Bishops’ Easter letter warns of slavery in our midst

Bishop James Langstaff was one of 15 Church of England bishops who issued a call to the public to “open their eyes” to slavery in their midst.

In a letter to The Times over the Easter weekend, the bishops remarked that slavery is on the rise in the UK in a way “not seen since the days of William Wilberforce”.

The letter describes Easter as a time to celebrate “life in all its fullness” but warns: “There are thousands in our midst who cannot do the same, who are suffering a life of slavery: exploited, threatened and abused.”

They call upon the public to play an active part in observing and reporting possible signs of slavery in communities.

It comes ahead of a campaign planned later this year by the Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s anti-slavery initiative, to uncover exploitation in the car wash industry. Rochester Diocese is working with the Clewer Initiative as part its Hope in Rochester 2018 campaign, and will host a Modern Slavery Conference on 16 June at Christ Church, Beckenham.

Letter highlights big increase in victims of slavery

The full text of the letter, which is published here, addresses the scale of the problem:


Easter is a time to celebrate new life — and life in all its fullness. But there are thousands in our midst who cannot do the same, who are suffering a life of slavery: exploited, threatened and abused.

Slavery is on the rise in Britain in a way we have not seen since the days of William Wilberforce. Last year 5,145 victims were found in the UK. It is a big increase on 2016’s figure, but it still does not come close to the tens of thousands that the National Crime Agency believes are hidden.

It might seem that we should leave this problem to the police. But this Easter we are asking everyone to open their eyes to the signs of potential exploitation around them. The Clewer Initiative, our national anti-slavery project, educates people on what to look out for. New life for those entombed in darkness.

As Wilberforce said more than 200 years ago, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say you did not know.”

Modern slavery conference in the Diocese

Bishop James will speak at the Modern Slavery Conference held in June, a free event to which all are encouraged to attend. Other speakers include:

  • Bishop Alastair Redfern, the Bishop of Derby, who has campaigned in the House of Lords and in his own diocese to raise awareness of modern slavery and improve support for the survivors
  • Caroline Virgo, Project Officer for The Clewer Initiative,  will give a national perspective on how dioceses across England are responding.
  • Lys Ford, a Partnerships Officer from The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, will share how they are  responding to labour exploitation in the UK.
  • Lara Bundock from the Snowdrop Project will share about her work supporting survivors of modern slavery.
  • Mark Bailey, Strategic Partnerships Director of Hope for Justice, will give an insight into how they are responding.
  • There will also be Workshops with some of our Speakers,  opportunities to network and a Q&A session.

Caroline Clarke, Community Engagement and Social Responsibility Advisor for the Diocese said: “This is a key event for those wanting to work in the Diocese to respond to modern slavery, and for those who want to understand more.” Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.  Register here:

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