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Bishop of Derby: Church must respond to slavery

19 May 2017


Handover: the French President-elect, Emmanuel Macron (right), and his predecessor, François Hollande, attend a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the abolition of slavery, in Paris, on Wednesday of last week

Handover: the French President-elect, Emmanuel Macron (right), and his predecessor, François Hollande, attend a ceremony to mark th...

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.

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