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Thich Nhat Hanh’s Representatives Join Pope Francis and Other Spiritual Leaders in Rome
to Speak Out Against Modern Slavery

Vatican City, Italy, December 2, 2014 – While Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh remains critically ill in the hospital, his most senior disciples are in Rome to represent him today, uniting with world faith leaders to declare a common spiritual stand against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Invited by His Holiness Pope Francis to take part in an historic event on December 2, 2014 organized by the Global Freedom Network, Thich Nhat Hanh will represent Buddhism to sign a statement on this day, the anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States, to call on the United Nations to end human trafficking and slavery globally. Pope Francis, Thich Nhat Hanh, Amma, Rabbi Skorka, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and other spiritual leaders will demonstrate to the world that all major faith traditions are united in declaring human trafficking, child labor, and other new forms of slavery “Crimes Against Humanity”.

Yesterday, Monday, December 1st, Thich Nhat Hanh’s community co-hosted an unprecedented day of shared spiritual practice at the Vatican, an event the Zen master initiated before falling into a coma on November 11th. Catholic nuns, Hindu yogis, Anglican priests and Buddhist monks walked together, ate together and prayed together as spiritual brothers and sisters, united in compassion and action. Sister Chan Khong, Thich Nhat Hanh’s eldest disciple and the director of his social work programs since the 1960s, requested the assembly to have compassion even for the traffickers, who are themselves victims of poverty, hatred and violence.

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s prepared speech, today read by Sister Chan Khong in front of the assembly and press, the world-renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk wrote, “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.”

“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. 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.”

“Our Teacher was fully committed to being present at this event, despite his weakening health since the Summer,” said a monastery spokesperson. “Sister Chan Khong and Thay Phap An will sign the Declaration with our Teacher’s seal, which in Buddhist tradition is considered to be as powerful as him being here in person.”

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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is an 88-year-old global spiritual leader, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, scholar, poet, artist, peace activist, and prolific author. His powerful teachings and bestselling writings on the art of mindfulness have reached a global audience of millions, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. He is the man Martin Luther King, Jr. called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, and who has been described by The New York Times as “second only to the Dalai Lama” among Buddhist leaders influential in the West. For more than fifty years, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer of ‘Engaged’ and ‘Applied’ Buddhism, applying ancient Buddhist wisdom to contemporary issues. In recent years Thich Nhat Hanh has addressed members of the United States Congress, White House Summit on HIV/AIDS under President Clinton, World Health Organization, Parliament of India, UNESCO, World Bank, and World Parliament of Religions.

Sister Chan Khong is the first fully-ordained monastic disciple of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and the director of his humanitarian projects since the 1960s. Born in 1938 in Ben Tre in Southern Vietnam, Sister Chan Khong began social work in the city slums as a teenager. After meeting Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1959, she helped him set up the School of Youth for Social Service, training thousands of young social workers to bring aid to remote war-ravaged villages. She organised the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace Talks in 1969, and later led emergency humanitarian efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people from the high seas. Since the 1980s Sister Chan Khong has helped Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh establish Plum Village Monastery in south-west France, and is today the Elder nun of the International Plum Village Sangha of over 800 monastics. The deep mindfulness practices she has pioneered have brought reconciliation and healing to hundreds of thousands of individuals, couples and families worldwide.