News and Views
Notes and articles from local church leaders
Combatting Sex Trafficking in Lancashire
A recent LEP article took me back to 2015 when a special anti-trafficking unit was set up in East Lancashire. DCI Sion Hall was travelling back from a European conference on human trafficking with a colleague. They were inspired to do something and scribbled down their initial thoughts on the back of an envelope. From those first thoughts emerged Sion’s team of 7 officers fighting human trafficking in East Lancashire. For the size of the Police division it was proportionally bigger than any other Police force in the country yet no bigger than Sion judged to be the minimal requirement to be effective. That envelope now hangs in a frame in the office of the current Chief Inspector’s office as testimony to what can grow from small beginnings. Lancashire Police’s achievements are recognised throughout the country.
The nature and extent of sexual exploitation is little recognised locally. In 2017 I went into a pop up brothel after the second major East Lancashire operation. The door had yielded easily to the Police battering ram leaving only a barely noticeable circular impression. The perpetrators and victims had been taken away and I looked at what was left in the now vacated terraced house in Preston - condoms and thrush pills on a table, barely any furniture, mattresses on the floor and next to one of them a teddy bear. I looked into the eyes of the big, hard looking, steely eyed policeman I was with and recognised in his face the same emotion I was feeling. One of the girls had left a diary. She was a Romanian as are many of the girls who are trafficked to the UK. She wrote “I’m no longer a human being and my soul is wrapped in thorns. Oh, God this is so hard and I’m feeling so bad, that’s it, I can’t take this anymore! The pain in my heart is making me scream. I wish for happiness and I get sadness, I wish for love and I get nothing but pain. I’m worth nothing, maybe death doesn’t hurt as much as life does.” I wondered if the teddy bear belonged to the girl who wrote that.
Detective Stuart Peall was one of Sion’s recruits and he featured in a recent LEP newspaper article talking about how Lancashire Police were successfully tackling modern slavery in the way they are targeting the gangs. Stu emphasised the reluctance of terrified victims to cooperate with police which makes victim testimony almost impossible to get. But a tactic used by Lancashire Police has enabled them to have the best charge rate out of any force in the country at almost 30 per cent.
The force has found success by pursuing sexual offence charges such as controlling prostitution alongside trafficking charges, to strengthen cases without a cooperating victim. Victims don’t testify because the protection offered by authorities to eastern European women “is nothing near what the offenders can offer them in threat. All they want to do is go home,” Stuart said. “And that’s basically just sending them back to the problem of how they got here in the first place.
“Every woman I’ve met is poor, they’re from Romany backgrounds, and they have children. He pointed out that nine in 10 investigations are sparked by tip-offs from the public and other forces should simplify their approach. He said: “People think that to prove a human trafficking offence you have to prove that the perpetrator moved a girl from say Romania to England.” But actually it’s much simpler. “All you have to do is prove movement from one place to another. If a girl in a brothel in Preston gets an incall for a private house you have proof that that there was movement or control of movement and that constitutes human trafficking in the terms of the Modern Slavery legislation. That’s enough. You don’t have to move to another town or even another street.
East Lancashire Police had another idea. While it’s illegal to pay for sex with a trafficking victim many of the men will be unaware they are committing a serious crime. The criminals targeted are the gangs bringing the girls in but the reason they’re brought in is the demand. As a way of reducing demand East Lancashire Police came up with another idea. Officers recently contacted numerous men whose numbers they found on seized mobile phones and texted: ‘A lot of women around this time are being trafficked. If you have any concerns or know anything please contact 101 or reply to this text message’. Men have nothing to fear if they tip off police about a suspected trafficking victim but very few do. However even without a response to the texts they probably went a little way in reducing demand making the exercise worthwhile. If men really understood what they were doing far fewer would do it.
You can read the full LEP article here.
The Modern Slavery Helpline for reporting potential cases is 08000 121 700.
Salvation Army Toy Appeal
The financial impact of COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented challenge for thousands of the most vulnerable low-income families in local communities. The Salvation Army are appealing for donations of NEW toys and gifts for babies through to teenagers. Ways to help:
New toys can be left at The Salvation Army on Lowergate between 10:00 and 12:30 on Mondays to Fridays.
Some local toy shops are providing a click and collect service if you wish to support local businesses.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, you may find it easier and safer to buy online. If you prefer to buy online, the following Amazon wish lists may be helpful:
Purchasing online means gifts can be sent directly to The Salvation Army.
Monetary donations can be deposited in the mailbox at the top of the left-hand steps of the Salvation Army or via post. If sending cheques, please make payable to 'Clitheroe Salvation Army’.
If you'd like to speak to someone, please call Elizabeth Smith on 07709351394 or Brenda Wise on 07709352383.
These are our cards with contributions of work from all the students at Art for All.
Packs of 10 cost £4 and can either be purchased through The Shop of Hope, emailing email@example.com or contacting Frankie on 07568550062.
Christmas Cards for Sale
On April 29th Caritas Salford hosted a webinar: Reimagining CARITAS – Love in Action in a Post-Corona-virus Society. One of those speaking was Bishop John Arnold who spoke about opportunities available to Christians under the current COVID restrictions:
There are great opportunities. There are great responses from people who are networking their actions, but we have to address the wider issues beyond how we look after ourselves. The tendency has been to look inwards. A great call within our faith has been to look outwards and tackle, for ex-ample, famine, modern slavery and the disintegration of aspects in our own society. There is a built in tendency to wait for government to do something. A recent report cites UK children being the un-happiest in Europe. We must be more generous in what are we going to do about social problems. If the pandemic allows us the time to think about the common objectives that we have in our com-mon home, that people are our brothers and sisters, and that people have common dignity, then to go back to normal would be to neglect demands that we are beginning to see so much more clearly. We need to find a new normal that includes more of a sense of common wellbeing that we owe to all our brothers and sisters.
We have been made aware by countless radio and media interviews of the immense suffering of people. People have been critical about church restrictions but there was good reason to try and prevent people from contaminating others and protecting health and wellbeing. Wherever we are we are Church. How wonderful it is that we can meet in public buildings and share the sacraments but the fact that we can only do this in a limited way at the moment puts us in solidarity with many people around the world who have no churches. In some ways we are denied that sense of gather-ing in public that puts us in solidarity with each other. We should develop the idea that we are church wherever we are. St Paul calls us “ambassadors for Christ”. We are to be missionary disciples, to do things in a Christ-like manner. Being Christian is more than just being in building.
We need to find a new normal
Somebody said recently that they were sick of hearing this term “the New Normal” and yet without the “New Normal” we will not respond God’s call to be a missionary church.
In 2013 Pope Francis issued an exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in which he urged the entire Church "to embark on a new chapter of evangelism". According to the exhortation, the Church must understand itself as a "community of missionary disciples", who are "perma-nently in a state of mission". Evangelii Gaudium touches on many themes including obliga-tions Christians have to the poor and the duty to establish and maintain just economic, politi-cal, and legal orders. Later he said: “It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation… Thus, he reminds us that our responsibility extends beyond our obligation to care for the whole of humanity, we are the stewards of the whole of creation. What fruit results from a“ humble conviction”? A priest from Cheteck in Northern Minnesota once gave some very practical guidance on how to practice humility and how humility is key to the Christian way of life:
Not thinking first and foremost about ourselves
Many people tend to talk rather than listen but humility should temper this inclination. Fran-cis de Sales wrote “Be very watchful as to what can give offence to others; if you fail in this, try to repair the mischief as quickly as possible.” Another quote covers the other side of the coin too: “It is a great degree of lowliness of heart …to fear honours and flattery as much as little minds enjoy them, who easily take offence at any affront.” How often does a lack of humility make us focus on ourselves and our discomfort when someone praises us?
Acknowledging and complimenting others
Humility should teach us to acknowledge praise graciously. Just as we should graciously acknowledge a compliment, so should we look outwardly to others rather than to ourselves and recognise and acknowledge them. But the key is whether we think foremost about our-selves or others. If the heart is pure, so too will be the acknowledgement and we will learn to give praise without flattery.
Thinking about others and being aware of their needs
This final point extends and embraces the other two. We should think of all others and not just those closest and those we feel most comfortable with - those we don’t know particularly well or particularly like.
So as we continue with the privations of the current pandemic let us reflect on how we can practice humility. Let us prepare for a New Normal when we finally return to a freedom in which we can either resume our old ways or go forward with a new way of thinking in our faith.
Compassion and Forgiveness Need Humility
You can have flaws, be anxious and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.
Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to celebrate the successes but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause but to be happy in anonymity.
Being happy is not a fatality of destiny but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves. To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a ‘no’. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.
To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple.
It is to have maturity to be able to say: ‘I made mistakes’.
It is to have the courage to say: ‘I am sorry’.
It is to have the sensitivity to say: ‘I need you’.
It is to have the ability to say: ‘I love you’.
May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness …
That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter, a lover of wisdom. And when you make a mistake, start all over again.
For only then will you be in love with life. You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life but use the tears to irrigate tolerance.
Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity.
Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.
Never give up …. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, - for life is an incredible show.