However many and however serious the disagreements were that Theresa May aroused as Home Secretary, there can be no doubting the passion with which she engaged with the issues of slavery and trafficking.
In her foreword to this wide-ranging and powerful collection of essays, she declares confronting these issues to be a “moral imperative”; and the Modern Slavery Act witnesses not just to her moral passion, but to the highly effective political energy with which she faced the complexities involved in eliminating slavery and trafficking from British society and from the supply chains of British businesses.
The question remains: can slavery and trafficking be addressed as discrete criminal activities, or do they raise questions about the operation of present-day capitalism in general?
The scene is set in two complementary ways: the opening essay by Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Anti-Slavery Commissioner, is an authoritative laying bare of the scale and intractability of the problem and is the fruit of his extensive experience with national and international agencies; it is also a hopeful call to faith communities to become involved with the issues.
His laying out of the large picture is then earthed through the personal stories of three survivors, told in raw detail, and revealing the interplay of their vulnerability and the sheer wickedness of those who exploited them. Those stories are adduced again and again in the ten subsequent essays that form the bulk of the book, so that the reader is not allowed to move into statistics and abstraction: Stella, Richard, and Anna, the three survivors, are intensely present throughout, and their stories are different enough in the theological and practical issues for the essayists to examine.