Slavery isn’t just something that happened a long time ago and far away, it’s happening right now and right here in Derbyshire, but the good news is that we can all do something about it.
What can we do about modern slavery? First, we need to recognise that it exists and on an increasingly large scale.
At least 40 million people are enslaved worldwide. And slavery is present in Derbyshire too. It comes in the form of labour exploitation, sex slavery, forced marriage, children and others made to beg.
Second, each of us is challenged to act out our concern for our sisters and brothers who are trapped, abused and treated as objects. Nothing can be more horrifying than people being treated as commodities – for the benefit of others.
We can act by not just grabbing amazingly low-priced goods and services (like some clothes or some car washes) but rather stopping to ask why these things might be so cheap.
Similarly, we can try to notice those who might seem to be downtrodden, perhaps lacking documents, or not allowed to speak for themselves. If we do notice anything suspicious, we are not asked to make a judgement. Just to pass on our concerns to those who can make such decisions. It is always better to ask the question and check, rather than keep silent. Slavery works through silence.
In the Diocese of Derby we have held a number of awareness-raising and training events, and we are working with partners in the police, statutory and voluntary sectors to try to co-ordinate a strong response to slavery across the county. It may seem that tackling modern slavery requires direct action; however there are ways that the public can offer support whilst not on the front line.
From October 16-23, Freedom Week is taking place to remember both slavery victims and those who work in dangerous situations to tackle this organised crime. Across Derby Diocese our parishes have received resources for prayer and worship for use each day. During Freedom Week, I would like to encourage people of faith and none to take a moment to reflect and light a candle – picture the girls and women who are trafficked into prostitution from Romania; the little boys whose lives are worth less than a fishing net in Thailand. We should not forget either to give thanks for the dedication of the Derbyshire authorities who work tirelessly to rescue victims; and our local charities who bring support and comfort.
I was speaking to a victim last year. “If only someone has asked how I was” she said. Each of us needs to be ready to notice what’s happening around us and to support a joined up response across Derbyshire to this terrible crime of our times.”