An extraordinary gathering of world religious leaders, including Pope Francis, a Zen Buddhist master, Sunni and Shia clerics, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a South American rabbi have signed a pledge to eradicate slavery by 2020.
- The Sydney Morning Herald.
The most extraordinary aspect of this event was the fact that it was largely inspired by the determination of a Perth schoolgirl, Grace Forrest, now a confident young woman.
The signing marks the beginning of a five-year push in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples across the world to send the message that slavery is forbidden by God – every God.
But perhaps most extraordinary was the fact that this historic meeting, which overcame traditions of religious suspicion and enmity amid the manicured gardens and marble columns of Vatican City, was largely inspired by the determination of a Perth schoolgirl - now a confident young woman.
Grace Forrest, 21, sat proudly in the front row at the 16th-century Casina Pio IV villa as the pledge was signed in front of her, after an hour of speeches in five languages.
It is six years since the daughter of mining billionaire Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest first witnessed the evil of child slavery, she told Fairfax after the event.
She was 15 when she arrived on a school trip to Nepal, having chosen to work in a refuge home for children that had been rescued from sex slavery.
"That experience changed the course of my life," she said. "To see something and walk away, that's unacceptable to me. Seeing the physical, emotional and mental trauma of children as young as three who have been rescued from slavery is unbelievable. And to watch children who have had not just their innocence stolen from them, but also their childhood, left to live with trauma for the rest of their lives … I came back from this experience and I really wanted to do something."
But when she returned to Nepal two years later with her family, it was to an even bigger shock: none of the children were still at the orphanage she had been working at.
"I started asking questions – where are the records, I was told 'there are no records'. I showed pictures, 'we have never seen these children'. The driver who took us out there was saying 'this is a bad place, this is a very bad place'."
World Faith leaders join Pope to sign human trafficking declaration (The Catholic Herald)