Indonesian Muslim, Catholic and Protestant groups have pledged to join forces to stand up against slavery and human trafficking in Indonesia's maritime and fishing sector. They signed a joint declaration recently to end slavery at the vice president's office. The joint effort is "our effort to show that we want to work together with the government to end the problem," said Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant People.
Slavery, human rights violations and human trafficking are rife in the maritime and fishing sector that employs some 210,000 Indonesian people, according to the International Labor Organization. Furthermore, the 2014 Global Slavery Index ranked Indonesia 10th out of 167 countries on the number of people in modern slavery. With over 700,000 people trapped, Indonesia has the highest number of modern slaves in Southeast Asia, followed by Myanmar with 515,100 people and Thailand with 425,500.
"Regulation is important to save people so that they are not slavery victims. The government [must] not only sink illegal fishing boats but also slavery ones," Father Siswantoko said. The church has been warning local people of the problem. "The local church has been advocating that people who live in poor regions around the coast don't work in dangerous sectors including fishing ships," he said.
Jeirry Sumampow, from the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, a Protestant ecumenical body that is members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), said the slavery figures were higher because many cases were not exposed. It was not only a concern for Indonesia but also the international community. "The Protestant Church and other religions have encouraged boat owners and the government to protect people," he said, noting human rights violations also in the fishing industry. "We have encouraged the government to make strict regulation to protect them," he said.
Amidan Shaberah, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s Muslim clerical body, said the regulation was important to end slavery. "We have to report to United Nations Commission for Human Rights because other countries are concerned about our case," he said. "We interreligious leaders are determined to end slavery and we have asked our local ulema council to monitor people who work on ships," he added. (Source: UCAN)