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Phanar: Meeting of the Joint Committee for the global issue of Human Trafficking

The first meeting of the newly established Joint Committee on the social problem of human trafficking, between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece, took place on Monday, 13 May 2024, in Constantinople. The meeting was hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under the solemn blessing of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and was held in the Hall of the Hierarchs of the Patriarchal House.

The meeting was co-chaired by His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, from the side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnes and Petroupolis, from the side of the Church of Greece.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate was represented by: His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, Co-President, Partriarchal Deacon Ieronymos Sotirelis, Secretary Member, Dr. Petre Breazu, from the University of Cambridge, and Ms. Aikaterini Pekridou, Head of Theology and Studies Program of the Council of European Churches (CEC).

The Church of Greece was represented by: His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnes and Petroupolis, Co-President, Archimandrite Spyridon Katramados, Secretary Member, Deacon Nikodimos Malamatenios, and Mr. Dimitrios Anifantakis, scientific associate of the Holy Metropolis of Ilion, Acharnes and Petroupolis.

The working session of the Joint Committee began with an opening prayer by Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain.

At the beginning of the session, Their Eminences, the Co-Chairs, in their presentations, outlined the primary objective of the Committee, stressing the importance of training clergy to identify victims and raise public awareness of the tragic reality of the prevalence of slavery and human trafficking. The work of the first session also highlighted the recognition of various aspects of slavery and human trafficking, with an emphasis on the need for a comprehensive understanding beyond sex trafficking, and other forms such as labour exploitation, organ trafficking, kidnapping children and domestic slavery. Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain underlined the closeness of the above-mentioned issues to society and the general responsibility and position of the Church for the protection of human dignity and the human person.

The Joint Committee proposed the organisation of seminars and conferences in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Crete and the Dodecanese Islands, with the aim of training clergy, teachers, parents and politicians on identifying and combating slavery and human trafficking.

Also, a joint tour was proposed, with the aim of informing the plenitude of the Church on the subject, accompanied by the creation of a “toolkit” and a series of seminars to be delivered in five modules – courses during Great Lent 2025. These sessions will incorporate theological and biblical perspectives, using biblical narratives as parallels to contemporary cases of slavery.

The Committee, in order to start these initiatives, proposed the organisation of three conferences. The inaugural conference, to be convened in Athens, will provide an online platform for victims of human trafficking to share their experiences. In addition, the conference aims to raise awareness among our brothers and sisters, through collaborations with notable personalities from various fields and utilising social media platforms, with the aim of amplifying the message of the Church.

The main theological axis of the Commission’s discussions was the concept of slavery as a result of sin and liberation from it through the message of Christ’s Resurrection.

The session ended with a closing prayer offered by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnes and Petroupolis