Three parish priests in the Archdiocese of Perth are examining what a ‘slavery-proofed’ parish would look like and how to implement slavery-free parish morning teas during 2022.
With the support of their parish community, they have been planning to commence the project from 8 February, the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Fr Bernard Lanarolle from the Innaloo-Karrinyup Parish, Fr Minh-Thuy Nguyen from Thornlie Parish and Fr Nelson Po from Applecross Parish will work together with the support of the West Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office.
The three priests intend to take steps to raise awareness in their communities about the reality of modern slavery in Australia and the region before looking at parish procurement practices.
During the year, faith formation and social education opportunities will be offered to school staff, parishioners, students, and parents.
Following that, the community will be invited to consider an appropriate faith response such as ethical purchasing, as this type of purchasing behaviour doesn’t involve exploitation of labour and reduces the risk of instances of slavery.
“We are letting the light of Christ shine where it is needed,” Fr Bernard reflected.
“The first response is to get informed, and the archdiocese has been a great support by providing the data and suggesting possible actions for us to choose. It is a concrete way of putting faith into action,” (James 2: 14-17),” he highlighted.
“There are around 15,000 victims in Australia and many of those are migrant and refugee visa holders,” stated Fr Minh-Thuy, “and those with limited English cannot effectively communicate what is happening to them.”
“This project is an act of neighbour love and protective hospitality as much as anything else,” Fr Minh-Thuy noted.
Modern slavery, said Fr Nelson, is complex and interconnected.
“The parish can’t solve the problem, but it shouldn’t be contributing to it,” he said.
A data-informed strategy is being discussed to help eradicate the risk of slavery from the supply chains that the parish accesses. The strategy involves purchasing slavery-free tea and coffee products.
Deacon Greg Lowe, who is supporting the three parishes in the project, said the Archdiocese of Perth is eliminating risk of slavery from its procurement practices, and it is great to see parishes following suit.
“This is a significant step in the moral life of the local church,” Deacon Lowe said.
“The Eucharistic Prayer draws attention to ‘the work of human hands’. Let us do the same by ensuring they are not hands belonging to people that we are unintentionally exploiting,” he said.
In 2020, the Diocese of Parramatta published its first Modern Slavery Statement. Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator Sebastian Salaske-Lentern says this has been a long but fruitful process. “With Moses Opondo, the official Modern Slavery Liaison Officer, CEDP and Chancery are now in the process of getting all their suppliers onboard with SEDEX, an organisation that will help them manage their supply chains and remove any suspected modern slavery,” he says. “The Diocesan Modern Slavery Working Group would love to bring this onboarding process forward in 2022, and raise more awareness for modern slavery and human trafficking among our staff, parishes and schools.”
While Sebastian says raising awareness is a big task, he suggests parishes and schools connect with organisations like ACRATH to learn more about how they can be involved. “A speaker could give a presentation or run a workshop. Individuals can tune into the ACRATH Conversation Series, or find great resources on their website,” he says. With Easter approaching, we can get involved in ACRATH’s Slavery-Free Easter campaign, which promotes buying only fair trade and slavery-free chocolate as an effort to end the industry which engages almost two million children worldwide in forced labour or unsafe working conditions.
If you would like to find out more, please contact the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator for the Diocese of Parramatta at email@example.com
Deacon Greg Lowe is a Permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Perth.
Reproduced with permission from The Record, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.