Responding to modern slavery
When slavery is happening on the doorsteps of our churches, we must respond. How? By Dan Pratt
With the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimating there are well over 13,000 people being kept in modern slavery in the UK today, we must ask what is the church’s response to modern slavery?
The NCA states that ‘As you go about your normal daily life there is a growing and a good chance that you will come across a victim who has been exploited and that's why we are asking the public to recognise their concerns and report them."
It is therefore imperative that the church responds to this injustice. In my ministry as a Baptist minister among those on the margins I have come into regular contact with those being exploited for labour or sexual services. Within the Eastern Baptist Association churches have already identified and helped victims of MS or those vulnerable to exploitation by reporting to the authorities and enabling people to be freed.
The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, notes ‘Faith groups have influence, insight and rare avenues into the community. They are therefore a powerful tool in the fight against modern slavery’.
As Baptists, if we are seeking to follow Jesus in his mission, we follow him in 'setting the captives fee'. When slavery is happening on the doorsteps of our churches and even sometimes within our churches, we must respond in order to protect and safeguard. How do we do this?
Firstly we need to see our communities and streets with new eyes. Do we see those being kept in slavery around us? Do our churches know how to spot the signs of someone in slavery? Are individuals isolated? Is their story scripted? Are they being controlled?
Secondly we should act. If we suspect someone is being kept as a slave do we know to phone the Modern Slavery National Helpline (08000 121700). www.modernslaveryhelpline.org
Thirdly, we need to partner together and consult. We are stronger when we work together to fight this injustice. How can we as Baptists Together, within our churches, associations and national networks work together in setting the captives free?
Within the EBA, we are developing a joined up response and exploring how partnerships can develop. We are working in partnership with organisations such as The Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s response to Modern Slavery. In 2018 the EBA along with The Clewer Initiative is facilitating three regional anti-slavery summits in Cambridge, Chelmsford and Norwich.
Having attended The Clewer Initiative's launch at Lambeth Palace, 17 October, it was encouraging to see their joined up and proactive approach. Miriam, a survivor of modern slavery stated at the launch ‘I was trafficked by Christians. For 10 years I was a victim of modern slavery. They told me when to eat, when to sleep. I had no freedom’. Bishop Alistair Redfern called the church to ‘take off our blinkers and go and find those in our society who are victims of modern slavery’.
As we join Jesus is setting the captives free, how can we as Baptists develop a robust and collective response towards the injustice of modern slavery?
Picture | Clewer Initiative
Dan Pratt is Antislavery Co-ordinator for the Eastern Baptist Association
New UK modern slavery findings
Modern slavery in the UK is on the increase according to a number of recent reports