The Canterbury Story

Key Contact: Jonathan Arnold, Executive Director of the Social Justice Network, Diocese of Canterbury


The Diocese of Canterbury is a largely rural diocese, with some urban areas. It is also on the frontline of the refugee crisis.

The diocese is working in a range of areas to raise awareness of modern slavery and exploitation, and support refugees. It often works in partnership with The Clewer Initiative.

A number of initiatives are already underway, including the Stop the Traffik Canterbury and Whitstable Group which operates out of St Mary Bredin Church. The group organises monthly awareness-raising ‘stunts’ asking the simple question ‘can you see me?’ St Mary Bredin also serves as a safe space for trafficked women.

Awareness raising activities and training

The diocese is working to raise awareness of modern slavery amongst the public, and has organised a range of activities and training courses, including The Clewer Initiative’s Breaking County Lines training and Hidden Voices community mobilisation course. In its role as a megaphone for the diocese, Canterbury Cathedral lit up red for Anti-Slavery Day 2021 and in October 2023, hosted the National Online Church of England service to mark Anti-Slavery Day. It has also actively promoted the Safe Car Wash App and Farm Work Welfare App, helping to raise awareness of and respond to exploitation taking place in the car wash and farming sectors in the UK.

A Service for Anti-Slavery Day - led by The Bishop of Dover and hosted by Canterbury Cathedral

Commitment to supporting refugees

The diocese has a longstanding commitment to supporting the refugees who arrive on its shores, many of whom may be victims of, or vulnerable to, modern slavery and exploitation. The diocese has a refugee officer who works in Calais, as well as a safe house for vulnerable refugees.

In June 2023, to coincide with Refugee Week, the Diocese of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and The Clewer Initiative organised a three day programme of events, entitled "A community of compassion." The programme included a hard-hitting exhibition, art workshops for 100 secondary school pupils, a panel discussion and Q&A and a marketplace of stalls, showcasing various modern slavery tools and resources.

Representatives from faith communities, charities, civic and community organisations, youth ambassadors, local community champions and school children gathered to explore the role communities can play in protecting vulnerable people from exploitation. Throughout the week, there were many opportunities to draw attention to the link between modern slavery and refugees. Because refugees are vulnerable, they can be at risk of being targeted by criminal gangs and drawn into modern slavery and exploitation. A similar programme is planned for Refugee Week 2024.

Domenica Pecoraro, Kent Refugees Programmes Manager, developed a number of tools for Refugee Week:

To find out more about the Diocese's work amongst the refugee community, visit or email Domenica Pecoraro

Highlights from Refugee Week at Canterbury Cathedral, June 2023

Modern slavery awareness amongst Ukrainian refugees in Canterbury

Domenica Pecoraro, the Kent Refugee Project Office and Church of England National Community Sponsorship Representative, shares the vision behind the training for Ukrainian refugees

Raising awareness amongst school children

The Marsh Family Singers share why they got involved with Refugee Week

Labour exploitation in rural areas

Over a number of years, the Diocese of Canterbury has worked with a range of organisations across the rural sector to deepen their knowledge of the risks and challenges associated with working in this context, particularly when it comes to labour exploitation. In recent years they have worked closely with The Clewer Initiative, holding conferences and other events to bring about increased awareness for modern slavery.

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