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To free 36 million modern slaves, ‘hit it at all levels,’ says Head of the Church of England

December 2nd, 2014
05:09 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Governments, businesses, and NGOs all need to play a role in the fight against modern slavery, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Head of the Church of England, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“You have to hit it at all levels. There needs to be government involvement; we’ve seen the French and British governments are leading the way with anti-slavery laws, which are going to have an impact. They change the culture, they also give the police powers to deal with things. There’s a hard edge to dealing with this, it’s a policing matter.”

Welby’s comments followed a landmark event at the Vatican where, for the first time, leaders of the world’s major faiths gathered together to sign a joint declaration to end modern slavery by 2020.

The panel, which Amanpour MCed, included Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as leaders of Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Shiite and Sunni Islam.

Besides government involvement, Welby explained, modern slavery’s “business edge” needs to be tackled.

“Companies being acutely conscious of their supply chain, acutely conscious of their subcontractors. Investors, particularly I’m thinking in the UK, in the city of London, asking the companies in which they invest ‘are you conscious of your supply chains?’, putting that little bit of pressure on them.”

That pressure, however, will not always be enough to bring about change, he said. “There will be cases where divestment is going to be necessary.”

The Head of the Church of England added that “the NGO community, [which is] very often in the field, in immense risk, very often local,” also plays its part in the fight against modern slavery, as it keeps us aware of “the vivid human cost” of this crime.

According to a 2014 survey by the anti-slavery campaign NGO Walk Free, nearly 36 million people worldwide live as slaves.

The Archbishop told Amanpour that “the biggest single cause of slavery is the sex trade.”

“Therefore, a change in our attitude towards sex workers, seeing them as victims, seeing them as people who need to be got alongside and supported and helped.”

Church of England leaders have recently voted to allow women to become bishops, “something that, in my opinion, we should have done some time ago,” Welby told Amanpour.

He added that he “would expect to see a women bishop announced in the first quarter of next year.”

Welby also addressed the issue of child abuse within the Church of England, which has rocked the institution in recent years. He maintained that the Church is investigating the issue thoroughly.

“You can never be sure that everything is done right, but on the overwhelming majority are stopped and they are instantly reported to the police and to the local authorities, and the issue is tackled.”

“We are going through all our files, we’ve gone through every file, back file of every living clergy person in the Church of England and looked for any signs that there was a problem and followed them up whether [there] was."

"Diocese by diocese, we’re now beginning the huge task of going back over all files, back for decades, in many cases back to 1950, including deceased clergy and again looking for any evidence.”

“Whether the perpetrators are alive or dead, survivors must come first. It’s a huge culture change in our whole society. The Church has to get it right, there are no excuses for us for getting it wrong.”

The Archbishop recounted he was “astonished” when he first saw evidence of sexual abuse in the Church of England.

“Then when I began to realize particularly in this role, since I took office as Archbishop, the extent to which things were being covered up. It is the most dreadful and traumatic part of the Ministry I have. It is the bit you listen to the people and you are filled with shame and horror and disgust at what was done to them, and anger at how the Church could have behaved in that way.”

Amanpour asked Welby for his thoughts on the current fight against terrorism and how one should protect people from terrorist groups such as ISIS.

“I’m enormously anti-violent conflict. I’m not a pacifist, I believe there is a place for all sort of quasi-police approach to preventing outrage and humanitarian terror. But it has to be very temporary and it will never do the trick.”

“It may win you a few months but what changes things is effective governance, is a change of heart, is the capacity of local populations to live and to guide their own affairs. It’s a matter of soft power infinitely more than hard power, and our use of hard power has to be done with immense reluctance as a last resort and only for humanitarian reasons.”


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