Maidenhead Street Angels tackle modern-day slavery

,

CHURCHES are getting together in Maidenhead to learn what they can do to tackle modern-day slavery in their area.

The event, organised by Maidenhead Street Angels, has been organised in response to the Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s national campaign to help Christians act to combat slavery.

Eleanor Kershaw, from Maidenhead Street Angels, quoted the Clewer Initiative website, which reports how slaves have been encountered in churches with their captors, and even sold on to people who are churchgoers.

Eleanor said: “This is why I feel so passionately about raising awareness to help us take off our blindfolds and see what is happening in our churches and communities.” She quoted Isaiah 61 vs 1 which states: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

The evening at All Saints Church, Maidenhead is on Saturday 20 October from 7pm and features guest speaker Suzette Jones from The Clewer Initiative. She will share what the key issues are, how to recognise the signs of slavery, how to raise concerns safely and what specifically to pray for. Eleanor arranged for Suzette to speak after she heard her talk and found what she had to say really inspiring. “I thought this would be a great opportunity for Street Angels to learn more and thought we’d open it up to other churches as well. An important part of our ministry is listening when we are walking around the streets and having conversations in the doorways of pubs and clubs.

“Listening and having a heightened sense of awareness about what is going on around us is important, so we can see where the need is and what to be praying for, is a key part of our role as Street Angels.”

Eleanor says the Street Angels cover day events occasionally as well as their regular weekend patrols. “This is where we may also identify concerns, so the training opportunity will benefit us for those events too.”

Alison Webster, Deputy Director of Mission (Social Responsibility), said: “I am delighted to hear about this local initiative in Maidenhead to raise awareness of the pervasive but little-understood phenomenon of modern slavery.

“As a diocese, we have been part of the Thames Valley Police anti-slavery network for some time, and we are connected in with national church initiatives through the Clewer Initiative. But local-level explorations are key. We congratulate Maidenhead churches and Street Angels and look forward to hearing about other local initiatives. Please do get in touch if you have something to share – stories, questions or concerns.”

The scourge of modern-day slavery is rife in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire with Thames Valley Police recording three slavery-related crimes every week. That statistic was revealed as the force launched its Hidden Harm campaign earlier this year. The Clewer Initiative is funded by the Clewer Sisters, an Anglican order of nuns founded in 1852 to help marginalised women who found themselves drawn into the sex trade. The sisters have been based in Windsor and Begbroke but now live in the grounds of Ripon College.

A Safe Car Wash app has been launched by the Clewer Initiative, helping users of hand car washes to ascertain whether slaves are being used to wash their vehicles.

Jo Duckles, from the diocesan communications office, said: “I downloaded the app and made a point of using it when I took my car to my local hand car wash. The questions about the prices charged and conditions for staff reassured me that the popular car wash that I use about twice a year is not employing slaves, but I am aware that many are. I was relieved and pleased that the app was easy to download and to use.”