On October 5 – 9 2021, the European Freedom Network (EFN) held its 7th Bridge Conference. 309 anti-trafficking experts and ministry leaders from 43 different countries gathered online from all across Europe over a 5-day period for the event. EFN has been gathering Christian communities since 2011 to fight human trafficking and commercial exploitation in Europe.
This year’s conference addressed issues on human trafficking, including how to measure impact and address labour trafficking. EFN’s Executive Director, Leanne Rhodes, noting the significance of this year’s conference, said “EFN’s Bridge Conference is an important time for the Christian anti-trafficking sector to meet, to collaborate, up-skill, and understand the latest trends in human trafficking. Many of our members are on the front lines, faithfully serving survivors of human trafficking, whilst others work in prevention and advocacy. Bridge Conference is an imperative time for our partners to learn from one another as we address modern slavery together.”
Modern slavery in all its forms in the 21st Century has, unfortunately, become harder to track in 2021. According to the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), trafficking human beings is the third-largest criminal activity in the world behind drug trafficking and counterfeiting.
Slavery in the 21st Century has become especially hard to identify and prosecute because perpetrators and their associates are now using the advancements of technology in many stages of human trafficking which include recruitment, movement, control, and advertising. According to Rhodes, since the pandemic, they have noticed a large increase in online prostitution through video sex, chat rooms, and pornography.
At this year’s Bridge Conference, EFN launched its fourth Don’t Shut Your Eyes campaign video. This year’s video focuses on labour trafficking and online exploitation. The campaign is set to premiere on the 17th of October in churches all around Europe and on the 18th of October around Europe, coinciding with the EU’s Anti-trafficking Day in Europe. The video has been specifically designed for churches to use to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Rhodes says “When we talk to people about human trafficking, we find that they generally only think it happens to young women and for the purpose of sexual exploitation. That is simply not true. There is a huge market for labour trafficking in Europe and it enslaves a lot of males looking for a better life. We created this year’s Don’t Shut Your Eyes campaign around this theme to help dispel this myth and help people understand the reality of what is really going on.”
People that are most vulnerable to being trafficked often times are trying to escape poverty, discrimination, improve their lives, or support their families. Often taking dangerous risks and traveling to other countries that promise dreams of a better, more financially stable life.
As the landscape and modus operandi of how traffickers recruit victims are changing, EFN has expanded and increased efforts to collaborate with other NGOs, government bodies, and authorities on this matter. Additionally, creating awareness and educating churches on the role we play not only to decrease human trafficking but also in the hopes that one day we will be able to completely eradicate modern slavery is a goal and vision of EFN.
The church especially has an important part to play in addressing human trafficking not only because we are mandated by Jesus to stand for social justice, but human trafficking impacts our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As part of this year’s Bridge Conference, EFN held a Church Engagement Day aimed at church leaders, parents, and educators. The aim was to inform Christians about the realities of human trafficking and the special role the church can play in creating a safe restorative community for survivors. “We believe that the church has a crucial role to play in preventing trafficking and exploitation,” said Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag, who heads up Church Engagement for EFN.
Those interested in learning more about human trafficking and the role they can play are welcomed to visit the EFN website.
Human trafficking is a complex problem and it needs our collaboration to end it once and for all.
You can make a difference, join the campaign by:
- Downloading and reading our Campaign Kit to get helpful quotes and shareable media.
- Prior to October 18 – share some of the media and quotes in our Campaign Kit. If you know of friends or groups interested in this issue, send the kit to them, the more awareness this garners, the bigger the impact we make.
- On October 18 @10am CEST – Like the video on EFN social media and share. See our Campaign Kit for helpful quotes. Look for us on Facebook and Instagram.
- After October 18 – Talk with your local church about hosting a Freedom Sunday where they can screen this video to show the realities and dangers of human trafficking.