24 January 2020

Report Launch: faith responses to modern slavery

We are pleased to launch our initial findings report following an ESRC-funded, three year research project conducted between the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds.

Rights, Dignity & Religion

The report, 'Faith responses to modern slavery’ argues that there is no one ‘Christian response’ to modern slavery, the picture is complex. A mapping of anti-modern slavery organisations and parliamentary debates reveals that faith actors and faith-based organisations (FBOs) represent around 30% of analysed responses to modern slavery.

Evidence that FBOs working within the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) are riddled with direct evangelism and proselytism was not found, though credible reports were articulated of this occurring in isolated parts of the NRM and in peripheral pre- or post-NRM support.

We found little evidence that faith-based organisations are promoting religion to survivors of modern slavery. However, the fear of evangelising damages trust and partnership work in the anti-modern slavery sector. Publicly adopting and implementing the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Trafficking and Modern Slavery Survivor Care Standard on ‘Freedom of Belief, Religion and Thought’ would provide widespread reassurance to stakeholders.

Dr Hannah Lewis

Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield 

People exiting modern slavery were confident in seeking out religious worship for themselves, underlining the potential damage of trying to shape religious identities in support contexts.

The report offers a summary of findings from three parts of our multi-method study: a mapping of anti-modern slavery organisations and faith actors in Parliament; case studies of support organisations; and interviews with people receiving support.

This report highlights the significant and valuable contribution of faith-based organisations to modern slavery...I think the report goes a long way to reassure that in most instances, religion is not being promoted to the people being supported as victims and that many faith based organisations have very strong positions on non-proselytisation.”

Dame Sara Thornton

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

We recommend that everyone working to support people exiting modern slavery ensure they implement the Slavery and Trafficking Survivor Care Standards (Human Trafficking Foundation), including standard 1.1.5 on Freedom of Thought, Religion and Belief.

The report was launched at a conference today at St Mary's Conference College, Sheffield where a range of speakers discussed how responses to ‘modern slavery’ can secure human rights and maintain the dignity of those who have suffered exploitation. 

To download the full report, please click here. 

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