19 minutes | Apr 2nd 2019

How is the church leading the fight to end modern slavery?

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In Episode 4 of Series 4, we talk to the Right Reverend Dr Alastair Redfern,  Chair of Trustees at Sarum College and, until recently, Bishop of Derby and member of the House of Lords committee which helped to frame the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

0.00 – 5.35

Todd begins by asking Dr. Redfern to describe the Clewer Initiative, and how he became involved. 

  • The initiative is the Church of England’s response to modern slavery although in reality it works closely with the Catholic Church and other faiths.
  • In its own words it focuses on  “enabling Church of England dioceses and wider Church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care.”
  • His participation arose out of his work with the food industry in Lincolnshire and in Derby. He was approached by nuns from the Clewer House of Mercy based now at Ripon, who invited him to become involved.
  • The initiative, which is funded by the Clewer House order, involves building a network of modern slavery practitioners to share best practice and for professionals with expertise in different fields to work alongside volunteers who are better placed to provide comfort and emotional support to the victims.
  • Todd suggests there are parallels with the Baptist church in the USA and the Civil Rights movement.
  • Dr Redfern sees the role of the church as helping to connect the police, local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations.
  • The Clewer Initiative is not a service provider. It aims to convene, enable, encourage and provide practical support.

5.35 – 7.40

Discussion of the Clewer Initiative’s Car Wash App as an example of the practical efforts it is making to tackle modern slavery. 

  • A simple to use app which can increase awareness of modern slavery in plain sight.
  • The app provides a valuable extra source of intelligence material to the police
  • Todd points out that it is an example of crowd sourcing technology, which can engage the public with a countrywide reach across over 16,000 parishes.

7.40 – 10.00

Todd asks how bridges are built between faiths to work on the problem of modern slavery - mentions The Santa Marta Group as an example of another faith group that is involved

  • Dr Redfern says that working with other faiths is not a top down process. Many faiths are locally autonomous and not subject to central direction. It works by inviting people to participate on their own terms and to use the tools and information provided in ways that work best for them.
  • The approach also requires sensitivity, an understanding of cultural context when working with different faiths and cultures

10.00 – 13.40

Todd points out that some passages in the bible appear to endorse slavery and asks how the church comes to terms with that.

Dr Redfern suggests that the church can approach this in two ways.

  • One approach is to say that it was historically contextual and that times have changed along with attitudes.
  • The other view concerns an interpretation of what slavery means. He sees two forms of slavery.
  • The abusive, controlling form or modern slavery
  • People in general are enslaved by their own selfish needs and wants, some of which may be connected to the exploitation of individuals
  • He adds that we are all complicit to some degree in supporting modern slavery for example mobile phones may well have components that have been manufactured using slave labour.

13.40 – 16.39 

SDG 8.7 commits to the ending of modern slavery by 2030. Todd asks Dr Redfern to comment on whether he thinks this is achievable.

  • He sees this as a political target and wouldn’t want to commit to it.
  • He talks of encouraging signs. Set against the backdrop of the state retreating from the oversight of public life, business is becoming an increasingly important player in global citizenship.
  • There is a clear inference that consumer pressure may become important with major companies in moving away from products produced using slave labour.
  • He is less optimistic about the role of policy making in supporting the process.

16.39 – 19.38

Todd’s final question is about the impact  the church, though its bishops can have on policy making in The House of Lords.

  • Faith leaders sit on committees that help to frame legislation.
  • House of Lords includes numbers of appointees with a wide range of backgrounds experience and expertise which can be drawn upon. This may be a better model for governance going forward.
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