2016), where the Orthodox Primates and Hierarchs declared in their final Encyclical: “The Church lives not for herself. She offers herself for the whole of humanity in order to raise up and renew the world into new heavens and a new earth.”

In his keynote address, His All-Holiness observed: “The Orthodox Church is often accused of neglecting the world for the sake of liturgical worship and spiritual life, turning primarily toward the Kingdom of God to come, disregarding challenges of the present. In fact, however, whatever the Church says, whatever the Church does, is done in the Name of God and for the sake of human dignity and the eternal destiny of the human being. It is impossible for the Church to close its eyes to evil, to be indifferent to the cry of the needy, oppressed and exploited. True Faith is a source of permanent struggle against the powers of inhumanity.”

His All-Holiness and Archbishop Justin Welby signed a Joint Declaration, “condemning all forms of human enslavement as the most heinous of sins inasmuch as it violates the free will and the integrity of every human being created in the image of God.” They also “encouraged state leaders to find appropriate and effective ways of prosecuting those involved in human trafficking, preventing all forms of modern-day slavery, and protecting its victims in our communities and promoting hope wherever people are exploited.”

Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury established a joint taskforce on modern slavery. ✙

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, February 7, 2017
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod