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Britain’s Jewish community urged to embrace Church of England’s anti-slavery initiative

Posted on: August 13, 2018 6:45 PM
There has been a significant rise in the number of hand-car washes in the UK. Many of them use slave labour.
Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski / Pixabay

Britain’s ecumenical inter-faith body the Council of Christians and Jews is promoting an anti-slavery app that was devised as part of a Church of England initiative. The Safe Car Wash App was devised by the Clewer Initiative, the C of E’s campaign against modern slavery, and the Santa Marta Group, the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-slavery project. It is now being promoted as part of CCJ’s response to Mitzvah Day – an annual focus on charitable activity.

Mitzvah Day is guided by the Jewish values of tikkun olam, gemilut chasadim and tzedek. Organisers of the day say that on Mitzvah Day “”we give our time, not our money, to make a difference to the community around us. We introduce people to social action, to their neighbours and to local charities setting up projects which address real needs. Jewish led, we bring people of other faiths, and none to volunteer side by side, with fun and laughter, with our community, to get to know each other.

“Our vision is of Jews and non-Jews coming together to build more cohesive neighbourhoods and to strengthen civil society.”

In a message to its supporters, CCJ said: “This Mitzvah Day, learn what modern slavery looks like and how you can stop it. The Council of Christians and Jews are helping synagogues and churches to come together by holding interfaith training events on how to tackle modern slavery.” They are invited representatives of local synagogues and churches to attend a training day in London in October, ahead of running local joint initiatives on Mitzvah Day – 18 November.

CCJ is also promoting the Safe Car Wash app. Backed by anti-slavery campaigners and agencies including the police and local authorities, the Safe Car Wash App is available for free download for Apple and Android mobile phones and tablets.

“Users can open the app when they are at the car wash and pinpoint their exact location using GPS,” the Church of England said. “They will be then taken through a series of indicators of modern slavery. They range from practical details – such as whether workers have suitable protective clothing – to behavioural clues, such as whether they appear withdrawn. If the answers indicate a high likelihood, users will be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline.”

The app sends anonymised data to Britain’s National Crime Agency and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority – a new statutory body established to fight trafficking in the UK.

“Over the last few years we have learnt more about the evil of modern slavery and we have begun to understand how it is perpetrated in our communities in plain sight,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said ahead of the app’s launch in June. “Through the Safe Car Wash App we now have a chance to help tackle this scourge which is damaging so many people’s lives.”

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, added: “I welcome this very helpful and timely initiative in an area of real exploitation. As we learn to see this example of forced labour and modern slavery in our midst, we will also become more aware of the presence of this evil scourge in other sectors in our neighbourhood.”

The CCJ described modern slavery as “a growing issue in the UK, with thousands of victims hidden in plain sight. Some of these people are working in hand car washes, where police raids have uncovered victims living in appalling conditions.

“CCJ, in partnership with the Clewer Initiative, are working to end modern slavery at hand car washes. We believe that as communities, we have a responsibility to combat modern slavery.”

As part of its campaign, the CCJ has produced a range of resource for Christian and Jewish communities to raise awareness of modern slavery. They include sermon ideas, religious sources on slavery, activities for children and young people, and ways to involve Jewish and Christian communities in ending modern slavery.

Car washes are being targeted by the initiative because over the past decade the number in the UK has risen from just a few to more than 18,000. The C of E says that while many of the car washes in Britain’s high streets, at the sides of motorways, and on abandoned garage forecourts, are run as legitimate businesses, “but some exploit, force and threaten their workers, trapping them in modern slavery.”

The Council of Christians and Jews was established by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, and Britain’s Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, in 1942, at the height of World War II, to fight anti-Semitism.

  • The Safe Car Wash App can be downloaded free of charge for Android and Apple devices.

  • CCJ's anti-slavery resources can be accessed here (pdf).