'In Plain Sight' - a major Catholic conference on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery took place on 15 October 2019 in London. 76 representatives from the Catholic Church in England and Wales and other organisations shared and reflected on their experience in this field, to prepare new approaches and responses to what Pope Francis has called, "a scourge which continues to cause untold human suffering."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols joined experts from the fields of policy, frontline services, ethical investment and those working to eradicate the phenomenon from supply chains. Discussions concluded with a call for new directions based on the good work of organisations working with the Church.
There were contributions from the Santa Marta Group, Caritas Salford, The Medaille Trust, JRS UK, Caritas Westminster's Bakhita House, and [email protected] Andrew Adams (CCLA) and Sion Hall, former Head of the East Lancashire Police Anti-trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery Unit addressed the issues of public engagement, partnership and eradication of the phenomenon from supply chains & investments. The Arise Foundation spoke of the vital importance of partnership from the local to the international level, highlighting the enormous strengths the Church has to achieve this.
The first UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, now Senior Advisor to the Santa Marta Group of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, spoke of the 150 million children today being exploited worldwide with 20,000 dying every year though slavery. Yet, little action is taken against organisations that exploit children. Hyland remarked starkly, "Globally, 99.98% of human trafficking goes without prosecution so why wouldn't a criminal do it if they will get away with it?" He called for action at all levels.
Dr Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of CSAN, said: "Catholic Dioceses, agencies and religious communities have been working for years to address this. In the UK alone, around 140,000 people are caught up in trafficking and modern-day slavery at any one time. The task is large but the links the Church has are extensive and will grow further to address this work. We shared our collective experience and our ideas for how we can make lasting impacts from the national to the community level, in practice and in policy."
Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Salford, said: "A key element will be building partnership with agencies, local people and with others with and without a faith background. By engaging Catholics and others of good will to work together and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will play our part in eradicating this scourge."
CSAN were delighted to have the support of CCLA as conference sponsor and host. Its Ethical Investment Team has just launched a report on combating slavery in investment. Andrew Adams said, "The inclusion of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in the products that are part of our everyday lives means that practically everything we purchase has a direct or indirect connection to slavery. At the same time, CCLA will be working with other investors to develop strategies to help companies keep their supply chains clean."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols thanked those who had made the conference possible and called for a detailed public account of the good work of the Catholic Church in this field. He said, "The conference holds a great deal of promise and we need to work together to create a non-competitive, deeply respectful, shared vision. We need to congratulate ourselves on what we have done and move onto the hard work ahead." He concluded by thanking those present for opening the door to the next phase.
Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) is an official agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. CSAN brings together 45 charities tackling poverty and building strong communities, with specialist services for families and children, prisoners, older people, refugees, people in housing difficulties and those affected by human trafficking and modern slavery. More information can be found at: www.csan.org.uk
Pastoral Orientation on Human Trafficking developed by the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will be the basis for the future development of this work within the Church.
CCLA (www.ccla.co.uk/) manages £9bn of investments for charities, religious organisations and the public sector.
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