“It is a global crime. In 2012, the International Labour Organization estimated that there were 21 million victims of forced labour across the world. Victims trapped in servitude, including sexual exploitation, into which they were deceived or coerced and which they cannot leave.”
A quote from (as I write) proposed new government legislation: the “Modern Slavery Bill” which should, hopefully, be enacted and in force around Easter time 2014. (Put Modern Slavery Bill in your internet search engine [UK] and you can read it all for yourself.)
If I had to summarize Christ’s teaching in just one word it would be “freedom”. A freedom to turn to God just as we are, wherever we are, sure in the belief that our sins are forgiven and we are welcomed home.
During Lent Bishop Alastair has been preaching a series of Lent Sermons, at St. Werburgh’s Parish Church in Spondon, entitled “The Welfare of the City”. Cities draw people together from all walks of life and in those cities we live, cheek by jowl, with the familiar neighbours we know, and many, many, more we do not know at all. The Bishop made the point that although we live together in ever greater numbers in our urban centres there is not, actually, a lot of “living together” – in the sense of community. There can be people who live opposite you in the same street or road and you can know absolutely nothing about them even though you are their neighbours. And it is this almost enforced anonymity that can make our urban areas cold and stark and unknown.
It also makes them the perfect breeding ground for things going on behind closed doors that very few people ever witness; one of the most evil and insidious is slavery. As part of his committee work in the House of Lords, Bishop Alastair has been working on the aforementioned Modern Slavery Bill and he said that what he had discovered was chilling and frightening. Slavery, of course, is something that only happened in the past. Not so. Slavery, of course, only happens abroad in poor countries. Wrong again. Slavery is, in fact, a very modern problem and it is estimated that there are more victims of slavery in the world now than ever before in mankind’s history. And it is not always that far away, either.
It’s probably not going to happen to you and me but it does happen to the vulnerable and the desperate who, so often, are trying to find a way out of grinding poverty. People like this have no voice in a society, often our modern western society, where they are trapped. We enjoy freedoms of choice in all kinds of ways that modern urban living gives us. They have no choices. Only despair.
At Easter we celebrate the saving self-giving love of Jesus upon the cross. Through His sacrifice he demonstrated that even death is not a barrier to God’s saving love. I believe, as Christians, we cannot ignore the plight of those in slavery. Their life is often a living hell and our task is to make sure that they have life before death.
As well as looking up the Modern Slavery Bill on the internet you can go to antislavery.org which is a real eye-opener about slavery in our modern world.
The last word I leave to St. Augustine:
“He that is kind is free though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave though he be a king.”
With thanks to Bp. Alastair for his permission to draw upon his work for this letter.