THE Church must direct its “unconditional energy” to support those in need towards detecting and preventing the brutality of modern slavery, the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, has said.
Dr Redfern was delivering the keynote speech at a conference at Lambeth Palace on combating modern slavery, on Thursday of last week. It was held in partnership with the Clewer Initiative, a three-year C of E project to help dioceses to detect labour exploitation, prostitution and sex slavery, and forced marriage within their communities, and to provide support and care to victims.
An estimated 45.8 million people are trapped in forms of modern slavery across the world, including about 11,700 victims in the UK.
”People are treated like commodities, with no rights, no proper pay, who often have their passports confiscated, and are trapped, dominated, and made to work,” Dr Redfern said afterwards. “Prostitution and sex slavery is growing exponentially, especially because of the internet, and the age of those trapped — girls, particularly — is getting younger. The internet, which is difficult to monitor and engage with, fuels the industry.”
Churches can use their unique position in the heart of communities to identify and report such instances of modern slavery, he said. “What the Church brings is a kind of passion to be with people; to go the extra mile to provide voluntary energy for official resources that are strapped for money and people.
“We also have a role as community intelligence: to be people who notice what is going on, and try and help others notice it, too, and respond.”
Dr Redfern, who chairs the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel, quoted Pope Francis on the “globalisation of indifference”, which he said was a “simple, direct, and profound” message. “Modern slavery arises when people are so busy . . . organising our lives, they are indifferent to what is going on.
“The virtue of toleration easily morphs into disinterest, which becomes indifference. It is in the indifference . . . that the crime happens — and we are not noticing.”
Other speakers at the conference were Michelle Collins, who manages the Community Safety Group for Derbyshire County Council, and Dr Alison Gardner, of the University of Nottingham, who leads a research project, “Slavery-free cities”, on creating initiatives against modern slavery.
Representatives from 33 of the 42 C of E dioceses attended, along with the Roman Catholic Santa Marta Group, which campaigns against modern slavery, and other faith groups and ecumenical partners.
The Clewer Initiative is funded by an Anglican order of Augustinian nuns, the Clewer Sisters, which was founded in 1852 to provide shelter and apprenticeships to homeless people and young women drawn into the sex trade.