The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich launched its modern slavery response in 2019, and has since worked to raise awareness of modern slavery across the diocese. The diocese is engaged in high-profile events, initiatives to connect with a range of audiences, and broad partnership work, particularly with the Mothers’ Union, all with an aim to put a stop to modern slavery in its communities. The Modern Slavery Working Group is a powerful driving force behind the work in the diocese.
Kickstarting the diocese’s work
In 2019, the diocese kickstarted its response to modern slavery with an informative and inspiring ‘Conference on Modern Slavery’ in Ipswich. Speakers at the event included Bishop Martin Seeley, Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative, an academic from the University of Nottingham, the Managing Director of the STN (St Thomas Norwich) Trust, and Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary’s lead on modern slavery. The event was a great success, and concluded with an opportunity for attendees to network and make connections.
A working group to carry the response forward
Since the launch event, the diocese’s Modern Slavery Working Group has taken the work forward with energy and commitment. The Working Group raises awareness of modern slavery and its impact on local communities, and brings together stakeholders from Suffolk Police, Red Cross, Mothers’ Union, the County Council, and members of local churches and community groups. Working Group members are able to provide information and training to anyone interested in modern slavery. They have a bold vision, and hope to take the work forward into further action in the future.
The diocesan Working Group is also connected to the Eastern Region Anti-Slavery Partnership, as well as The Clewer Initiative’s regional and national networks.
Spreading the word on Anti-Slavery Day, Freedom Week, and beyond
The diocese is working to spread the word about modern slavery, with a particular focus on finding different ways to communicate the message to young people. The diocese has used Anti-Slavery Day and Freedom Week to reach audiences across the region, as well as working modern slavery into other parts of the diocese’s work. Some examples include:
- Week-long information displays at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the University of Suffolk, aiming to engage a wide range of people. The team at the University of Suffolk were joined by four members of Suffolk Police Modern Slavery and Vulnerable persons Unit, and two Community Support Officers, as well as the Bishop of Dunwich, +Mike Harrison.
- A number of churches across the diocese set up Lent Home Groups who used The Clewer Initiative’s Women in the Shadows material.
- The diocese’s upcoming World Mission Conference will be on the theme of modern slavery, and will feature talks from a range of engaging anti-slavery writers, experts, and activists.
Lighting up in red
For Anti-Slavery Day 2021, St Edmundsbury Cathedral lit up in red. The powerful sight of the ancient building illuminated in red could be seen from across the city, and sent the message that slavery must stop, urgently.