Your Holinesses, Your Excellencies, Your Emminencies, dear Most Venerables, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. Please allow me to read the words that our Beloved Teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, wished to deliver here today*:
We are grateful to gather today to announce to the world our commitment to work together to end Modern Slavery, to plea to those who traffic in human beings to stop their exploitation and to ask world leaders and organisations to protect the dignity of these young women, men and children. They are our daughters and sons, our sisters and brothers.
It is clear that in this age of globalisation, what happens to one of us, happens to us all. We are all interconnected, and we are all co-responsible. But even with the greatest good will, if we are swept away by our daily concerns for material needs or emotional comforts, we will be too busy to realise our common aspiration. Contemplation must go together with action. Without a spiritual practice we will abandon our dream very soon.
Each of us, according to the teaching of our own tradition, should practice to touch deeply the wonders of Nature, the wonders of life in each of us, the Kingdom of God in each of us, the Pure Land, Nirvana in each of us, so we can get the healing and nourishment, the joy and happiness born from the insight that the Kingdom of God is already available in the here and now. The feeling of love and admiration for nature, that we all share, has the power to nourish us, unite us, and remove all separation and discrimination.
By being in touch with everything that is refreshing and healing, we can free ourselves from our daily concerns for material comforts, and will have a lot more time and energy to realise our ideal of bringing freedom and compassion to all living beings. As it says in the Gospel, “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or wear. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you”. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
In our work to end modern slavery, we must find the time to take care of ourselves, and to take care of the present moment. By doing so, we can find some relative peace in our body and mind to continue our work. We need to recognise and embrace our own suffering, our anger, fear, and despair so that the energy of compassion can be maintained in our hearts. When we have more clarity in our mind, we will have compassion not only for the victims, but for the traffickers themselves. When we see that the traffickers have suffered, we can help them wake up and stop what they are doing. Our compassion can help transform them into friends and allies of our cause.
In order to sustain our work of compassion, we all need a spiritual community to support us and protect us – a real community, where there is true brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion and understanding. We should not do this work as cavaliers seuls, as lone warriors. The roots of modern slavery run deep, and the causes and conditions, the networks and structures supporting it are complex. That is why we need to build a community that can continue this work to protect human life not just until 2020, but long into the future.
The world in which we live is globalized, and so too is this new form of slavery, that is connected to the economic, political and social systems. Therefore our ethics and morality also need to be globalized. A new global order calls for a new global ethic. We have to sit down together, as people of many traditions, as we are doing now, to find the causes of this suffering. If we look deeply together, with clarity, calm and peace, we will understand the causes of modern slavery, and we can find a way out.
Vatican City, December 2, 2014
*Read by Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong, Thay’s eldest monastic student, in place of Thich Nhat Hanh because of illness.