I looked over Jordan and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home

A band of angels coming for me

Coming for to carry me home

If you’ve been watching England in the Rugby World Cup you’ll have heard the crowd singing this old slave song to inspire the team to victory (not that it worked!).

‘Swing low, sweet chariot’ is about the hope of dying and being taken away from the pain, horror and degradation that was slavery in the Americas in the 1800s.

Between 9 and 11 million Africans were kidnapped or sold by British, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and American slave traders, to be transported to work thousands of miles from their home. But that’s all in the past isn’t it? Well, according to the anti-slavery campaign group Walk Free, nearly 36 million people worldwide (0.5% of the world's population) live as slaves today.

80% are woman and girls and over half the total are children.  Slavery is worse today than it has ever been in history.

Anti-Slavery day in the UK is this Sunday - 18 October. It’s an opportunity to be made aware of the plight of the modern day slave: The woman trafficked for prostitution and the pornography industry, the child forced to fight in wars and the girl forced into marriage.

It’s not just happening in some far off country. It’s happening on our doorstep. Latest government figures show 13,000 people are victims of slavery in the UK. Police in Hampshire have identified 40 people including 5 children who have been victims of human trafficking in last 12 months.

What can we do? Take time out to find the facts, talk about the issues with family and friends and report suspicious behavior you see in your community. 

Swing Low was sung for the last time for a while in Manchester last Saturday. But the history behind the song lives on. Slavery is alive and we desperately need ‘a band of angels’ to come and take it away. Can we be those angels?

Paul Sanderson is a chaplain, husband of one, father of four and a West Ham season ticket holder. 

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