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Sheena Field of the Medaille Trust writes:

Pope Francis calls modern slavery and human trafficking ‘an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.  It is a crime upon humanity.’

  On Tuesday, 15 October, a major Catholic conference took place in London on human trafficking and modern slavery.  Representatives of the Catholic Church and other organisations met to share their work and ideas on how to combat modern slavery on both a national and local level by working in partnership.  I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend this event on behalf of Caritas Hallam, along with  Anne Peacey, representing our Hallam Justice and Peace Commission and the National Justice and Peace Network.

  It was heartening to hear so many stories and experiences of religious groups and organisations involved in the fight against modern slavery.  There were contributions from the Santa Marta Group (an international group set up by Pope Francis), Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), Jesuit Refugee Service UK, women@thewell, Bakhita House, the Medaille Trust and Caritas Salford.  Many of these are National Justice and Peace Network partner organisations.

  Dr Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of CSAN, said, “Catholic dioceses, agencies and religious communities have been working for years to address this.  In the UK alone, around 140,000 people are caught up in trafficking and modern-day slavery at any one time.  The task is large but the links the Church has are extensive and will grow further to address this work.”

  At the end of the day, Cardinal Vincent Nichols thanked everyone and said, “The conference holds a great deal of promise and we need to work together to create a non-competitive, deeply respectful, shared vision.  We need to congratulate ourselves on what we have done and move onto the hard work ahead.”

  As we move on to the ‘hard work ahead’, the Hallam Justice and Peace Commission placed modern slavery and human trafficking as an item on the agenda for its next meeting.

  If you would like to know more about this issue, or feel you could work in some way to help combat modern slavery and human trafficking, please contact me: s.field@medaille-trust.org.uk.