Hundreds of victims of human trafficking (modern slaves) have come through the doors of St Chrysostom’s in the past two years.
Our language classes set up to serve such victims, in partnership with the Medaille Trust, have grown and developed with the support of church members and members of other churches too. They serve not only to teach basic English but also are a relaxed place where people can find affirmation, and where we, at Church, can have a part in restoring hope. In addition we’ve welcomed women and children victims for a Christmas party in partnership with City Hearts, and with the help of Stop the Traffik have held awareness evenings to help people spot the signs of trafficking. It was encouraging that these evenings were attended by police officers, university staff, religious sisters and local residents. We have introduced an icon of St Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of human trafficking) into church as a focus of prayer for victims and an end to slavery.
I recently was invited, as a representative of Manchester Diocese, to Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to a Church of England consultation, The Clewer Initiative, on how the church can help rid our society of this appalling phenomenon. Many people from around England attended, not only Church of England representatives, but also members of campaigning groups and official agencies. It was an inspiring day, led by the Bishop of Derby. ‘Slavery is growing exponentially … People are treated like commodities with no rights,’ the Bishop said. He added ‘What the Church brings is a kind of passion to be with people; to go the extra mile to provide voluntary energy for official resources… We also have a role as community intelligence; to be people who notice what is going on.’ Bishop Alastair encouraged people not to be indifferent. Commenting on Pope Francis’ challenge to the ‘globalisation of indifference’ he said ‘Modern Slavery arises when people are so busy… organising our lives, they are in indifferent to what is going on around them.’
As Christians we must challenge the evil of modern slavery. I am proud of what we are doing at St Chrysostom’s and I am inspired by the work of such organisations as the Medaille Trust with whom we work. It is my hope and prayer that this work will extend and develop. I am convinced that alongside national initiatives, local practical help, care, and sensitivity to the tragedy of modern slavery is essential to rid our communities and society of this terrible de-humanising crime.