by Bella Lever, 2018 Fellow
On a blisteringly cold and snowy evening, the second session of the Fellowship Programme centred around the issue of modern slavery. The evening was structured in three parts.
- Mia (Hasenson-Gross, René Cassin’s Director) spoke about the nature of modern slavery. She covered a great deal of material, ranging from the multiple forms modern slavery can take, the factors that contribute to modern slavery, and the likelihood and extent of contact that we ourselves have with enslaved people on a daily basis. We also learned about the work René Cassin carries out to raise awareness of modern slavery and to provide greater support for victims.
- Phoebe Prendergast (Project Development Officer, Santa Marta Group) then gave an in-depth presentation on the particular nature of modern slavery in the UK, the impact of legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act, and the history and aims of the Santa Marta Group. She emphasised that there is no single ‘typical’ example of a modern slave. Hearing about the work and methods of the Santa Marta Group was an illuminating glimpse into the potential for faith groups to combat modern slavery and inspire change.
- Sam Alston, a 2018 Fellow, then led an interactive role-playing exercise which looked at the Jewish Dutch community of 1640 and biblical sources to explore Judaism’s relationship with and attitude toward slavery. There is, we learned, a challenging dichotomy between our Exodus narrative which condemns the bitterness of slavery and champions a journey toward freedom, and biblical sources that seem in general to condone slavery with few exceptions.
The particular nature of modern slavery is an insidious one; it is present in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the technology we are increasingly reliant on. Modern slavery is invisible because we allow ourselves not to see it, which is why the work of organisations like René Cassin and the Santa Marta Group on raising awareness of modern slavery is so vital.