Churches are playing a 'key role' in the fight against human trafficking


Churches and faith groups are making an important contribution to efforts to eliminate the global scourge of human trafficking, a UN human rights committee has heard. 

Jack Palmer-White, the Anglican Communion's Permanent Representative to the UN, outlined the many anti-trafficking initiatives being led by churches in a submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) this week. 

The CEDAW is considering submissions on the issue of human trafficking as it prepares to make a 'general recommendation' to UN member states. 

In his report, Mr Palmer-White asked that the general recommendation 'reflects the key role that churches and other faith actors can, and do, play in the fight against trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration'.

Examples of anti-trafficking work detailed in the report include a partnership between the US Embassy to Ghana and the Diocese of Accra which has led to the creation of a community shelter called Hope Village that rehabilitates rescued children, while holding the government of Ghana to account on its progress in eliminating trafficking. 

'Ghana has emerged as a major country of origin for victims of child trafficking, both internally and across borders,' Mr Palmer-White said in his submission.

In Hong Kong, St John's Cathedral is leading a community outreach programme called 'Help for Domestic Workers' that provides free advice and assistance on employment, immigration and human rights issues to the city's thousands of domestic workers. 

The cathedral operates a walk-in centre and a temporary shelter for women where they can also access counselling and emergency assistance. 

In addition to helping forced labourers, the initiative also campaigns for the fair and equal treatment of domestic workers before the law. 

In the UK, the Church of England is equipping churches to recognise modern slavery in their communities and provide support and care as part of its anti-trafficking Clewer Initiative. 

One of the projects of the Clewer Initiative has been the launch of a Safe Car Wash app to gather community intelligence on working standards at car washes, which Mr Palmer-White said was a 'key industry for the use of forced and bonded labour in the United Kingdom'. 

'We also take this opportunity to remind the Committee of the crucial role faith-based organisations play in the advancement of the rights of all women and girls. Our cry for gender justice is rooted in our faith,' he said.

'The Anglican Consultative Council has committed itself to gender equality and justice by upholding just relationships between women and men as a reflection of the Christian belief that women and men are made equally in the image of God.

'It is our conviction that a world which does not allow for the full flourishing and potential of all human beings does not meet the vision of our Creator. Human trafficking deprives individuals of their rights and freedoms, robs them of autonomy, and leaves them at risk of further violence and exploitation.

'Each member of the human family is made in the divine image to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect; never to be trafficked or exploited.'