Blog by TCT Development Worker, James Henderson

I was shocked to learn the other day that slavery and exploitation is at the heart of the story of St Nicholas, who our friendly Father Christmas is based on.

This image is available from the National Library of WalesYou can view this image in its original context on the NLW Catalogue, CC0,

Wikipedia explains:
“Nicholas aided a poor man who had three daughters, but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes.”

Sadly this is still a huge problem even in 2017, young women, men and children being forced into sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Given the hidden nature of human trafficking, it is almost impossible to understand the full scope and scale of the issue. Amongst the most trusted sources for understanding the global situation is the research by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the latest report on forced labour by the ILO:

An estimated 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery.

Of these:

14.2 million (68%) were exploited for labor
4.5 million (22%) were sexually exploited

Heading back to our Christmas story, on hearing of the girls' plight, St Nicholas decided to help them by going to the house under the cover of night and throwing three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house.

Sadly slavery is not resigned to history. In the Diocese of Lichfield, we partner with the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative to tackle Modern Slavery -

Modern slavery is an umbrella term for all forms of slavery, trafficking and exploitation. 
The Clewer explain:

“Modern slavery is an umbrella term for all forms of slavery, trafficking and exploitation. At the core of this crime is deception. Survivors of modern slavery tell stories of being sold a better life. They are often vulnerable, coming from areas where there is little possibility of work. They are offered a job, a chance to make money and to build a new life for themselves. Those who offer these opportunities may even organise their travel to a different country, controlling every aspect of their trip.

The job they are offered turns out to be a lie and instead they are forced to work in difficult and degrading conditions, with little or no pay. The threat of violence, to themselves or their families, hangs over them and traps them in their situation. Even if their trafficker does not physically control them, a mistrust of authority may stop them from going to the police."

Heartbreakingly, this is the reality this Christmas for 11,700 men, women and children in the UK. Modern slavery knows no borders, and people of all ages and races can be victims.

The 3,805 potential victims referred to the National Crime Agency in 2016 came from 108 different countries, the most common of which were Albania, Vietnam and the UK.

What can we do?

The most important thing is to say  “We see you” to victims and traffickers alike.

By visiting you can:

* Learn about the signs of Modern Slavery

* Show the new Clewer video at your church

* Put up a Toilet Door Poster at your church or place of work

* Raise awareness by doing a small group study on the theology of Slavery

* Report it

As with other crimes, it is important that you report any suspicions of modern slavery to the police. Do not attempt to intervene yourself, as you may put yourself and those around you, including the potential victim, in danger.

If there is an emergency and someone is in immediate danger, call 999. If you would like to report any non-emergency suspicious activity in your local area then call your local police on 101 or go to your local police station.

If you need advice or support on a modern slavery issue then you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. It operates 24 hour a day, 365 days a year. You can also seek guidance or ask questions through their website.

By working together, we can make a real difference and put an end to this horrible crime.