Rev. Anne Futcher, Archdeaconry Social Concern Officer
‘Abolish slavery everywhere, forever.’ So read one of the placards under which we walked. At 10am on October 19th, the seafront at Limassol looked just a little different. There were the usual tourists dressed to enjoy the sunshine. But there were also some 130 people of different ages and nationalities clothed completely in black. Christopher and I were among them. Silently, in single file we walked slowly along the promenade.
What is human trafficking?It is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of men, women and children through force, fraud, deception or the abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation. Essentially, it is a form of modern day slavery – and a profound violation of the intrinsic dignity of human beings. Human trafficking is far from new! The first Book of the Hebrew Scriptures records the selling of Joseph to passing Midianite traders by his own brothers (Genesis 37:12-36). And such practices continue: recent estimates indicate that approximately 21 million people worldwide are being bought and sold against their will through force, fraud, and coercion.1 Cyprus is no exception. The Island is a key destination for people who are subjected to trafficking. But there is some good news for much work is currently being undertaken to address the issue. In June 2019, the government of Cyprus was judged to be fully meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, and continuing to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts to tackle human trafficking.2 In March 2017, religious leaders of the five main faith communities of Cyprus3 signed a joint statement strongly condemning all forms of violence (including economic, psychological, sexual and physical) against women and girls. They committed to: ‘share this message with our respective faith communities and society as a whole’….’ensure that violence against women and girls are recognised, condemned and that there are legal frameworks and institutions capable of dealing with it and ‘work together with state and civil society partners to end violence against women and girls in Cyprus’. They stated that they ‘categorically reject the misuse of religion to vindicate any form of violence against women and girls’ and ‘pray for healing and wholeness and reach out to all women and girls that have fallen victim to violence’. On behalf of the Anglican Church in Cyprus, Bishop Michael has wholly endorsed the 2017 statement of the religious leaders of the five main faith communities on the island.
So what can we do?In my role as archdeaconry social concern officer since early September, I have had opportunities to meet both with ecumenical partners and with a range of NGOs to understand more about human trafficking here. I hope to be able to share this understanding across the archdeaconry in different ways over the next year. I’d like to begin by encouraging you, as parishes and as individuals, to do three things:
- Please be vigilant. These are some of the common signs that a person may be trafficked. They may:
- appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others
- not have personal identification on them
- have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work
- not be able to move around freely
- be reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities
- appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse
- dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times, i.e. very early or late at 4
- Please pray – for victims of modern slavery and for an end to human trafficking. I attach two prayers that may be a helpful starting
- Please do get in touch with me If you, or your church community, are seeking to:
- learn more about human trafficking
- find out how you can support trafficked persons through local NGOs.