Liverpool Archdiocese is planning a new initiative to combat “the scandal of modern-day slavery”. After a January talk by Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, there was a commitment to encourage catholic parishes to get involved in the ecumenical effort.
On the eve of the 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, the patron of victims of trafficking and those who work to combat it, the Salvation Army will help the archdiocese trial a model for a parish meeting at St Vincent’s in the city. In March there will be an event at the Anglican cathedral, and in April a walk of witness in the city centre.
Steve Atherton, the Liverpool Archdiocese justice and peace fieldworker, reports that, “in July we hope to gather reps from parishes across the archdiocese for the launch of a diocesan wide campaign”. Pope Francis has been vocal in his opposition to trafficking, which he has termed “a crime against humanity” for its dramatic, and inhumane, “commercialisation” of other human beings.
The churches have been heavily involved in combating modern slavery. The Medaille Trust, for example, was formed by religious congregations and runs a network of safe houses for rescued victims of trafficking. In 2015 the UK government passed the Modern Slavery Act, designed to combat modern slavery in the UK.
In an era of geopolitical upheaval and climate change, human trafficking has become a key concern for both religious and secular human right’s organisations. In 2019, the UN announced that human trafficking cases had reached a 13-year high, with women and children being especially targeted. Victims are transported from their country of birth for a wide variety of purposes, such as forced marriages or even organ donation, but the two most common remain forced labour or the sex trade.
Convictions for human trafficking have also increased, however, as campaigners have raised public awareness around the phenomenon. Four people have been arrested by Police Scotland in the last week, as part of a national crackdown on trafficking north of the tweed. Charities have warned, however, that the majority of trafficking continues to take place in regions where there are few legal consequences to the practice.
Read Steve Atherton's blog on the conference.