Pope Francis warns shoppers not to purchase gifts that enrich slave traders

by Staff, |
Pope Francis, center, and from left, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong, Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi and Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif, Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, pose after the signing a joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery, at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Religious leaders from a half-dozen faiths have signed on to a new Vatican initiative to end modern-day slavery by 2020, declaring that human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution are crimes against humanity. Photo: L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

VATICAN CITY (Christian Examiner) -- The Pope has encouraged those shopping during the holiday season to abstain from purchasing products made by slaves, according to a future speech made available on his website. In his 2015 Message of Peace titled "No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters," he preaches to consumers about forced prostitution, child soldiers, slave laborers in factories and other forms of exploitation.

Pope Francis blamed the "abominable phenomenon" of slavery on "corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain." In the message published Dec. 10, the Pontiff wrote that law enforcement and government officials around the world have turned a blind eye to the exploitation, but that the people still have a responsibility not to support it.

We all "have a duty to be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain," the 77-year-old Catholic leader said. That means not purchasing "items which may have been produced by exploiting others."

As for countries themselves, he chastised them for allowing vast networks of organized crime to continue, and the general apathy and lack of awareness about the issue.

This isn't the first time the Pope has charged consumers to act with their hearts instead of their wallets. He prayed on Dec. 8 at Rome's Spanish Steps that humanity be freed of "all spiritual and material slavery," and the world would focus on helping the poor and downtrodden.

About 36 million people currently are trapped in modern-day slavery conditions, including forced marriages, prostitution, fighting wars or manual labor, according to the 2014 Global Slavery index.