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How Anglicans and partners are confronting human trafficking

A renewed focus across the worldwide Anglican Communion to tackle human trafficking kicked into high gear in 2012 when the Anglican Consultative Council passed Resolution 15:10 on the Trafficking of Persons. The resolution urged provinces in the Anglican Communion to learn about and raise awareness of trafficking in their respective countries and to work towards its elimination.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s contributions to the fight against human trafficking have taken a variety of forms. General Synod’s Director of Global Relations, Dr. Andrea Mann, is currently coordinating the church’s work in combating human trafficking. Mann said that Resolution 15:10 gave a “green light” for work in this area by providing a framework for Canadian Anglicans to tackle the issue.

“I can say with confidence that it’s something that the church has worked on for some time,” Mann said.

“Certainly locally, people who are maybe not in paid accountable church ministry as clergy, but [are] certainly church members—as social workers, as teachers, as front-line workers, in urban ministry—are working with traffic-vulnerable or traffic-rescued people in the programs that they have in shelters and food kitchens and places like that.”

Church initiatives against human trafficking encompass dioceses, religious orders, Mission to Seafarers, the Anglican Military Ordinariate, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, and the General Synod.

At the national level, Anglicans work through ecumenical organizations such as KAIROS and the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) to coordinate their efforts with other denominations.

Part of the CCC Commission on Justice and Peace is the Working Group on Sexual Exploitation in Canada, formerly known as the Working Group on Human Trafficking in Canada. The working group brings together representatives of different churches to share information and identify areas each church is currently working on, as well as areas where they might further collaborate.

At the moment, the working group is focused on four key areas: advocacy, education, theological reflection, and worship resources.

Where advocacy is concerned, the CCC working group is committed to a focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women and children. Members have written letters to federal ministers asking them to take women and children who have been ensnared in the sex trade into consideration as they move forward with the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The working group also continues to engage with Bill C-36, which was passed under the last Conservative government and amended the Criminal Code regarding sex work in Canada.

“There have been rumblings that maybe the Liberal government will re-evaluate this law,” said Jennifer Lucking, working group chair and coordinator of human trafficking outreach for the Reformed Church in America. “So we’re keeping our eye on that.”

A major resource released by the working group is Human Trafficking in Canada: A Leadership and Learning Kit for Churches. Members are currently working on updating the resource and providing further worship resources for theological reflection.

Since 2013, the Rev. Carolyn Seabrook, regional dean for Carleton and incumbent at the Parish of Kars-Osgoode in the Diocese of Ottawa, has served as the Anglican representative on the CCC working group. She first became active in combating human trafficking through her involvement with the International Anglican Women’s Network.

“It has been somewhat challenging to fully participate in the work of this group, given that our Anglican Church is not quite as far along as many of them are on this issue,” Seabrook said.

“We have not yet had a broad conversation that might lead us to be able to make statements on behalf of our church on this topic. Therefore we participate in discussions, but are not always able to sign on to the letters that get forwarded.”

Many Anglicans are taking action at the parish and diocesan levels. In Ottawa, working with the group Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking (PACT), Anglicans have worked with local women’s organizations to take grassroots action to raise awareness of human trafficking.

One project to raise awareness involved volunteers creating rag dolls for an art display in order “to show how easily women’s lives are discarded through trafficking,” Seabrook explained.

“That art installation then would lead to an opportunity to provide education and resources and whatnot, just to raise awareness.”

To effectively coordinate Anglican responses across Canada, Seabrook points to the need to map out what individuals, parishes, and dioceses are doing in the fight against trafficking.

“It would be great to gather this information so that it can be shared,” she said. “No doubt there are Anglicans who are engaged and feel strongly about these issues and some have started taking action but we don’t currently have a handle on it in any comprehensive way.

“We need to pull people together from across the church to have some conversations about human trafficking from a theological perspective,” Seabrook added. “We would do well to include related issues such as prostitution, for example, because there is a range of opinion, with some considering it sexual exploitation while others consider it to be legitimate work.

“We know there is a range of opinion on these issues, and it would be a very good thing if we could gather around a table and talk about these issues from a faith perspective.”

View a list of resources related to human trafficking.

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