Rochester Diocese becomes a beacon diocese for a new national project to tackle

A new three-year programme to help the Church of England's 42 dioceses work to support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities has been launched.

Called the Clewer Initiative, both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister Teresa May have given their backing to the new project. Caroline Clarke, Diocesan Community Engagement Advisor, campaigned for the Diocese to be involved in raising awareness about modern slavery, receive the specialist training and play its part in bringing slavery to an end, and we are pleased to have been accepted as one of the 11 participating dioceses.   

At the launch, Caroline received a candle to bring back to the Diocese as a reminder to pray for the work of the initiative, and for those who are trapped in modern slavery. 

Work is already under way in the participating dioceses with training and information sessions on how to provide support and identify victims of labour exploitation in areas from the construction and property sector to hand car washes in British cities and shipping. 

Rochester Diocese is supporting this by holding its own Modern Slavery Conference on 16th June 2018,. There will also be training, workshops and talks throughout the year from several organisations including the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority and the agencies already supporting victims.  

Caroline says: "Loving our neighbour also involves increasing our awareness and understanding of the issues affecting our communities so that we can be fully involved in bringing transformation, whether through our hands on care and prayer, supporting the agencies who are already involved, or campaigning for justice.  Modern Slavery has been a hidden issue for far too long.

She adds: “As part of our response to HOPE 2018 we will raise awareness about modern slavery through upskilling and resourcing about:

- What modern slavery is: from labour exploitation, to organ harvesting,
- Why the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was so important,
- How to spot the signs of modern slavery, and
- How to raise awareness of modern slavery in their community. 

There will also be the chance to meet with the agencies who are already working with the victims. God reminds us to  'seek the welfare of the city...for in its welfare you will find your welfare.' (Jer 29: 7).”

As part of a video highlighting one women’s story of slavery, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, encouraged churches to act as 'eyes and ears' in local communities to identify victims.

He said: "Jesus came saying that he proclaimed freedom for captives. Freedom is something that we take for granted, but it is the gift of God, it is the purpose of God. Those who purposefully constrain, confine and traffick and enslave people will face the judgement of God for their terrible sins. 

"Yet even more serious is when we choose not to see: when as it were we put on our own blindfolds and don't see those around us who are held in slavery, oppressed, trafficked, in other peoples' power.

The Clewer Initiative is funded by the Clewer Sisters, an Anglican order now based in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire. The order was founded in the 19th century to help vulnerable, mainly young women who found themselves homeless and drawn into the sex trade.

More information on the Clewer Initiative can be found here, as well as resources, and a ‘how to spot the signs’ guide. 

Please also contact Caroline Clarke on 01634 560000 or by email:  if you have any questions about the programme.

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