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Vatican Calls on Buddhists and Christians to Stand Up Against Modern-Day Slavery

(REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)Pope Francis greets Buddhist monks in Colombo during his visit to the Sri Lankan capital in this Jan. 14, 2015 file photo.

The Vatican is encouraging Buddhists and Christians to work together to end modern-day slavery, maintaining that the latter is an affront to human dignity and basic rights, a statement from the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue of the Roman Curia said.

The Council issued the statement, titled "Buddhists and Christians, together to counter modern slavery," during the Buddhist holy month of Vesakh (April-May) when Buddhists commemorate Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.

The Vatican council emphasized the common respect that Buddhists and Christians have toward life.

"As Buddhists and Christians committed to respect for human life, we must cooperate together to end this social plague," the Council said. "Pope Francis invites us to overcome indifference and ignorance by offering assistance to victims, in working for their psychological and educational rehabilitation, and in efforts to reintegrate them into society where they live or from which they come."

The Council recounted that Buddha himself opposed trade using human beings. Citing a section of the "Eightfold Path," the Council said Gautama Buddha regarded trading in live beings such as slaves and prostitutes is one of the five occupations that should not be engaged in. According to Buddhist teachings, possessions should be obtained peacefully, with honesty, and through legal means, not in a way that causes harm or suffering and without coercion, violence or deceit, the Council noted.

The Council also blamed corruption as an impediment to seeing other people as one's equal.

"Human hearts deformed by corruption and ignorance are, according to the Holy Father, the cause of these terrible evils against humanity. When hearts are corrupted, human beings no longer see others as 'beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects,'" the Council said.

In his message during this year's World Day of Peace, Pope Francis said historically, slavery causes the "rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalised inequality."

The Pontiff noted that even though the international community has already adopted several measures to end slavery, there are still "millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery."

The Pope cited the following instances of modern-day slavery: "Men, women and child laborers; migrants who undergo physical, emotional and sexual abuse while working in shameful working conditions; persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves; those kidnapped by terrorists and forced to be combatants, and those who are tortured, mutilated or killed."

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