faith and freedom

How can the church respond to modern slavery?

A day like any other. You wander round the supermarket, picking up some salad for dinner tonight, as you throw it in the trolley you notice it was grown in the UK. On the drive home you swing by a hand car wash, and watch as a team of washers make your car sparkle, for such a bargain price too! Later a friend pops round and shows you her new manicure from the nail bar down the street. ‘Only a fiver!’ she says as you admire her nails.

All of these experiences are normal, all the goods and services freely available on any UK high street. But they could all be hiding a devastating truth: modern slavery.

The nail bar and the hand car wash could be staffed by slaves, forced to work long days, for little to no pay, threatened with violence if they refuse to comply. The salad could have been picked by workers who are similarly trapped, tied to a corrupt gangmaster who has taken their passport and busses them from farm to farm.

In 2013 the Home Office estimated there were 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. In 2017, the National Crime Agency suggested the real figure was in the tens of thousands. Modern slavery is a growing problem that is not going away. That’s why The Clewer Initiative and the Social Justice Network (run by Bristol Cathedral and the Diocese of Bristol), are coming together to host Faith and Freedom in Bristol, to ask what the church can do about modern slavery.

Cases have been found all across the UK, including in Bristol. In August 2017, a nail bar in Southmead in Bristol was raided, four people were arrested and one was taken to a place of safety, suspected of being a victim of modern slavery. Earlier in the year a man called Jo escaped from a Bristol car wash, where he said he had worked for 18 months without being paid. In fact Avon and Somerset Constabulary investigated 60 cases of modern slavery in 2017, 20 in Bristol alone.

The role of the police, other law enforcement agencies, and social services is clear, but what should the role of the church and its members be? Churches and faith groups across the country are already running food banks, sheltering the homeless, and welcoming people into their communities in hundreds of different ways. Some of those people will be victims or survivors of modern slavery who need love and support. How can we tap into the power of the local church and help it respond to this challenge?

Help us find out, by joining us at 7.30pm on Tuesday 13th March at Christ Church Clifton. Over the course of the evening we will be learning about modern slavery together, including what it looks like in Bristol, and exploring how churches and communities can respond to the challenge. Register your free place here: