Church of Scotland makes fresh commitment to tackle human trafficking and slavery

By agency reporter
May 6, 2019

The Church of Scotland has made a fresh commitment to tackle the “moral scandal” of human trafficking and modern slavery. It has signed a declaration to work with the Scottish Government and other statutory services and sectors to eradicate the scourge on society.

Kirk ministers and other faith leaders attended a seminar organised by a new charity called Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland. (SOHTIS). It has been set up to provide much needed aftercare to victims and support people who are reluctant to accept government help because of their fear of repercussions from traffickers.

Figures suggest that 40.3million people worldwide are enslaved with between 10,000 and 13,000 in the UK.

The Very Rev Dr Derek Browning, who was Moderator of the General Assembly in 2017-18, attended the seminar in Edinburgh on Monday. He said: “It remains one of the great moral scandals of our time that human trafficking and modern day slavery not only continues but appears to be growing across the world and within our own country. Areas affected are to be found in the sex industry, nail bars, pop-up car washes, the farming and fishing industries, the hospitality industry, enforced begging, and domestic cleaning. Human trafficking and modern day slavery covers forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, child slavery, forced or early marriage, and descent-based slavery where generations are born into slavery.”

Dr Browning, minister of Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh, said the enslavement of women, men and children is a “blight on the family of all God’s children”. Organised crime has adapted swiftly and cynically to exploit some of the most vulnerable people in our world and in our communities for financial gain,” he added.

“It can only be concluded that they hold human life very cheaply. Faith groups in our country, along with other charities and statutory bodies, continue to work hard and highlight the plight of modern day slaves. It is happening somewhere in your community, and one of the most effective things that church communities can do is to keep their eyes open. And if they see anything that looks suspicious or abusive, in cities, towns and villages, report it to the police.”

Dr Browning said much of human trafficking and modern day slavery is “hidden in plain sight. The Church of Scotland with its national coverage is well placed to offer this vital information to the authorities”, he added.

“People are suffering in our communities because of this wicked global network of evil. The Church can counter it by being a global network for good. And that can start in our own communities, rural and urban.”

The seminar was attended by representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Reformed Church and Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish communities. The group was addressed by faith representatives from the Salvation Army and the Church of England to get a perspective of how faith groups in England are responding. Representatives from the academic community and Police Scotland were also present.

The keynote speaker was Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. He said: “Faith-based organisations are at the very heart of communities with the ability to make a difference in neighbourhoods and congregations. I have no doubt that the event will inform positive action in the future and that together we can make further progress in tackling trafficking and exploitation in our communities.”

Joy Gillespie, SOHTIS development manager said: "We believe that everyone deserves to live in freedom with dignity and respect. We are delighted that this seminar provided the opportunity for a wide range of faith based organisations to explore how they can work together to ensure that this freedom exists for everyone in Scotland."

The faith leaders ratified the following statement of intent:

As national faith leaders we recognise that human trafficking exists in Scotland. It is our fundamental conviction that all people are equal and entitled to the same rights of freedom, dignity and respect. 

We regard the exploitation of men, women and children as a crime against humanity and we reject trafficking and the activities it supports in our country and worldwide. 

As faith leaders, we commit to working with SOHTIS, the Scottish Government and other organisations to develop effective approaches to recognising and tackling human trafficking in Scotland and supporting the survivors.

* Church of Scotland https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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