St Nicholas of Tolentino Parish, Bristol hosted two events on Wednesday 6th February around the theme of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, with representatives from the Santa Marta Group, the Clewer Initiative, Unseen, Bishop Alastair Redfern (Former Anglican Bishop of Derby and Chair for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel) and Avon and Somerset Police.
Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, here in the UK and abroad, where they are mistreated, abused, and overworked for the benefit of their oppressors. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, and slavery whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. The United Nations estimates that there are today 40 million enslaved people. globally; and there could be as many 140,000 in the UK
The daytime event was for clergy and safeguarding representatives, both from the Diocese of Clifton and Ecumenically, and the evening event was open to all, which was well attended and received.
Both events brought to attention the unique and privileged role of the parish in tackling the oppression and dehumanization of Adults and Children that takes place in the form of Domestic Servitude, Sexual Exploitation, Drug Dealing (County Lines), Nail Bars, Agriculture and Fruit Picking, and Car Washes.
It is not just a problem that affects our large cities but is prevalent in smaller towns and villages.
This issue calls us as a parish and as a Diocese to action; for we must make it our responsibility to be informed about modern slavery, how to spot the signs and how to go about reporting concerns. We are called to work with the authorities to combat human trafficking and slavery, and also to find ways of supporting and caring for survivors of such brutality and inhumanity. This is echoed by Pope Francis who said in 2013:
“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society…”
We thank all who spoke and took part in the day, and we pray that much fruit will bear from this this landmark event in our diocese.
What can you do to combat Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery?
Ideas provided by the Santa Marta Group
In your parish and community
- Pray for victims of modern slavery, organise a prayer service, remember them at mass
- Raise awareness with your friends and family about modern slavery
- Celebrate the feast of St Josephine Bakhita on February 8th, an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of modern slavery
- Host an event in your parish to raise awareness of modern slavery
- Put posters and cards about modern slavery in your parish and newsletter
- Celebrate Freedom Sunday on the closest Sunday to UK Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October
- Teach your church’s young people about modern slavery – both about how they can help stop it and how they might be vulnerable
As an individual
- Become informed about modern slavery, learn how to spot the signs and how to report any concerns
- Volunteer in a safe house or local charity working with victims of trafficking
- Support a safe house with practical donations e.g. toiletries
- Raise money for a safe house or local charity
- Volunteer raising awareness with the local police
- Offer language skills to the police and charities
- Offer professional skills pro bono to charities
- Download the Safe Car Wash App and then when you are using a hand car wash, open the app and complete a short survey about the working conditions of the car wash.
- Write to your MP to find out what they and their party are doing locally, nationally and internationally to combat modern slavery and support victims of trafficking
- Check the Modern Slavery Statements of your favourite brands and shops and send them an email if you don’t think they’re clear enough
- Become an ethical consumer and buy Fairtrade products