Pioneering anti-slavery action in the Diocese of Leeds

19th October 2023 | Diocese

The Clewer Initiative

Last month, The Clewer Initiative and Wellsprings Together brought together dozens of frontline community workers and faith leaders, as well as representatives from the local authority, NHS and Police, to consider how to tackle modern slavery in Bradford and beyond.

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Siaa-Liane Mathurin, a Parish Development Worker for Wellsprings Together, explains: “When we began planning the event with The Clewer Initiative, we imagined the room would be full of Church of England vicars. Wonderfully, we underestimated what we could achieve and have in fact welcomed many members of the Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian communities of Bradford as well as people of no faith. This is really important because if we are going to tackle modern slavery effectively, we need a joined-up approach.”

Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, comments: “Modern slavery doesn’t respect boundaries. It doesn’t care if you are a Muslim or a Sikh or a Hindu or a Christian. It exists in all our communities and our job is to find it, shine a light on it and work out how we can stop it. To do this, we need to come together regularly, talk to one another and share our experiences of where and when we’ve witnessed it. Today was a vital first step in achieving this.

“We have benefitted enormously from the support of The Clewer Initiative. The Clewer Initiative is a wonderful national initiative which has been leading the fight against modern slavery in our country. It specialises in helping Dioceses build on its national perspective and bringing people together to forge effective partnerships.”

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Siaa-Liane Mathurin adds: “The event has generated significant interest and an appetite to take action. People are asking when we will meet again and how we can keep the conversation going.”

Peter Smith, a Parish Development Worker for Wellsprings Together, concludes: “Throughout the day, we were able to highlight the scale of modern slavery in our cities and discuss what can be done to tackle it. All of us agree that we need to work together to find a solution to eradicate modern slavery in West Yorkshire. We hope and pray the event will be a springboard and enable us to do more modern slavery training and awareness raising.”

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During the day, delegates received presentations from the Bishop of Bradford, The Clewer Initiative, West Yorkshire Police and Shine West Bowling. The sessions covered:

- the serious nature of modern slavery and how we can work as a faith community to combat it in our parishes

- the impact of modern slavery, including insights around domestic servitude, debt bondage, county lines, labour and financial exploitation.

- how to spot the signs of slavery from various case studies

- the importance of reporting any suspicions

Jenny Griffiths, West Yorkshire Police, outlines their involvement

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Caroline Virgo, the director of The Clewer Initiative, comments: "It was a joy to be in Bradford, witnessing and being a part of this exciting first step. A huge amount of work was involved in gathering such a breadth of frontline workers and representatives from the city and we are hopeful that together we can move forward and pioneer a response that is appropriate to the context."

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