back to top
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
11.7 C
Sydney

Dallas McInerney: Vigilance essential to slavery’s defeat

Most read

Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Archdiocese of Sydney, Michael Digges, left, joins Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Alison Rahill, Jenny Stanger and John McCarthy QC from the Anti-Slavery Taskforce. Photo: archdiocese of Sydney
Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Archdiocese of Sydney, Michael Digges, left, joins Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Alison Rahill, Jenny Stanger and John McCarthy QC from the Anti-Slavery Taskforce. PHOTO: Archdiocese of Sydney

By Dallas McInerney

In his third and last encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “It is good for people to realise that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act. Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise.”

His Holiness’s words are a vital call to conscious action on the consumer’s behalf, for today it is estimated that over 40 million people are enslaved, and many goods and services we purchase are potentially tainted with slavery or slavery-like practices.

- Advertisement -

Slavery may conjure up images of the cotton fields in the US or the slave markets in the Roman forum, but slavery continues unabated on a horrific scale into the modern age.

“One of the most important findings of the Index is that the prevalence of modern slavery in high-GDP countries is substantially higher than was previously thought.”

There are approximately three times more slaves today than those captured and sold as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and, what is even more concerning is that this is a conservative estimate.

A few years ago, the international human rights group Walk Free released its Global Slavery Index, bringing much-needed attention to an issue that is as much forgotten as it was widespread in bygone eras.

Apart from unveiling the scale of modern slavery around the world, one of the most important findings of the Index is that the prevalence of modern slavery in high-GDP countries is substantially higher than was previously thought. These countries include the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets Nadia Murad Basee Taha, who escaped from Islamic State slavery in Iraq, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 3 May 2018. She is now a human rights activist and is a UN goodwill ambassador for its office that fights human trafficking. Photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

Though it may be hard to believe, there are over 15,000 people held in slavery in Australia and we import over $12 billion worth of goods likely tainted by slavery.

The findings highlight that even in rich countries with strong laws and systems, there are critical gaps in protections for groups such as irregular migrants, minorities, the homeless and workers in the shadow or gig economy.

In 2018, the Federal Government took a significant step in identifying and eliminating modern slavery in Australia with the passing of the Modern Slavery Bill; though there is much to do and as men and women of faith, we know that the progress against slavery has been when Christianity has acted through the authority of its teaching and the influence of the Spirit.

“Understanding our obligations as Catholics, Catholic Schools NSW is a strong supporter of the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network.”

As Saint Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The same words were echoed by the Christian abolitionists in the US and Great Britain in the great crusade against slavery in their time and reflected by Martin Luther King Jr in his advocacy for civil rights when he wrote “Racial segregation is a blatant denial of the unity which we all have in Christ.”

Understanding our obligations as Catholics, Catholic Schools NSW is a strong supporter of the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network, and we were early movers to join this vital mission, knowing it would require more than a tick and flick compliance checklist, but a deeper examination of all our operations.

Catholic Schools NSW deeply examined our enterprise and encouraged other entities to do the same.

Protestors
Activists take part in a ‘Walk for Freedom’ in 2018 to protest against human trafficking in Berlin. The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 recently passed by Congress and signed on 8 January by President Donald Trump allocates $430 million through 2022 to prevent and respond to human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. PHOTO: CNS/Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

In 2019, CSNSW voluntarily opted to comply with the reporting requirements introduced by the Modern Slavery 2018 Act, consistent with the Catholic Church’s overall commitment to prioritise and take a leading role in eradicating slavery.

By voluntarily opting into the Act’s reporting requirements, CSNSW seeks to promote awareness of the reality of modern slavery and to take practical steps to eradicate all forms of Modern Slavery from its business operations.

“Through diligence and hard work, the potential for Catholic Schools NSW to cause or contribute to incidents of modern slavery is very low.”

Our modern slavery statement aims to describe the work that we are doing to assure that our operations and supply chains do not involve any instances of modern slavery.

Through diligence and hard work, the potential for Catholic Schools NSW to cause or contribute to incidents of modern slavery is very low, though there is always work to ensure it stays that way.

The larger battle for freedom from slavery is never without hope but nor is it ever finally won. It requires eternal vigilance from us all.

Dallas McInerney is Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Schools NSW.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -