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UN told of the Church’s work to tackle slavery

22 February 2019

 Anglican Communion Representative joins New York talks


Activists take part in a Walk for Freedom to protest against human trafficking, in Berlin, in October 2018

Activists take part in a Walk for Freedom to protest against human trafficking, in Berlin, in October 2018

EFFORTS by the Anglican Community to fight human trafficking in countries across the world will be illustrated today at the United Nations in New York during a discussion on how member states can best tackle the problem.

Drawing on initiatives in Ghana, Hong Kong, the United States, and the UK, the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Jack Palmer-White, will show how faith organisations have a crucial part to play in preventing the trafficking of women and girls.

In a written submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, he tells how the diocese of Accra, in Ghana, responded to the country’s emergence as a significant country of origin for child trafficking. It joined forces with the US embassy to establish a community shelter, Hope Village, to rehabilitate rescued children, and works with the Ghanaian government to increase awareness and encourage it to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

In Hong Kong, St John’s Cathedral runs a community outreach programme, Help for Domestic Workers, providing free advice and help on employment, immigration, and human-rights issues, mainly for foreign workers. Over the past 26 years, it has handled more than 52,000 requests for assistance, many from people trafficked into Hong Kong and trapped into forced labour. The walk-in centre for migrants opened in 1981, and, in 1986, the diocese opened the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, offering temporary shelter, counselling, and emergency assistance. It aids hundreds of women every year.

In the US, Episcopalians raised awareness during this year’s American football Super Bowl championship in Atlanta, Georgia, by replacing hotels’ soap bars with ones bearing anti-trafficking hotline numbers. An FBI operation during the event reportedly led to 169 arrests, including 26 alleged traffickers. Nine children were also rescued, as young as 14 (News, 8 February).

Mr Palmer-White also highlights the work in the UK of the Church of England’s anti-trafficking campaign, the Clewer Initiative, which helps churches to be alert to modern slavery in their locality and provide victims with support and care. It has also launched a Safe Car Wash App for gathering intelligence by identifying working standards in informal car washes, some of which used forced and bonded labour (News, 1 June 2018) .

In his submission, Mr Palmer-White says that the Anglican Communion’s fourth Mark of Mission is to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation. The Anglican Consultative Council has asked member churches to develop strategies to address trafficking, abduction, and abuse of children and women for rituals, forced labour, and forced marriage.

He emphasises the part faith-based organisations play in the advancement of the rights of all women and girls, saying: “Our cry for gender justice is rooted in our faith. The Anglican Consultative Council has committed itself to gender equality and justice by upholding just relationships between women and men as a reflection of the Christian belief that women and men are made equally in the image of God.

“Human trafficking deprives individuals of their rights and freedoms, robs them of autonomy, and leaves them at risk of further violence and exploitation. Each member of the human family is made in the divine image to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect; never to be trafficked or exploited.”

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