Children in the Shadows - week 1

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. Victims of modern slavery can be any gender, nationality and ethnicity and unfortunately, children are not immune to this dreadful scourge. The main forms of exploitation that affect children are labour exploitation; sexual exploitation; domestic servitude and criminal exploitation.

1. Labour exploitation

Victims work for offenders in businesses or sites that offenders directly control. In more organised examples, offenders act as gangmasters, controlling teams of victims on single or across multiple sites. Victims often live in a single overcrowded residence. In the Home Office’s case file, the majority of child victims experiencing this type of slavery in the UK were Vietnamese or Chinese. They tended to be recruited in person in their country of origin. They often worked in nail bars, fairground rides and the cleaning and catering sector.

2. Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
Vulnerable child victims are targeted for grooming either in person or online. Offenders sexually exploit the children for personal gratification and sometimes force them into sex work in fixed or changing locations. Victims may already be known to the authorities for other reasons. Almost all victims in the Home Office’s casefile were female and British, aged 13 or older (although the youngest victim was 3.) A large proportion of CSE victims have an unstable home life, mental or physical health issues or alcohol and drug use.

3. Domestic servitude
Victims live with offenders and are forced to undertake household chores. There is generally one victim per household. Some victims are even specifically trafficked for work in diplomatic households. In a third of the Home Office’s case files, the victims were children. The vast majority were from non‑ EEA countries such as Benin, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam. Victims usually lead very isolated lives with little or no unsupervised freedom. They may, however, attend school. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor, hidden in a cellar or locked room.

4. Child criminal exploitation (CCE)
Victims are forced to take part in gang-related criminality. This could be county lines drug trafficking, cannabis cultivation, shoplifting, pickpocketing or forced begging. Each of these different types of criminal activities may affect different types of children. For example, most children involved in cannabis cultivation are Vietnamese children who speak no or minimal English. Recruitment commonly occurs in person in the country of origin of the victims. In some cases, the victims’ families approach an agent in the hope of giving their child a better life. In contrast, most county lines’ victims are from the UK.

Often, one form of exploitation may make a child vulnerable to other types of abuse and exploitation. For example, a child trafficked for domestic servitude may end up being sexually abused by the adults in the household too.

(Definitions and insight taken from A Typology of Modern Slavery Offences in the UK, October 2017)

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Read Luke 18 v1-8

Faced with the scale and horror of child exploitation, it is easy to feel powerless and miserable. Jesus tells his disciples this parable to show them that when faced with suffering and injustice they should always pray and not give up. It is a beautiful parable about the power of persistent prayer and a message we need to hear every day. Of course, we shouldn’t, in any way, think that our God is like the unjust and reluctant judge. Rather, we can feel encouraged that if this is what an unjust judge is like, how much more will our good and merciful God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?

• What cries do you think children in slavery are making from their hearts?

• What cries should we persist in making:
- To God the giver of the kingdom?

- To human systems and structures that might be changed to enable right living for those excluded and exploited?

- To our churches and fellowships?

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on Earth?”

• What can we do in our daily lives to nourish and express the faith that Jesus is looking for?

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Time to pray

Heavenly Father, as you long to give grace and justice to your children, may we learn to better recognise marks of exploitation and abuse, so that our voices can be raised to you for mercy.

Teach us to cry out to all in positions of power who could do more to stop such suffering and help us seek your guidance that we may better learn to play our part in the coming of your kingdom.

We pray in faith and hope.


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Spotlight - raising awareness amongst school children in Ely

The team at Ely Cathedral is working to find innovative and highly contextualised ways of spreading knowledge about modern slavery. In partnership with The Clewer Initiative, the Cathedral’s Education and Learning Centre is piloting a pioneering education project, led by Jessica Martin, Canon Residentiary, and Philippa Stevens, Director of Learning.

The project is designed to teach children and young people about modern slavery by expounding on Ely’s unique history and using it as a jumping-off point to help students think about slavery and refugees in the modern world. The educational material centres around an engaging and high quality historical film called ‘Sanctuary’, which explores the role of Ely as a place of refuge during the Norman Conquest.

On Anti-Slavery Day in 2021, Year 5 and 6 students from more than 20 schools took part in an online Schools Day. The day included an assembly, a screening of ‘Sanctuary’, and three structured workshops covering an analysis of the film, the experience of refugees today and Christian attitudes towards helping the vulnerable.

For Key Stage 3 students, a series of three interactive humanities lessons were prepared. The lessons raise awareness of slavery as a modern issue (History), the relationship between migration, slavery and the local area (Geography), and slavery as a social justice issue (Religious Studies).

Philippa Stevens, Director of Learning, explains: “Engaging with examples of British refugees and slaves in the past before expanding out into the modern day allowed the children to see connections and similarities in experiences. When the young people involved in the schools day saw the ways in which we are all the same, it seemed to help promote a real sense of community cohesion and solidarity, something that we believe is essential in combatting modern slavery and social justice in all its forms.”

Following the success of the pilot, the team at Ely and The Clewer Initiative is hoping to develop the education work further so we can teach more children and young people about modern slavery.

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Call to action – Join the fight

There are many ways in which you can join the fight against child exploitation:

  • A first step is to increase your own awareness and understanding of child exploitation – you could do this by attending The Clewer Initiative’s Breaking County Lines course or Women in the Shadows
  • You could also commit to raising awareness amongst your networks and in your local area:
    • Why not follow The Clewer Initiative on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn and share our awareness raising campaigns with your friends and networks?
    • Why not download posters from The Clewer Initiative’s website about the signs of exploitation to look out for and display them in local community halls? You can request translated versions of some of our posters if you wish to reach a particular foreign language community.
  • Finally, consider downloading our Safe Car Wash and Farm Work Welfare app so you know the signs of exploitation to look out for and what to do if you have suspicions.

Children in the Shadows - week 1

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