[ACNS] The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe has held the first of a number of one-day training conferences to teach Anglicans how to combat human trafficking. The event at Holy Trinity Church in Brussels at the end of January followed a diocesan-wide survey which identified a pool of potential volunteers willing to take action against human trafficking if they received appropriate training and local service opportunities.
The event was jointly organised by Grace West, the Anglican prison chaplain in Brussels, who meets both victims and perpetrators of trafficking in the course of her work and David Fieldsend, a Lay Minister at Holy Trinity Brussels who works as attaché for EU affairs for the Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes.
Annie Morris from the International Organization for Migration, the UN body responsible for counter-trafficking activity, provided detailed training on the legal definition of human trafficking and its distinction from people smuggling; as well as case studies in how to identify victims and actions that could be taken to give assistance.
There were also presentations from local projects in Belgium active in identifying and rescuing human trafficking victims and follow-up rehabilitation activities. “All of them stressed the importance of regarding trafficking victims as individuals of unique worth, made in the image of God,” the Diocese of Europe said on its website. “They recounted personal human stories of the stresses and trauma experienced by those who had been trafficked. Because of this often a very slow process of building up trust was necessary before they had the courage to escape from their traffickers to a safe house.
“Question times after each speaker were very lively and a solid buzz continued over the lunch break. As well as expressing support for what is being already done there was some concern that it seemed so little in comparison to the scale of the problem.”
According to police estimates, there are 21,000 trafficking victims in the sex industry alone in Belgium.
Similar training events will be held in the future elsewhere in the Diocese of Europe. The move comes as the wider Church of England sets up a network of champions to work alongside police forces and statutory and non-statutory agencies to support victims of human trafficking.