Follow Us:

Standing against Modern Slavery

The first time I heard the phrase ‘modern slavery’ was 15 years ago during the notices at the end of a small group meeting. An anti-slavery organisation was mentioned and leaflets handed around, inviting us to make a stand against the growing problems of people trafficking, prostitution rings and forced labour. ‘Surely,’ we said to each other, ‘these things are already illegal. It’s not really a matter for us; it’s for the police to deal with.’

I suspect now we have all heard more about modern slavery. Perhaps through reports of people fleeing their home country, squeezed into broken boats by organized criminals who manipulate the desperate. Or through an awareness-raising event or campaign. For instance, the recently-released movie The Sound of Freedom tells the story of comfortable Westerners waking up to the shame and scale of people trafficking, ‘the fastest-growing international crime network the world has ever seen’.

As we learn more, the more we realise what a strange and shifty problem it is; it’s too simple to say: ‘it’s for the police to deal with’. It’s a problem that wants to stay hidden in the shadows; removing it from our communities can only happen through concerted community effort (which is why partnerships like the Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network have been set up, a coalition that includes not only the police but also councils, charities and churches).

On an individual level, the first step is to start caring. It is natural for those victims who are out of our sight to be out of our minds as well. Yet any kind of prophetic stand begins with naming what is wrong, pointing out the injustice and tracing the cracks in society. This may be uncomfortable, but at least we are being honest and we know what to pray for.

The bidding prayers used in carol services have this prophetic edge to them: ‘We pray for those among whom the Christ was born… the victims of poverty, injustice and oppression… those in despair or in the shadow of death.’ As our Diocese begins a year of focusing on the prophetic, might these Advent concerns become a year-round way of thinking and praying?

As for my own experience, I’m now a local co-ordinator in the anti-slavery organisation I hadn’t heard of 15 years ago. I’m proof that you can go from being detached and dismissive to a lot more involved – which, after all, is the journey all Christians are called to.

The Revd Corin Child is the Chaplain of Norwich School, a Priest Vicar of Norwich Cathedral and Diocesan co-ordinator for The Clewer Initiative.

Hands in chains