Theresa May ends the scourge of modern-day slavery
If you happen to be following coverage of the Conservative Party Conference 2013 via the distorting lens of the MSM, you might be forgiven for thinking yesterday was all about the economy and UKIP, with a peppering of Karren Brady (who will soon no doubt be Baroness Brady).
But Home Secretary Theresa May made what was by far the most important speech - only to be completely eclipsed by Bill Cash and Nigel Farage on the Fringe. In her speech on immigration, international terrorism, racism, religious extremism and "getting rid of dangerous foreigners", she spoke of her determination to end modern-day slavery. This is what she said:
I want the NCA to take the fight to criminals of every sort. We’ll be hearing soon from Nicola Blackwood, about her campaign against the sexual exploitation of children, and from Damian Green, who has been leading the Government’s work in this area. But I want to talk now about the exploitation of men, women and children by organised criminal gangs. This appalling crime is known as human trafficking, but we should call it what it is – modern slavery.The Modern Slavery Bill is concerned with the fundamental dignity of the human being: it has been so long needed it is small wonder that Labour never introduced it. When women and children are being trafficked to Britain and forced into slave labour and selling their bodies for sex, it is impossible to imagine the depths of desperation and self-loathing to which they must sink.
That might sound like an exaggeration. But there is increasing evidence – as we’ve seen in Newport recently – that thousands of people in Britain are exploited through forced labour, being pushed into crime and being made to work in the sex industry. They are bought and sold as commodities, they are kept in servitude and they have little chance of escape. Because they are often forced into a life of crime, they fear not just their traffickers but the people who should be there to help them – the police and the authorities.
So modern slavery is taking place in Britain. And its victims are not always foreign nationals brought here by gangs. This year, in Luton, British criminals were sentenced for kidnapping homeless people and forcing them to work in dreadful conditions for no pay. They were beaten if they even talked about escape. They were British people, working for British gangmasters, in Britain – and they were being kept as slaves.
We cannot ignore this evil in our midst. And that is why the Government will soon publish a Modern Slavery Bill. That Bill will bring into a single Act the confusing array of human trafficking offences. It will give the authorities the powers they need to investigate, prosecute and lock up the slave drivers. And it will make sure that there are proper punishments for the perpetrators of these appalling crimes.
The Bill will send the clearest possible message. If you’re involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted – and you will be thrown behind bars.
Salvation is not only concerned with eschatology and eternity: it can be realised in a believer's 'freedom' and redemption here on earth, as the first-fruits of what we anticipate and hope for. The freedom we have in Christ includes the removal of psychological barriers - liberation from 'the bondage of the will'. St Paul often contrasts the gospel of liberty with the law that binds, because Christ came to deliver us from the incapacity to obey. The law simply reinforces our impotence, rendering us nervous paralytics.
To be free we must be able to respond as we wish. Those who are bound in will or restricted in action may be free in spirit, but they cannot be free to participate in the fullness of the created order: in Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. This means not only that we can do now what we could not do before, but that we may do now what we were not permitted to do before.
Rarely in recent years has a Bill before Parliament been so founded upon a clear scriptural principle - freedom for captives. These modern-day slaves will be liberated from the living death of isolation, depression, shame, abuse and hatred. They will given a new life in creation and a worthy place in community. By this Bill, Theresa May is reinforcing a fundamental Christian ethic and renewing our cultural moral values. She is turning darkness into light by walking in the footsteps of William Wilberforce and giving meaning to the term 'humanity'.