04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
Michael Jackson has announced that he will join New York political activist Rev. Al Sharpton's crusade to end modern-day slavery in the war-torn African country of Sudan. "I want this slavery ended, now and forever," Jackson, 42, said in a statement. He also said that he plans to accompany Sharpton on his return trip to the sub-Saharan country. Sharpton was on a weeklong fact-finding mission to Sudan, where tens of thousands of slaves -- primarily black Christians and animists -- have been seized by Arab Muslims. Jackson's spiritual advisor, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, told reporters that Jackson was moved to take up the cause when he heard of a child slave ship that was lost off the coast of Africa earlier this week (43 children were removed from the vessel). Boteach said that when the pop star learned of the ship, "Michael called me crying like a baby."