Scottish faith leaders commit to working together on elimination of modern day slavery

The declaration was signed by representatives of the major faiths in Scotland

Faith leaders in Scotland have committed to working together with the Scottish Government and statutory services to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery in the country. 

They signed a declaration recognising the existence of human trafficking in Scotland and condemning the exploitation of people as a "crime against humanity". 

Signatories came from the major Church denominations in Scotland as well as the Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish communities. 

They came together to identify areas of collaboration at a seminar last week hosted by SOHTIS (Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland), a newly launched charity fighting modern day slavery in Scotland. 

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, was the keynote speaker at the seminar.

"Faith-based organisations are at the very heart of communities, with the ability to make a difference in neighbourhoods and congregations," he told the faith leaders.

"I have no doubt that today's event will inform positive action in the future, and that together we can make further progress in tackling trafficking and exploitation in our communities."

SOHTIS said that victims of trafficking and slavery in Scotland include those bound in forced labour in areas such as domestic service, agriculture, fishing, nail bars and car washes, as well as those trapped in sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

Former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Very Rev Dr Derek Browning, was at the seminar and signed the declaration. 

He said it was a "scandal" that human trafficking not only still existed in Scotland but appeared to be a growing problem.

Dr Browning, who is minister of Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh, said the enslavement of women, men and children was a "blight on the family of all God's children".

"Organised crime has adapted swiftly and cynically to exploit some of the most vulnerable people in our world and in our communities for financial gain.  It can only be concluded that they hold human life very cheaply," he said. 

"Faith groups in our country, along with other charities and statutory bodies, continue to work hard and highlight the plight of modern day slaves.

"It is happening somewhere in your community, and one of the most effective things that church communities can do is to keep their eyes open.

"And if they see anything that looks suspicious or abusive, in cities, towns and villages, report it to the police."