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Reform Magazine | June 26, 2022

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Free the captives

Free the captives

Dan Pratt on what churches can do to fight modern slavery

Modern slavery now ranks as the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise after the illegal arms trade. There are an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery in the world today. This includes 10 million children, 24.9 million people in forced labour, 15.4 million people in forced marriage and 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation.

Images of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) often highlight sweat shops in Asia, forced prostitution in Eastern Europe, or coca farms in West Africa. What does it have to do with those of us in the UK?

For several years I ministered in an emerging church in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. The church was rooted within the rough sleeping community. MSHT was not on my radar until I met Richard. As I slowly got to know him, he entrusted me with some of his story. He had been homeless in the north west of England. In his homeless hostel, he was offered a job paving and tarmacking driveways. In return he would be given wages, accommodation and food. Several months after having accepted the offer, the wages didn’t materialise. He was accommodated in a run-down caravan which he sometimes shared with the owner’s dog. When he requested his wages he was threatened. He was told: ‘If you try to leave, we know where your family live.’ Fearing for his family and himself, Richard stayed. He was exploited for 20 years before escaping.

Richard’s was not the only story of exploitation I encountered. There is a pattern of vulnerable people being exploited in forced labour, forced sexual exploitation and forced criminality. Modern slavery is a hidden crime. Estimates of its prevalence in the United Kingdom range from 100,000 to 136,000 people being exploited…

Dan Pratt is a United Reformed Church minister and Antislavery Coordinator for Together Free

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This is an extract from an article published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of Reform

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