Engaging the Church of England in the fight against modern slavery

13 September 2017

A poster from The Clewer Initiative

Despite slavery being illegal in every country, there are still an estimated 45.8 million men, women and children trapped in modern slavery. There are an estimated 11,700 potential victims in the UK alone, and likely many more.

The Anglican Alliance is highlighting the work of the newly established Clewer Initiative working to engage dioceses across England in the fight against modern slavery. This is an inspiring example where a province, as in the Church of England, has committed itself to being part of the campaign to end modern slavery.

The Clewer Initiative, the Anglican Alliance and other agencies and faith organisations have also worked together to develop and promote the new Freedom Sunday resource, to involve local churches and groups in prayer, reflection and action on the issues.

The Clewer Initiative is a three year project designed to equip Church of England dioceses, helping them to develop strategies to detect modern slavery and provide support and care for victims.

The work builds on a project founded by the Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, who was involved in creating the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Together with local faith leaders, representatives of Derby council and the local police, Bishop Redfern launched the Derby and Derbyshire Modern Slavery Partnership, holding events and training to raise awareness of the issue amongst the general public.  Now the Church of England is continuing that work across the country.

The Clewer Initiative will work locally with dioceses, identifying available resources, developing partnerships, and creating a network of advocates. Nationally, they will deliver training on aspects of modern slavery, as well as creating space for practitioners to share models of best practice.

A resource hub has already been created online to equip churches with posters, prayers, and Bible Studies. More resources will be available in the coming months.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “William Wilberforce convinced his generation that slavery was a sin. That belief has not changed. The sin lies in our ignorance to its existence around us. With this in mind I am delighted that the Church of England has set up The Clewer Initiative to help dioceses detect instances of modern slavery and to provide care to its victims.”

The initiative is funded by the Clewer Sisters, who are an Anglican order of Augustinian nuns, founded in 1852, to help marginalised, young women, who had found themselves homeless and drawn into the sex trade.

News updates and event details are all available on the website at www.theclewerinitiative.org. If you would like to be kept up to date with the work of The Clewer Initiative, you can sign up to their newsletter here.


Freedom Sunday is being marked on 15 October 2017 in the UK by churches across the country. It is an opportunity to build understanding of human trafficking, learn how to respond, and dedicate ourselves to prayer and advocacy to see the end of modern slavery and human trafficking around the world.

The Freedom Sunday resource has been developed for use by any faith community, with case studies and statistics, as well as sermon ideas, theological resources and prayers.

In the UK, Sunday 15th October is the closest Sunday to the European Anti-Trafficking Day, which is on Wednesday 18th October 2017. But if that date doesn’t work for your church then you can use the materials on another day.

The Clewer Initiative would love to hear how you have used this resource and how you are taking action. You can send your stories via the Freedom Sunday website at www.freedomsundayglobal.org. You can also join the Facebook page for news and updates.

An international version of the resource in different languages will soon be available on the Anglican Alliance website as well. Around the world, churches use different national and international days to focus on the campaign to end modern slavery and human trafficking. The main issue is for churches across the Communion to engage in prayer, study and action to end this modern-day crime against humanity.