Pope Francis To Consumers And Businesses: It Is Your “Social Responsibility” To End Slave Labor

January 1, 2015, will bring a powerful message denouncing slavery from Pope Francis in celebration of the World Day of Peace.

As shoppers flock to discount stores from Thanksgiving through Christmas and have customarily sought even deeper discounts in the weeks thereafter, the Vatican has released the Pope’s message denouncing the role of both the businesses who fail to provide their employees with “dignified working conditions” and the consumers who “are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others” who have “scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities.”

The Pope has chosen to send a message to the world that we are “No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters.” His message addresses the many faces of slavery, past and present, with a look to a better tomorrow.

 

Photos courtesy of lockerdome.com and Jezebel.com

 

Beyond the obvious appeal to governments and other organizations, he takes aim at businesses and consumers, and in his own way is asking the people of the world to boycott Walmart and others like them.

“States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore and the sale of items produced by slave labour. There is a need for just laws which are centred on the human person, uphold fundamental rights and restore those rights when they have been violated.

Businesses have a duty to ensure dignified working conditions and adequate salaries for their employees, but they must also be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain. Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers. Every person ought to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act’.”

While acknowledging that slavery has “been recognized in international law as inviolable,” the Pope focuses on slave labor with a wide lens as he sweeps across the many ways humans are violated by involuntary servitude:

“[M]illions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.

“I think of the many men and women labourers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labour regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights.”

He addresses the living conditions of hungry migrants stripped of their possessions who “undergo physical and sexual abuse.” The Pope speaks of the journey of the “slave” laborer, the prostitute, the child laborers, those forced into sex slavery and traffic in the sale of organs, drugs, as well as those who are forced to act as child soldiers for terrorists.

Pope Francis specifically calls out those who cause slavery and are “willing to do anything for financial gain.”

“This occurs when money, and not the human person, is at the centre of an economic system.”

He concludes with a universal appeal to all while remaining focused on those among us that would ‘shop until we drop’ at stores that openly denigrate their employees with wages so low that there is a need for co-workers to plan food drives for their fellow workers. Meanwhile, consumers stand in block-long lines to acquire the latest toy manufactured by “slave labour” in “disgraceful living and working conditions.”

“Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged … when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us, out of indifference, or financial reasons, or because we are caught up in our daily concerns, close our eyes to this.”

Pope Francis is telling the world to open their collective eyes to the greed that corrupts absolutely. According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, there are 35.8 million people around the world living in some state of slavery, from prostitution to picking cotton. 

On this day, at this moment, I stand with the Pope. I boycott Walmart and other discount chains who exploit their employees as do so many throughout this country. It isn’t fair to ask everyone to join me. I recognize that there are those that don’t have enough money to shop elsewhere, who cannot pay higher prices without feeling the rumblings of hunger. I suppose the Pope is recognizing these exceptions when he suggests that some should “practice small, everyday gestures … such as offering a kind word.”

Walton family: the Pope is not giving you a pass. You are the poster children of just about everything the Pope is railing against.