The Anglican Alliance has launched its four-week course on tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. Freedom Fridays in February is bringing together participants in two online courses, one for the Asia-Pacific region, the other for Africa and the Middle East in collaboration with the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA). Over 100 people are following the course from the Anglican Communion, along with some ecumenical colleagues.
“The Heart of God”: Fighting Human Trafficking Together
Across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased poverty and destroyed livelihoods. Desperation has made people even more vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. As well as accelerating human trafficking, the pandemic has disrupted efforts to rescue survivors and bring perpetrators to justice, and has potentially worsened the already horrific conditions in which those still confined by their traffickers live. This is a vital moment to act.
In the Freedom Fridays course participants are learning about modern slavery and human trafficking. They are considering how this injustice is on God’s heart, as reflected in Scripture. They are learning from each other about the situation in their contexts. Survivors of human trafficking and others are joining the course to share on how churches can respond effectively.
On the first day of the course, participants reflecting on Psalm 10 commented that “oppression and abuse of people is not new” but “there can be a time when there is no more trafficking and exploitation”. The psalm shows that “God’s heart breaks for those that are oppressed and will bring justice to them”. It also reveals how God calls us to act: “We are God’s hands. He will strengthen our heart to do justice and work for the oppressed.”
This subject is all about people. It is all about hope, about hope abused and about hope restored. This journey is illustrated by the story of Mabel in Ghana – a former child slave who is now a thriving student.
Mabel could not go to school until she was 14. Her grandparents had forced her into slavery on Lake Volta after her mother’s death, claiming that she had to pay for the funeral expenses. Her father did not have enough money to keep her. Forced to do dangerous work on the fishing boats, Mabel was emotionally abused, frequently beaten and deprived of her education. Yet thankfully Mabel was rescued by Challenging Heights, an organisation founded by James Kofi Annan, himself a survivor of child slavery. Mabel is a remarkable young woman – after only a year in school, she can already read, write, loves maths and dreams of being a nurse.
What could the local church have done to prevent Mabel and others like her from being trafficked into slavery? How can a local church support survivors’ recovery and reintegration into a community?
These are the kind of questions that the course is exploring, as the Anglican Alliance brings people together for ‘Freedom Fridays’ in February.
Human trafficking has been a core area of work for the Anglican Alliance since 2014. The Alliance has hosted a number of regional and global consultations, in partnership with The Salvation Army and other organisations. These consultations have brought people together from almost fifty countries and have led to ongoing regional communities of practice. They have also led to creation of the Freedom Framework. Developed in partnership with The Salvation Army, the Freedom Framework (see below) is a guide for churches in how they can respond effectively to human trafficking, based on the United Nations Palermo Protocol. It encourages churches to build on their own unique context, opportunities and assets, and to identify others to be partners.
The Freedom Fridays course draws on all this work through its four 1.5 hour webinars. Sessions are participatory, creating space in smaller groups for sharing ideas and experiences. Virtual tools ensure sessions remain interactive and engaging, helping participants to identify their own resources and to uncover a deep, personal motivation to respond. Survivors’ voices and guidance to the churches are foregrounded through videos. Experienced practitioners share their learning with the group. And the learning is rooted within participants’ faith through Bible studies, reflections and prayer.
Hopes for Freedom Fridays
Canon Rachel Carnegie, Anglican Alliance Executive Director, said: “People are trafficked in all our communities – but they can seem invisible. But to God no one is invisible. And the Church is called to open its eyes. Jesus said he had been sent to let the oppressed go free. The Church is called to this role. And God has put this on many hearts – as is evident from how many are gathering each week for this course of Freedom Fridays.”
Canon Kofi deGraft Johnson, General Secretary of CAPA, said: “While we cannot stop people from migrating, we provide information that helps them to migrate safely.”
Michelle Koinange, course facilitator and team leader on migration and human trafficking at CAPA, believes that Freedom Fridays could have real impact: “I am excited for the lessons we’ll share, partnerships we’ll facilitate and for the foundation we’re laying. I pray that as we go through the sessions and learn, with and from each other, we shall grow our (the Anglican Church) response to issues of migration and human trafficking in both continents.”
Tina Dedace, course facilitator and President of SHE Works, an organisation in the Philippines supporting survivors of trafficking, sees Freedom Fridays as crucial: “What I’m excited about is that more churches, more Christians, are going to attend. It is very important that churches are involved in this kind of issue as it is the heart of God. As followers of God, we need to have compassion. So if we know about the issue of human trafficking, we put that together with compassion, and we’ll have action! We’ll be able to move more wisely and effectively together.”
The positive response the course has received shows that this is an issue God is laying on many hearts: “People are excited to attend this course as it is an issue where they would like to know more and find clarity about how the church can respond. I think it is important for people to understand the issues of human trafficking from a biblical perspective as well,” said Annam Arumanayagam, Anglican Alliance East Asia facilitator.
The Freedom Friday introductory course is running throughout February, with regular follow up planned for participants through online communities of practice. The course will be repeated in other regions as part of the Anglican Alliance’s ongoing commitment to help connect and equip churches in responding to human trafficking and modern slavery.
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