The Lutheran Church of Australia is one of 15 Australian religious organisations and communities which are supporting a global campaign to end slavery.
On 2 December, the World Day for the Abolition of Slavery, New South Wales District Bishop Mark Lieschke signed a joint declaration on behalf of LCA Bishop John Henderson, condemning all forms of slavery and committing to work actively against it.
As a signatory to the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery, the LCA joins other religious and spiritual leaders ‘committed to the dignity and freedom that is the birthright of all humankind’, Bishop Lieschke said. The event, which took place at Parliament House in Canberra, marked the launch of the Australian Freedom Network.
‘This is the beginning of a remarkable journey’, said Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, a guest at the launch. The Hon Tanya Plibersek, Acting Leader of the Opposition, and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, businessman and chairman of the parent group, Global Freedom Network, also addressed the group.
The Global Freedom Network is founded on the premise that religious faith can be a powerful motivating force to inspire individual and community action, both spiritually and practically.
Signatories to the joint declaration included representatives from mainstream Christian churches, as well as the Buddhist, Muslim, Hindi and Jewish communities.
At the launch two women told their stories of being enslaved in Australia. ‘We were reminded that although slavery is not as prevalent here as it is in some other countries, we certainly do not have a clean record’, Bishop Lieschke said. ‘It’s estimated that we have about 3000 men, women and children subjected to forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, and early or child marriage.’
The declaration describes slavery as a ‘crime against humanity’. In becoming signatories, the faith communities agreed to ‘… pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored’. The goal is to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.
In a pre-recorded statement which was shared at the launch, Bishop Henderson said that in the example of Jesus Christ, ‘who treated each person with dignity and compassion’, we can see how God wants us to treat each other.
‘Forced service or bonded labour shatters that dignity’, the LCA bishop said. ‘We believe that slavery in all its forms is wrong. As a society we need to work to remove it, and repent of inhumane practices and the economic benefits we have received from them.
‘The Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand joins with church, faith, business and community leaders across the world to do all we can spiritually and practically to eradicate modern slavery.’
On 2 December 2014 the declaration of the parent body, Global Freedom Network, was signed by eleven world religious leaders, including Pope Francis.
The full Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery and the message of LCA Bishop Henderson can be read on the LCA website.