National Justice and Peace Network studies modern slavery

  • Henrietta Cullinan

National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) members from around England and Wales heard last Saturday from Mick Duthie of the Santa Marta Group, speaking on modern slavery. He attended one of the quarterly networking days in London

Mick Duthie works with networks of bishops, police chiefs and civil society to eradicate slavery in Britain. After introducing himself as a retired policeman, he said, “slavery didn’t end with Wilberforce”. The NJPN learnt that 48 million people are enslaved around the world and thousands enslaved here in Britain.

The Santa Marta Group links the Catholic Church with police and local residents to work with victims of slavery and human trafficking. In the UK modern slavery is commonly associated with trafficked women working in brothels, but slavery is present in services that we see around us such as car washes, nail bars, companies that lay driveways. Out of sight, far from big cities, are enslaved workers in fisheries and agriculture. The rise in numbers, Mick Duthie says, is down to increased awareness and reporting, but also deteriorating economic conditions for those on low incomes and migrants into Britain, and things grow more expensive.

The stated priority of the Santa Marta Group is to support the victims, but Mick Duthe’s priority is also stamping out slavery as a criminal activity, because of its links with organised crime. There are currently concerns that cleaning services in schools have been infiltrated. There was some discussion about the conditions which have given rise to increasing numbers of victims of slavery, such as economic conditions here and in the countries of origin, where vulnerable people are forced to take desperate measures to support their families. There was some discussion on whether modern slavery could be considered to be at the one end of the spectrum that also contains zero hours contracts, even if in these cases the workers are free to leave and not indebted. Marine industries were also thought to be rife with slavery and he had some dialogue with the Apostleship of the Sea.

After the talk and networking time, many NJPN members set out for Westminster Abbey for an evensong commemoration of the birth of Blessed Oscar Romero. Romero is the patron of NJPN which was among many organisations - such as CAFOD and Pax Christi - formally represented. The service began with a recording of Archbishop Romero speaking in a homily, in which he addressed the army and the police, ‘Brothers and sisters, you are part of our own people.’

In his sermon, Rowan Williams ( ) reminded us of Romero’s words on poverty and possessions. Everything we own we have borrowed from the poor, we are in debt to the poor. Resonating very well with our morning session, he spoke of Romero’s words on slavery, that God wants, “liberation to reach everywhere so that no slavery exists in the world; no person should be the slave of another”.

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Tags: National Justice and Peace Network, NJPN, Human Trafficking, Mick Duthie, Santa Marta Group

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