Many people have long moved past the notion that Lent is about giving up chocolate, or alcohol or swearing, but this week the Clewer Initiative is going a step further by launching a course that focuses on awareness and activism.
Sarum College Chair of Trustees Bishop Alastair Redfern chairs the Clewer Initiative, which enables Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care.
The need is particularly urgent given public health directives designed to help people to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus also helps to hide modern slavery.
‘The present pandemic will increase the number of very vulnerable people, and create more opportunities for the criminal activity of trafficking and exploitation,’ Redfern says. ‘As the church is rightly challenged to look at our own survival and well-being, we need to give priority to those hidden and on the margins who need the witness of the love that goes an extra mile.’
At the heart of the course, he explains, are five short films which include haunting survivor stories and compelling interviews with ten people who work on the frontlines.
‘This course represents a move away from the approach to Lent which is occupied with the self to one focussed on social justice, to help us think about what kind of world we’re living in and to consider shocking things we would rather not think about,’ says Sarum College Principal James Woodward.
Course materials show how women and girls can become trapped in sexual exploitation, forced labour and county lines drug smuggling and what life is like for them beyond slavery. It also explores how we can support victims as they recover from the trauma and build resilient communities where modern slavery is noticed and cannot thrive.
‘The devotional material, which has been written by a range of clergy who are all deeply committed to combating modern slavery in their dioceses, will help participants process, reflect and apply the lessons from the films to their own context,’ Redfern says.
The course is designed to be used by individuals, groups, churches and community partners. Clips can be shown in public and online worship.
For more information, you can read this introduction to the course and week-by-week overview. Visit the Clewer Initiative website to watch the film and download the course.
The Rt Revd Bishop Alastair Redfern is the author of Slavery and Salvation, which explores the challenge to consumers, citizens and victims – both to recognise our capacity for richer ways of caring for each other, and to discover the ways in which the Christian Gospel becomes Good News through its tangible effects on the exploited and unnoticed.