KUALA LUMPUR: Despite Malaysia improving its position in the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, the threat is real and many have fallen victim to modern slavery.
In Malaysia alone, 128,800 people are living in modern slavery as result of human trafficking, according to The Global Slavery Index this year.
In the wake of the alarming human trafficking issue in Malaysia, many efforts have been undertaken by the government together with human rights NGOs to combat human trafficking locally and regionally.
In solidarity with millions of women, men and children who are trafficked and enslaved, 11 faith leaders from different religions in Malaysia today signed an inter-faith joint declaration against human trafficking.
The signatories to the declaration were Venerable Sing Kan from the Malaysian Buddhist Association, Vijaya Samarawickrama from Sasana Abhiwardhi Wardhana Association, Eu Hong Seng from the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship and RS Mohan Shan from the Malaysia Hindu Sangam.
Other signatories were Jasbir Singh (Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia), Vijaya Segaran Vadivelloo (The Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is Malaysia), Loh Pai Ling (Buddhist Missionary Society), Dr Hermen Shastri (Council of Churches Malaysia), Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim (Catholic Bishops Conference Malaysia), Jagjit Singh (Gurdwara Council) and Daozhang Tan Hoe Chieow of the Federation of Taoist Associations.
Federal Territory mufti Zulkifli Mohamad was unable to attend but pledged his support for the cause.
According to Kuala Lumpur Archbishop, Reverand Julian Leow, the joint declaration is meant to encourage religious groups to play a part in combating human trafficking.
“This joint declaration is just our first step.
“People of faith must play their part in the fight against human trafficking and I ask everyone to consider what each of us can do,” Leow said after the signing ceremony held at Kuala Lumpur Archbishop’s residence, Cardijn House.
Leow said religious groups can talk about the issue to the public, friends and families, learning how to spot a possible victim of human trafficking.
“On a broader level, various religious groups can share resources on anti-human trafficking activities.”
The joint declaration, held on the United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons, is an initiative spearheaded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur in collaboration with the Conference of Religious Major Superiors Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei.
The historic declaration comes a month after the release of the 2017 TIP report by the US State Department.
This year, Malaysia’s rank has been upgraded to Tier 2. It was on Tier 3 previously and was taken off the watchlist in the 2017 report.
The upgrade was due to the government demonstrating increasing efforts in expanding trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions.