Consumers have a social responsibility regarding slavery, pope says

In his message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, released on Wednesday, Pope Francis has called for a global effort of fraternity rather than indifference to combat slavery and human trafficking.
“We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself,” the pope wrote in the message released Dec. 10.
He added that there is a “social responsibility” borne by consumers, calling to mind that “every person out to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act,’” quoting from Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate.
The World Day of Peace is observed annually on Jan. 1, and was initiated by Bl. Paul VI. Its celebration in 2015 will be the 48th iteration of the event. The 2015 theme is “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters.”
The pope’s message for the World Day of Peace is delivered to governments all over the world through diplomatic channels, and usually serves as an outline for the Pope’s New Year’s speech to the corps of ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
In the message, Pope Francis appealed “to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Pope Francis has made of the human trafficking and combating slavery a central issue of his pontificate, and one of the cores of his diplomatic activity.
“We may say that the core of Pope Francis’ diplomatic activity is human dignity, and that human trafficking and slavery are wounds to human dignity, that one can see as crime against humanity,” Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told CNA Dec. 10.
Cardinal Turkson’s dicastery assists in the preparation of the message, and had offered three suggestions for its theme.
The message reads that “in the account of the origins of the human family, the sin of estrangement from God, from the father figure and from the brother, becomes an expression of the refusal of communion.”
This “gives rise to a culture of enslavement, with all its consequences extending from generation to generation: rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalized inequality.”
Pope Francis stressed that “from time immemorial, different societies have known the phenomenon of man’s subjugation by man,” and that “there have been periods of human history in which the institution of slavery was generally accepted and regulated by law.”
Today, slavery “has been formally abolished throughout the world,” but despite this, millions of people are “deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.”
The message provided a list of possible causes of slavery: poverty, underdevelopment, and exclusion, combined with lack of education and a lack of gainful employment.
“Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking,” Pope Francis wrote.
Enslavement is also favored by “corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain,” and by armed conflicts, violence, crime, and terrorism.
“Many people are kidnapped in order to be sold, enlisted as combatants, or sexually exploited, while others are forced to emigrate, leaving everything behind: their country, home, property, and even members of their family,” the Pope wrote.
These people are “driven to seek an alternative to these terrible conditions even at the risk of their personal dignity and their very lives; they risk being drawn into that vicious circle which makes them prey to misery, corruption and their baneful consequences.”
In order to combat slavery, the pope appealed to multiple levels of society: he asked states to issue and foster legislation “really respectful of the dignity of the person” and which acknowledges the role of woman in society; he asked intergovernmental organizations to “coordinate initiatives for combating the transnational networks of organized crime which oversee the trafficking of persons and the illegal trafficking of migrants.”
Pope Francis also reminded businesses they “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.”
“Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” he added. “Every person ought to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.’”
Pope Francis also urged organizations in civil society to “awake consciences and promote whatever steps are necessary for combating and uprooting the culture of enslavement.”
The pope ended asking for a globalization of fraternity, to counter the globalization of indifference, since this latter “requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.”

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