Study from University of Sheffield finds some faith-based organisations working with survivors of modern slavery push clients towards religious activities

Faith-based charities working with survivors of modern slavery should respect the views of the survivors they work with, a report from the University of Sheffield has said, after it found some organisations push clients towards religious activities.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 4:00 pm

A three-year research project led by the University of Sheffield looking at Christian charities found that several anti-modern slavery organisations could identify instances where clients felt they had been encouraged by other charities to attend church, read Christian materials or pray.

But experts found the overall picture was that religion is not promoted by faith-based organisations offering services to suspected 'victims of modern slavery' and these anecdotes were typically associated with the same few organisations.

Dr Hannah Lewis, Senior Research Fellow at University of Sheffield and the project’s Principal Investigator, said: “We found little evidence that faith-based organisations are promoting religion to survivors of modern slavery. However, the fear of evangelising damages trust and partnership work in the anti-modern slavery sector.

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“Publicly adopting and implementing the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Trafficking and Modern Slavery Survivor Care Standard on ‘Freedom of Belief, Religion and Thought’ would provide widespread reassurance to partners, service users and donors.”

The report concluded that services provided to survivors of trafficking must be trauma informed, focused on survivors’ needs and delivered according to professional standards, with a clear code of conduct.

Kate Roberts, UK Programme Manager at Anti-Slavery International, said: “The report’s key message, that all services provided to survivors of trafficking must be trauma informed, focused on survivors’ needs and delivered according to professional standards, with a clear code of conduct, is vital. When we ask survivors to engage with a support service we need to be able to explain what they can expect. Clear and transparent standards and an independent inspection regime is vital for this and have been welcomed by organisations working to support survivors.

Right Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, Chair of The Clewer Initiative and Co-Founder of the Global Sustainability Network, said: “The report on faith responses to modern slavery provides a much-needed overview and assessment of current practices and possible potential if the right synergies and collaborations can be developed.”