The Rochester Story

The Diocese of Rochester is working in partnership with The Clewer Initiative and others to raise awareness of modern slavery, identify cases within the community, and provide care and support to victims.

Key Contact: Magali van der Merwe


Across the Diocese of Rochester, groups of volunteers are working to address modern slavery. In West Kent, Medway, and Bromley and Bexley, teams have been set up to help raise awareness, identify cases, and support victims.

In 2018, the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned 18 modern slavery ambassadors in Rochester Cathedral, all of whom were trained to deliver Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) training. Since then, the diocese has focussed on awareness raising and training, working in partnership with The Clewer Initiative and the GLAA. Alongside publishing awareness raising information and resources on the diocesan website, the diocesan volunteers also run a blog on modern slavery, The Kentish Abolitionist, as well as an Instagram account, Rochester Against Modern Slavery. The diocese hopes to continue holding exciting events, identifying cases, and supporting victims in the future.

A community-based approach

Like The Clewer Initiative, the team in Rochester believe that the tools to end modern slavery exist within the community. They hope that in leading their communities, they can make a difference to those trapped in modern slavery, by teaching that Christians are called to love their neighbour, whoever they are, in actions as well as words.

Exciting and innovative awareness raising

The diocese runs ongoing high-profile and deeply impactful awareness raising activities. Some example of this work include:

  • A modern slavery conference, featuring expert speakers including the police, the Snowdrop Project, and Bishop Alastair Redfern. The speakers gave different perspectives on modern slavery and how it should be tackled. Over a hundred people attended the conference.
  • Linking modern slavery with safeguarding through the use of helpful and informative videos.
  • The ‘Setting the Captives Free’ campaign, which the diocese ran with Hope 2018. The campaign was all about freedom, including freedom from modern slavery. Out of this, the diocese delivered a series of GLAA training sessions to churches, church youth groups, foodbanks, Mothers' Union, Women's Institute, U3A, Metropolitan Police, Financial Ombudsman Service, Air Cadets, and Rotary Club. From that a number of churches offered to be places where the emergency services could take victims who are rescued during raids.
  • A modern slavery stand at Trinity School, Sevenoaks, run as part of prayer week.
  • The Wilberforce Walk. In March 2020, following a service led by the Bishop of Tonbridge at Keston Parish Church, a group of people walked to the remains of the Wilberforce Oak. The Wilberforce Oak marks the spot at which, in 1788, William Wilberforce resolved to pursue the abolition of slavery. Whilst at the oak, the group listened to a talk on modern slavery and heard a local singer perform some Freedom Songs. The group then walked on to Downe, where they heard about the early abolitionists of Kent, and how we can learn from them in the fight against modern slavery today.
  • The spire of Rochester Cathedral will be lit in red for Anti-Slavery Day 2021, communicating that slavery must stop, urgently.
  • A video discussing modern slavery in the context of the beatitude "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" was released as part of the diocese's 2019 Lent Pilgrim campaign.
  • Hidden Voices conferences in Erith and Sevenoaks, which led to the distribution of a quarterly newsletter to keep the Sevenoaks Hidden Voices community informed of developments.
  • In partnership with the Mothers' Union, a crochet chain of 133 links representing the estimated 133 people trapped in modern slavery in Rochester was presented to Rochester Cathedral during Evensong on Anti-Slavery Day 2021. The chain was displayed in the Lady Chapel, along with some information about modern slavery.

Sharing the love of God

The diocese wants those experiencing the horror of modern slavery in their communities, as well as those suffering in other ways, to experience the love of God.

“I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.”

John Newton, 1779

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