Image: City Hearts Aberdeen - Working to Tackle Human Trafficking


In this week's blog Kenneth Sadler, Coordinator of St Mary’s Cathedral, Justice and Peace Group in Aberdeen, welcomes a new initiative just started in Aberdeen to help the victims of modern slavery who, as he explains, are not always from far off shores.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has stressed the importance of concern for the poor and vulnerable as part of the practice of our faith, and a prominent part of this concern must be for the victims of human trafficking:

"I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? (Evangelii Gaudium 211)

This concern is emphatically shared by Justice and Peace Scotland and it was fitting that in January the Justice and Peace Group of St Mary’s Cathedral in Aberdeen hosted a presentation from three representatives of City Hearts Aberdeen, a charity which aims to support and restore those affected by human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.

City Hearts Aberdeen was launched in June 2018 and is the first Scottish project of City Hearts UK, which was founded in 2005. The representatives showed a video giving the survivor’s story of a trafficked and enslaved Nigerian woman, but they also explained that ‘modern slavery’ is an umbrella term encompassing forms of servitude beyond human trafficking and that, perhaps surprisingly, 54% of all modern slavery victims in this country are UK citizens.

Despite its reputation of relative affluence, Aberdeen shares with other parts of Scotland issues associated with the misuse of drugs and alcohol, and it has also suffered economically through the recent oil and gas downturn. Labour exploitation is an increasingly common form of modern slavery in the Granite City.

City Hearts Aberdeen receives referrals from the police and from immigration authorities. It is involved with a drop-in service, restoration programme, and safe house, which will be opening shortly. The initial goal is to provide supportive environments through which women recovering from exploitation and living with life control issues can regain their independence and find a healthy way forward.

This assistance is to be available for as long as it is needed by the affected women.

One of the reasons that human trafficking is such a profoundly disturbing phenomenon is that it is a blatant example of using fellow human beings as objects or means, rather than recognising them as subjects and ends. Relationships with traffickers are abusive and based on deceit as they maintain a malign hold on their victims. The vulnerabilities these victims have are exploited; they are financially manipulated; they have their passports removed; and are kept in a state of dependence and ignorance. There is a strong link between human trafficking and organised crime.

The St Mary’s Cathedral Justice and Peace Group was grateful to Heidi, Laura and Cat of City Hearts Aberdeen for giving an insight into the hidden world of modern slavery. This attack on human dignity rightly scandalises us and, following the lead of Pope Francis, we should all act to make it a thing of the past.

City Hearts Aberdeen website


Image: Welcome or not Welcome – How do we decide and whose lives matter?


In this week's blog, Grace Buckley reflects on two recent tragic news stories and the differing responses they generated.  

Following a recent unfolding news story, I found myself comparing the reporting and responses to it with those relating to a second headline story.  The differences are challenging.
The first story was the tragic case of the young Argentinian football player, Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared over the English Channel as he was travelling to join a new club in the UK.  Planes, lifeboats and ships joined in the attempt to find him. When the official searches were subsequently called off, donors raised £280,000 to fund private searches. 
It was good to see the concern and efforts made for this young man by so many, although I did feel some unease at the lack of interest in his pilot.  Had Sala been found alive, there would unquestionably have been rejoicing as he arrived in the UK.
Contrast this with another story unfolding in the English Channel - that of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to reach the UK, most seeking safety from persecution or war, some an escape from poverty.  Some media headlines suggest an invasion. Home Secretary Sajid Javid cut short his family holiday to deal with the crisis, declaring it a “major incident”.  An “enhanced action plan” was agreed with the French government, involving increased joint patrols. The Defence Secretary said the armed forces stood ready to help.
The reality, as charity Care4Calais told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, was that just 500 people had tried the Channel crossing in the whole year!
What I found most challenging was that the whole purpose of the actions taken or demanded was not to rescue these people, to get them safely to the UK - but to ensure that they were turned back before they reached UK shores, or to detain them either at sea or if they landed. 
There was no question of welcome. 
There was even doubt that those with valid claims as refugees would be given the chance to state their cases.  The UK government made it clear they would be viewed as “illegal” migrants – guilty until proven innocent.
Unlike the Emiliano Sala case, the migrants had no names; were viewed as numbers not human beings.  But even if some were migrants, as my new t-shirt says, “Migration is not a crime”.  And why should the phrase “economic migrant” make a difference?
Emiliano Sala was an economic migrant, moving to the UK for a better career. But we don’t view highly paid footballers, bankers etc. as economic migrants with the stigma that entails.  Indeed we expect these people to move around the world to further careers.
I am the grand-daughter of economic migrants, two from Ireland, one from England. Only recently have I thought of myself in these terms. A very large proportion of fellow Glaswegians probably fall into the same category.
Who defines an “acceptable” migrant? As Christians, we believe in the innate dignity of every human being as a child of God.  The challenge for us is to act on our beliefs - and not just in the case of some people.

Image: The Common Good on our Common Seas – Copenhagen, May 2019


This week in our blog, Maria Hammershoy of the Danish Justice and Peace commission reflects on the forthcoming Conference on the Seas which she has been instrumental in organising and which she hopes you will take part in.

Like so many other people I was deeply touched by Laudato Si’ in 2015. The publication came at a time when not only Church, but also civic communities were waking up to the need for action. Shortly afterwards, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals ) as the framework for large scale international action towards a sustainable future for all.
Many other initiatives like the Global Climate Summit were launched.
These inspired my hope and an urge to respond to the call for action.
When I think of Creation, I mainly think of the 70% that is the sea. The sea is an integral part of my life. Copenhagen, where I grew up, is a cluster of islands and Denmark consists of 1,419 islands and a peninsula connected to the European mainland. Crossing bridges and going by boat is part of daily life. My country is an ancient seafaring nation and from Viking days, the seas have been central to the life of my family and my nation. I read Laudato Si’ from this perspective.
The encyclical is about much more than environment and climate change. For me the key word is ’integral’. Pope Francis points to the conviction that everything in the world is connected and at sea this is very clear. Modern slavery and climate change have emerged as concurrent crises in the contemporary world and recent research shows very obvious connections between them.
So, I got together with colleagues from Justice and Peace Denmark and across Europe, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Stella Maris: The Apostleship of the Sea, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement, to plan a celebration of life on, around and in the seas, as a common heritage of all humankind. This celebration will take place in Copenhagen, 3-5 May 2019 and you are warmly invited!
The growing list of speakers includes the UN Special Envoy to the Ocean, Mr Peter Thomson, the President of the World Maritime University, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
We will encompass the perspectives from various fields including theology, policies at national and multilateral level, human rights, ecology, business and industry.
We will host an enriching and cross-pollinating dialogue, engaging key stakeholders across sectors, hearing their visions, disseminating knowledge, sharing challenges and hope. The conference aims to inspire a much-needed broader and sustained dialogue on our common seas. It has to take place with an integral approach and must take into consideration the wisdom and genuine principles from faith communities.
Change is impossible without a process of introspection, conversion, motivation and education, and we hope to be part of a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. The conversation must include everyone and we would love to have your input in Copenhagen. There will be lots of concrete tools and actions to take back to your parish or diocese, whether you want to set up ship visiting groups, join a divestment programme, lobby local politicians or increase your activist skills. See you there, I hope!
You can find info on how to register for the conference here

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