CHURCHGOERS have been encouraged not to forget the brutal history of slavery in the UK, and to remember that modern slavery continues to affect thousands around the world, on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The day was designated by the United Nations in 2007 to remember the people who suffered during the transatlantic slave trade: traders transported up to 12.8 million enslaved African people to the Americas, and Britain, over 400 years.
“Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were among the most appalling manifestations of human brutality in history,” the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, told delegates at an event to mark the day, on Monday. “We pay homage to the millions of African men, women, and children who were denied their humanity and forced to endure abominable cruelty across centuries.”
He described the slave-trade as “an institution that should never have existed”, and praised the “remarkable endurance, resilience, and countless contributions” of its victims.
In a message posted on Twitter on Monday, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the Church to renew its commitment to the “liberation, freedom, and flourishing” of people trapped in modern slavery.
He included the hashtag #RememberSlavery, part of the UN theme this year to use art to “confront slavery, empower enslaved communities, and honour those who made freedom possible”.
Helen Hodgson, who co-founded the Christian charity Hope at Home, which supports and rehomes victims of modern slavery, said, however, that, while it was important to remember the atrocities of slavery, “while it’s now been abolished, there are more people in slavery today than ever. As the Church, we are called to be bringers of justice, hope, and freedom.”
Hope at Home works with the Church-backed Clewer Initiative, which was set up in 2017 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.
There are an estimated 130,000 victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.
“We can all play our part in eradicating slavery,” Ms Hodgson said. “Spotting the signs and reporting them makes a huge difference. . . At Hope at Home we run a hosting scheme for survivors of slavery who would otherwise be homeless and at real risk of being re-trafficked. . . It’s the call of the Church to . . . provide the opportunity for Christians to do this.”