By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global faith leaders led by Pope Francis signed a declaration on Tuesday calling modern-day slavery a "crime against humanity" and pledging to work together to eradicate it by 2020.
Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim leaders committed themselves to ridding the world of human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking by inspiring spiritual and practical action.
"We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored," said the declaration, signed in the Vatican City on World Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
"Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative".
The second global slavery index released last month by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based human rights group, estimated that almost 36 million people were living as slaves, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or born into servitude.
The biggest number, 14.3 million, were in India, while Mauritania, which has hereditary slavery, was named as the country where slavery was most prevalent.
On Saturday the Foreign Office said there were between 10,000 and 13,000 people living as slaves in Britain, far more than the previous estimate of between 4,200 and 4,600.
It is now time for global business and governments around the world to show leadership "in taking the steps needed to eradicate slavery globally," said Andrew Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, one of the founding partners of the Global Freedom Network which initiated the event.
(Reporting By Magdalena Mis)