One attendee at January’s meetings for Religious involved in anti-trafficking said it felt like a flame was being reignited. The Conference of Religious held two large gatherings in January, in London and Manchester, to bring Religious together for the purpose of developing a network of those involved in this struggle. Nearly seventy attended the London meeting and forty met in Manchester, with intensive ‘brainstorming’ and interactive discussion at both meetings, to explore how Religious and CoR can respond to the challenges. The meetings follow on from the Arise foundation questionnaire sent out to all congregations last year, which, for the first time ever, mapped the huge scale of work in this field.
At the two meetings, three themes were selected for the main speakers to address : advocacy, frontline work and prayer. In London the keynote speakers on the topics were, respectively, Sr Patricia Mulhall CSB, Brothers from the Hospitaller Order of St John of God and Sr Sheila Barrett DMJ. In Manchester, the three presentations were given by Sr Isabel Kelly FMSJ, Brother Francis – Chair of the Medaille Trust & Fr Terry Madden.
At both meetings Luke de Pulford of the ARISE foundation gave a talk on the power and purpose of networks of Religious, drawing on international models as examples, particularly India, where Sisters are engaged in the full range of anti-trafficking endeavours, from preventative work to advocacy, to rescuing & rehabilitating victims, to prosecutions; a number of Sisters are trained lawyers specialising in anti-trafficking. One attendee commented: “It was an inspirational & challenging presentation from Luke - we need more of this.”
At the Manchester meeting, there was an additional contribution from retired Detective Chief Inpsector with Lancashire Constabulary, Sion Hall, who has become a committed campaigner against modern slavery. He told the meeting about some of the victims he has assisted and described seeing young women who are branded with tattoos to indicate ‘ownership.’
The President of CoR, Fr Paul Smyth CMF, facilitated the interactive aspect of the day, with people talking in pairs and then small groups, building up to an afternoon of people moving around in a ‘café’ style setting, with different themes set out at different tables. All the feedback and suggestions that this process gave rise to will be used to plan the foundations of the network and to think about next steps. Some of the suggestions can be categorised as follows:
WHAT CAN RELIGIOUS DO?:
· Create contacts list. Get out information about available bed spaces. Conversations to be held at different levels: multi-faith / or no faith, to broaden it out. Run livelihood projects. Think big.
· Establish a network of Religious Orders who wish to receive victims and care for them in a ‘trauma informed’ way until they’re ready to rejoin their communities and break the re-trafficking cycle.
· Create a database for volunteers. The list could include: languages spoken other than English / holistic therapies / Counsellors /Creative activities / fundraising experience / IT skills /accompaniment eg., befriending, shopping / English & Maths teaching
· Raise awareness at local authority level. Challenge council representatives to do something practical about human trafficking
· We need a common voice (speaking, writing). Need a mechanism alerting Religious to upcoming legislation so that we can lobby MPs. Could CoR organise training in advocacy and awareness raising?
· Need to link up with organisations who can campaign on our behalf – a reputable body, recognised by CoR. Get ideas from other countries where the above has already been done – eg., Acrath in Australia, Ruhama in Ireland.
· Work through MPs & solicitors.
· Prayer circle.
· TRAINING to recognise signs of trafficking : Contact regional or local anti-slavery experts / Antislavery Commissioner / Medaille Trust / Stop the Traffik / Clewer / The Passage / Salvation Army / TRAC / St Mary’s University Centre for Study of Modern Slavery
WHAT CAN CONFERENCE OF RELIGIOUS DO?
· Establish means of collaboration and develop closer, constructive links with politicians. CoR to invite people qualified in legal advice / social workers / counsellors etc, to inspire ways of providing support to people who are trafficked. Speak to congregations and make a compendium of information for local groups to use.
· Set up a campaign regarding ‘the hostile environment’ erected against refugees.
· Use CoR website to influence. Need to contact politicians to help them know CST & what religious congregations are doing.
· To gather information. Speak more confidently.
· Provide information for those who want to offer spiritual / financial support: prepare prayer initiatives and circulate through CoR.
SHARING OF INFORMATION ABOUT DIFFERENT ORGANISATIONS AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING:
One website? Or part of CoR website? With info / links / updates etc,.
CoR to organise a day where organisations (eg RAHAB, TRAC, Medaille) can share what they are doing and explore possible linking and volunteering opportunities.
Share how congregational overseas links have been availed of Building relationships with organisations that CoR members are not involved in, eg., Red Cross, Salvation Army, Quakers
RENATE as cross border support resource.
Spot where the gaps are
· Organise awareness days eg., database of people involved in specific geographical areas.
· “Keeping the flame alive to keep us pro-active.”
· Offer guidance about insurance when offering vulnerable women accommodation. Use the expertise among ourselves. CoR can encourage Religious.
· Plan/offer training & awareness raising across the country, not just in London.
· Raise awareness at national level; this will help Religious at local level
· Write articles for external news outlets / websites, to keep the subject in the public domain.
· Encourage members to keep ‘knocking on doors.’ Be involved in local initiatives – intercongregational & interfaith, interagency
· Co-ordinate training in advocacy and campaigning
· Feed info & experience into CoR so that it can be shared with members
· Have meetings eg., at diocesan level – and share with other dioceses
· CoR to inspire, give insights into & develop collaborative models of action which can be used more locally than nationally
HOW TO ACT MORE LOCALLY THROUGH COLLABORATION:
· Find out what is happening locally & get involved. Network to create awareness.
· Make it personal rather than general. “Many tiny drops of water blending make a mighty sea.”
· Try to come together and create awareness in the same locality
· Rethink our days together as Religious of the diocese to include issues such as anti-trafficking
· Refocus on the prayer aspect
· Be interested and supportive of local initiatives in the area of trafficking generally – inter-congregational & otherwise
· Invite people to participate in local groups offering the gifts they have to offer
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO ENGAGE WITH POLICY CREATION AT THE LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT?
· An online campaign to strengthen the voice for a platform, leading to a petition for government action.
HOW TO MANAGE THE TENSION BETWEEN ACCOMPANIMENT AND MONEY:
· Pray. Probably have to live with it to some extent. The disadvantage of getting big grants is you have to comply with the expectations of the funder. You are freer when you are a charity and rely on the good will of volunteers. Money can enable you to do outreach work and expand.
· Recognise and support those among us who are good at fundraising and/ or accompaniment – both are necessary and valuable.
· Accompany by volunteering – funding may be for others
HOW TO SHARE EXPERIENCE & KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING:
· Write to external publications. Raise awareness in parish / diocese / via CoR website.
· Have regular speakers – monthly – in different areas. It could be a rolling programme, so re-useable information.