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 https://city-hearts.co.uk/city-hearts-launches-in-aberdeen