“My family was very poor and a neighbour told me she knew about a good job in the city – someone was looking for a domestic helper.” This is the story of ‘Martha’, a young woman from East Africa. Martha was only 16 when she travelled to the city for her promised job. On arrival she found the reality to be very different. Once in this person’s house, Martha was unable to contact her family and was forced to work appallingly long hours every day without pay. She also experienced sexual abuse.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said of human trafficking: “If we are to combat this evil then we must work together to prevent the crime, support the survivors and prosecute the criminals. The knowledge that churches have of their local communities puts them on the frontline in this campaign.”
Human trafficking is the fastest growing organised crime in the world. It is a crime that exploits millions of vulnerable women, children and men throughout the world. The victims of human trafficking and modern slavery are deceived and coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour and other forms of abuse, including the trafficking of human organs and body parts.
The numbers of victims of human trafficking and modern slavery are estimated at over 40 million people, of whom 71% are female. Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a source, transit or destination country. There are also potentially millions of victims trafficked at sea, in fisheries and merchant seafaring.
In a message for the 2018 World Day against Trafficking in Persons, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said: “Let us come together around the key issues of prevention, protection and prosecution to build a future where this crime cannot exist.”
In Martha’s case she was eventually able to get out and talk with a neighbour who took her a nearby church shelter for vulnerable women. Martha’s long journey to recovery from trauma began there. Her main request to churches is that they will educate other young people not to be deceived by traffickers and to know the danger signs and how to get help.
Concern about the scale and horror of human trafficking has come rapidly up the agenda in every part of the Anglican Communion. Many provinces are working on concrete action plans. The Anglican Alliance is working with churches across the Communion to develop a response in their own context, using their presence, knowledge and influence at local and national level.
And there are practical things that we can do together. We need to open our eyes to modern slavery and human trafficking – it might be happening even in our own community. We can build our understanding of what human trafficking is and how it affects our context. We can learn how to spot the signs of trafficking in our communities and where to get help. And, most importantly, we can get ‘up-stream’ to prevent trafficking by helping our communities become more aware of the risks and danger signs. The Anglican Alliance’s Freedom Year resources give ideas for reflection and action.
The goal is to encourage churches and other faith groups to work together in tackling what Pope Francis has called “a modern crime against humanity”. Working in ecumenical collaboration, the Anglican Alliance and the Salvation Army co-host regional consultations for practitioners to learn from one another. In the past year, there have been two regional consultations: in Brazil for Central and Latin America in November 2017 (Spanish and Portuguese web story here); and in Kenya hosted by CAPA for the Africa region in June 2018. In October 2018, a further consultation will be held in Cambodia for East Asia and the Pacific.
This is all part of the Anglican Alliance’s journey of Freedom Year.
In the coming week, the Anglican Alliance will share more stories of the actions of churches around the Communion in tackling human trafficking and modern slavery.
Message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres
“Trafficking in persons is a vile crime that feeds on inequalities, instability and conflict. Human traffickers profit from peoples’ hopes and despair. They prey on the vulnerable and rob them of their fundamental rights.
Children and young people, migrants and refugees are especially susceptible. Women and girls are targeted again and again. We see brutal sexual exploitation, including involuntary prostitution, forced marriage and sexual slavery. We see the appalling trade in human organs.
Human trafficking takes many forms and knows no borders. Human traffickers too often operate with impunity, with their crimes receiving not nearly enough attention. This must change.
The United Nations is committed to advancing action to bring traffickers to justice while protecting and supporting their victims. The rights of victims must come first — be they the victims of traffickers, smugglers, or of modern forms of slavery or exploitation.
In their proposed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to be adopted in December, Member States have also demonstrated resolve to prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration.
On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us come together around the key issues of prevention, protection and prosecution to build a future where this crime cannot exist.”