At its General Assembly, meeting between July 9-12, the United Reformed Church (URC) agreed to take steps towards developing policy and guidance to help tackle modern-day slavery.
Two resolutions, tabled at the request of the URC West Midlands Synod, centred around a clear denomination-wide policy statement protecting the Church from benefitting from modern-day slavery through direct actions and supply chains; a commitment to educate and inform members about the topic, reflecting the topic in safeguarding policies; and taking adequate steps to screen out from its investments any companies without adequate regard to modern-day slavery.
As the resolutions passed, the URC’s General Secretariat will now undertake research to prepare a proposed policy for Church House, the URC’s London Office, and Assembly business.
David Westlake, CEO of International Justice Mission UK (IJMUK), said: “IJMUK welcomes the URC’s decision to adopt a denominational position on modern slavery and to take active steps to help stop it.
“Modern slavery is one of the great injustices of our time, with over 40 million people in slavery today globally. Sadly, the pandemic has made more people vulnerable to slavery and trafficking, making action to stop this exploitation more urgent than ever. Churches have a vital role to play in helping to stop slavery and other forms of violent injustice, and our offices around the world have seen churches help catalyse real change. When churches, communities, governments, corporates and all of us choose to act, we will see slavery ended for good. We’re delighted that the URC has made this commitment to join the global movement to stop slavery.”
The research, once carried out, will be presented to the Assembly Executive or General Assembly no later than meetings in 2023.
The URC’s Safeguarding Advisory Group will also draft clear guidance that will help churches and individuals identify those subjected to this form of abuse and how to take steps to prevent it.
The Revd Steve Faber, Moderator of the URC West Midlands Synod, who presented the resolutions, said: “It is almost impossible to believe that at this stage in the 21st century we still have so many people subject to Modern-Day Slavery in its many forms. This is a blight on the whole of humanity, and we need to take positive steps to make sure we are not complicit in this trade on the lives of others through careless purchasing practices. We also need to equip people in our churches to recognise the signs of this sort of abuse and know how they can respond appropriately if they suspect or discover Modern-Day Slavery in their own community. We have started this process in the West Midlands Synod, and we look forward to the whole of the United Reformed Church taking similar action.”
Mervyn Davies, Finance Officer West Midlands Synod, who initiated the work on the resolutions, added: “I am proud that the URC is standing up and saying clearly that we not only deplore modern-day slavery, but we are taking action to not contribute to its continuance, both in our communities and around the world.”
Image: Hussain Badshah/Unsplash
Published: 20 July 2021