Hidden in Plain Sight

27th April 2021

Bishop Anne writes on modern slavery and the part our churches can play.

Modern slavery is a term used to describe all forms of slavery, trafficking, and exploitation.  (Modern Slavery Act of 2015). It is unfortunately alive and present in our communities in 21st century Britain and across the world today. It may well be alive and present in your community – hidden in plain sight.

Those who have been trafficked may be from oversees or from the UK. In some way they have been persuaded or coerced through violence, deception or abuse of power.

Our Christian faith understands all human beings to have been made in God’s image and of infinite worth. The Gospel message of God’s love, healing and freedom in Christ is for all people and as the church we are called to share in God’s mission in the world. We are to be those who see and stand against injustice of any kind, any devaluing, mistreatment or exploitation of our fellow human being.

The challenge with the nature of modern slavery is that it can be hard to see.  We may have encountered it unknowingly. Along with those trafficked for sex, (mainly but not entirely women), are those trafficked and forced into slave labour in our local car washes or nail bars, domestic servitude or farm labour – amongst other work.

They may be hard to see, or we may not really want to see. This short video produced by the Clewer initiative reveals the problem and challenges us to be able to say “We see you”.

Over the next few months, a number of further briefings and articles will follow, which will signpost resources to enable parishes, chaplaincies and Christian communities engage with a deeper understanding of the issues and the part our churches can play.  These will also look ahead to the opportunity to mark Freedom Sunday on 19-26 September, or another Sunday this Autumn, and to how greater awareness can support the work of churches around the Commonwealth Games in 2022. (Wherever international sporting events are held, an increase in trafficking usually follows).

Something we can all do now is to begin to familiarise ourselves with the signs that may indicate someone is being held in modern slavery. Visit the Clewer Initiative website.

A Prayer for the Victims of Modern Slavery

Lord of the lost,
we pray today for all those who are victims of modern slavery:
people lured from their homes and families;
people deceived while trying to find a better life;
people who are desperate to trust anyone.
Help us to be more vigilant and watchful;
to be aware of those who may need our help,
and those who do not know where help may lie.

(Important:  As with all crimes, it is important to report any suspicions of modern slavery to the police. Do not attempt to intervene yourself, as you may put yourself and those around you, including the potential victim, in danger.  If someone is in immediate danger, call 999.

To report any non-emergency suspicious activity in your local area then call your local police on 101 or go to your local police station.

For advice or support on a modern slavery issue call the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700. You can also seek guidance or ask questions through their website.)