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'Slavery on Our Streets', An Ecumenical Service of Light in Matlock



“The problem,” as Bishop Redfern, Anglican Bishop of Derby, recently wrote, “is that people do not notice what is happening on their doorstep.” Pope Francis coined a new phrase by calling this “the globalisation of indifference.”

These ‘slaves’ can be found in hidden corners and behind very well do to facades. We cannot count them but police think there are tens of thousands of them, women and even children being kept in sub-human conditions. They are forced to work impossible hours for little or no reward in brothels, car washes, restaurants, farms/domestic servitude in the homes of the wealthy and forced begging. And slavery is also found across all sectors, from fishing to food production, hospitality and social care, as well as in the murky world of sexual exploitation. 

Transported to the UK from all over the world, and often unable to speak a word of English, these people fear the authorities as much as they fear their gang masters and mistresses. And this on our doorsteps! In recent months, we have been told that there are a number of arrests of gang members in Derby and surrounds alone.

It is undoubtedly a ‘darkness’ of our time which only the Light of Christ working in us and through us can enter and uncover. We remember that Jesus’ mission and ours now, is to ‘release captives’ (Luke 4). Freedom Week, October 15 – 22 was a week of worship, prayer and action on modern slavery and trafficking. I have been very pleased to be able in some small way to collaborate with the Anglican Diocesan Project in the area this week, trying to promote awareness and prayer. 

The project, launched on 14 October, involved the sending out of two candles to journey around Derbyshire to be hosted as centres of prayer in many places during the week. We were delighted to be asked to host one in Matlock and on Friday 20 October we had a very prayerful and much appreciated prayer service of listening to the Word, reflecting on it, praying intercessions and quiet, sometimes accompanied by reflective music, to high-light and pray about this concern of our time. It was ecumenical and we were very pleased that the clergy of other churches joined with us for this prayer time. It was also a moment of insight and awareness for many there who had not come face to face with the reality of this problem yet or had even been challenged to think about it. Afterwards so many thanked me for the opportunity to pray together and for creating a ‘new’ awareness. Throughout the prayer time there was a real sense of being in communion with these enslaved people asking God to bring about deliverence and healing for them to rebuild their lives. 

As Presentation Sisters, trafficking and modern slavery is something we are very aware of through our ministry work both here and abroad and our International Director for Justice and Peace emailed the Service event to all our Sisters in England and Ireland and many joined us for that time of prayer in their own communities. This in itself was a great strength and support as we work to ensure the dignity of persons is respected and their rights upheld by engaging in compassionate service. As an international Congregation our vision, like Nano’s, reaches beyond our local situations and has a global consciousness and outreach. (Our Way of Life, C7). 

The service concluded with the passing on of the Candle to be hosted next day in Eyam and Foolow and a cup of tea awaited those who had time to stop and chat afterwards. 

Perhaps we will have a further opportunity for communal prayer for this concern on 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, patron of the Trafficked.

Submitted by: Sr Teresa Kennedy, PBVM

Categories: England, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation