Tanzania, Ghana and Italy
This was no ordinary meeting. Its focus was specific - what the churches in Tanzania could do to counter modern-day trafficking and human slavery. On 17th September 2021, Tanzanian church leaders convened by the Tanzanian Council of Churches addressed this question with a growing determination that the churches have a part to play in countering the global trade in people. While they gathered in Dodoma, Tanzania representatives of The Clewer Initiative joined via Zoom from the UK and the World Council of Churches from Geneva.
A similar meeting had taken place in June 2021 in Ghana with church leaders convened by the Ghana Christian Council. They addressed the same question - what is the role of the churches in countering modern-day slavery and human trafficking?
In Italy, churches and agencies have been working together to counter modern-day slavery for several years. Italy is in a strategic position on the routes to Europe from Africa and is used extensively by traffickers.
While these contexts are very different and expressions of modern-day slavery are different, the churches in these countries are learning how to detect and educate communities to prevent exploitation of people.
Global problem – local expressions
Human trafficking and modern-day slavery are global problems. They exist because of global injustice and inequalities where people’s vulnerabilities are exploited by networks of unscrupulous people. In partnership with the World Council of Churches, The Clewer Initiative has been working with these ecumenical councils in Ghana and Tanzania, together with Mediterranean Hope in Italy, to build international networks to galvanise the churches to combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
The Clewer Initiative works through building community resilience as a barrier against the traffickers who recruit through exploiting vulnerable people and communities. In Ghana and Tanzania, it is poverty that causes families to fall for the false promises of the traffickers. In Ghana, there is a huge amount of labour exploitation of children in the fishing and cocoa industries. In Tanzania, the church leaders identified forced marriage as a major form of modern-day slavery and trafficking.
Following the church leaders’ meetings, The Clewer Initiative’s resource, Hidden Voices, is being adapted for use in church and communities in Tanzania and Ghana. This focuses on increasing understanding, detection, prevention and action-planning to build community resilience.
Churches strengths against modern-day slavery
What can the churches bring to the fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking? Church leaders in Ghana and Tanzania came to similar conclusions from different contexts. Churches have people. In Africa, churches have lots of people who can be educated and mobilised. Churches have local and international partnerships which can be mobilised to provide an informed response to modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Churches have presence and influence in their local communities where community leaders can educate from a base of trust. They are also trusted by regional and national government. Churches also have a divine mandate for this work, believing that each person is made in the image of God and is a beloved child of God. Church communities exercise the power of prayer against the exploitation of human beings.
Revd Janice Price
Consultant to The Clewer Initiative International Programme