Children in the Shadows - an introduction

An in-depth course looking at children and modern slavery

In Children in the Shadows, we invite you to consider the various forms of child exploitation, the scale of the abuse, and the need for us all to increase our awareness and effective response. There is a particular focus upon county lines – one of the fastest expanding areas of child exploitation in the UK. In the final week, we provide a global perspective and consider our responsibilities as privileged citizens in a fragile world.

Each session contains definitions, statistics, examples of current good practice, a bible reflection and ways in which individuals and churches can make a significant contribution to extending care and strengthening resilience and resistance in their communities.

We conclude each session with the words of two new hymns, written for The Clewer Initiative by Sheena Evans and Simon Hancock.

Why Children in the Shadows for Lent 2022?

Lent is a time of year when the Christian community pauses to reflect on what we have and how we can help others as well as remembering our Saviour’s journey to the cross. Over the last couple of years, The Clewer Initiative has produced a Lent Resource which has been widely used by churches and individuals. In 2020, we launched the County Lines Lent Resource and in 2021, the Women in the Shadows Lent resource.

There are many reasons why we have chosen to reflect upon Children in the Shadows. Firstly, when people consider modern slavery, they might not usually picture children and young people. The general public is usually more familiar with the concept of adults labouring in car washes or fields, women being sexually exploited or adults being smuggled across the Channel in lorries.

Secondly, the data shows that child exploitation, particularly county lines, is rocketing in the UK and the pandemic has not, in any way, slowed its growth. As a society, we need to get to grips with this terrible phenomenon and begin to make strides in tackling it and protecting vulnerable children.

Finally, the subject is relevant to everyone. We all have a part to play in the protection of children. This is not just the responsibility of parents – a community response is required.

We hope that many people use Children in the Shadows throughout the season of Lent and, as a result, see the urgent priority of reaching out to and protecting children in our communities from exploitation.

Notes for Group Leaders

The resource has been designed to help explore the realities of child exploitation and encourage people to consider making an appropriate and effective response. Through the Lenten discipline, we pray it will help us refine our priorities and practices in discipleship.

Each session begins by providing some information, and it would be useful to invite participants to share their reactions, and any other insights or experiences from their own knowledge and contacts.

At the heart of each session is a Bible study. Why not try reading the passage out loud, perhaps inviting people to go round the group, each reading successive verses. There is a small section suggesting how the passage might provide a helpful perspective, and then a few questions which seek to open up reflection and prayer. We hope that by exploring the details and dynamics of the scripture text in relation to the issues, challenges and possible responses will arise.

The Bible study is followed by a prayer for the week. You could ask someone to read the prayer aloud, and then give the group a few minutes of silence for further prayer and reflection. The last section introduces further resources in terms of ideas and actions that could be pursued. You could suggest that participants report back next week on their progress and reflections.

At the end of the session, we recommend:

- Summarising any important ideas and actions that participants could consider taking away for further prayer and as possible follow up

- A second reading of the prayer which follows the Bible study, and then closing with the Lord’s prayer, and the Grace.

- Depending upon musical abilities and inclinations, you could invite people to sing the hymn for the week! Or you could simply listen to the YouTube link. One of the hymns has been specially written for us.

Caring for yourself

This resource is about a subject which is emotive and upsetting. Before you start, think about how you will care for yourself and others. If you are distressed by the subject matter or it has triggered painful memories, we would urge you to share your concerns with others who might understand. Alongside the children who suffer, each of us needs grace and healing and the opportunity to recognise and process our own vulnerabilities.

Week-by-week summary

  • Week 1 explores the different forms of child exploitation and the scale of the issue in the UK
  • Week 2 shines a light on the suffering and isolation faced by the children of modern slavery victims and the parents of child victims. Each group is affected by the trauma and exploitation in different ways and requires specialised care and support
  • In Weeks 3 and 4, there is a particular focus upon county lines – one of the fastest expanding areas of child exploitation in the UK
  • In the final week, we provide a global perspective and consider our responsibilities as privileged citizens in a vulnerable world

Children in the Shadows - an introduction

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