Victims of modern slavery walk through the doors of St Chrysostom’s Church week by week. Not far from us the Medaille Trust, with whom we have a special relationship, does outstanding work in helping such people. Recently we’ve begun an English language class at Church on a Monday and Friday afternoon especially focusing on victims of human trafficking. It has proved popular and useful.
Whether we call it human trafficking or modern slavery it is, at the core, slavery. There are an estimate 20 million people in slavery in the world today. The British Government estimates that there are over 13,000 people in slavery in Britain today.
A typical story from our area is of a young woman promised a better life in England who was smuggled into England on what she discovers are false papers which are taken from her. She is told she owes a large amount of money to those who gave her the papers and must therefore be involved in their sex trade. With help she escapes to a safe house in another city. Then begins the long work of building new life and new hope. A couple of month’s ago we told of another story of slavery in Britain we had come across from a young man who came to church have a look at: Jakub’s story.
In the late 1800s Josephine Butler, a devout Anglican and woman of prayer, was also a courageous Victorian feminist and a tireless campaigner for women’s rights. In particular, from her home in Liverpool, she worked for women forced into slavery and prostitution through desperate circumstances. She opened her home to them. She campaigned for resources to help them, and for legislation to support them. She has been called the ‘Patron Saint of Prostitutes.’ Her example is an inspiration to today’s church, sadly often preoccupied with its internal business, to make a stand for those forced into slavery, especially those forced into the sex trade. (Josephine Butler is commemorated in the Church of England on May 30th)
What can we do? Like Josephine Butler we can
- inform ourselves of the facts,
- we can support agencies like the Medaille Trust tackling the issue
- we can encourage people of influence to bring about change.
- we can volunteer to help, say in supporting our language class in little ways.
- Josephine Butler’s work was grounded in prayer. We can pray for social justice for all, and particularly for those locally seeking new lives.
- We can Ask the Question: Are these products we use slave free?
The Collect used to commemorate Josephine Butler:
God of compassion and love,
by whose grace your servant Josephine Butler
followed in the way of your Son
in caring for those in need:
help us like her to work with strength
for the restoration of all to the dignity
and freedom of those created in your image;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.