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Thursday, October 28, 2021
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European Freedom Network Bridge Conference 2021 Holds Online to Address Human Trafficking
Leanne Rhodes, Executive Director of the European Freedom Network, gave opening remarks in the first keynote speech of the European Freedom Network's Bridge Conference 2021 on October 5, 2021.Leanne Rhodes, Executive Director of the European Freedom Network, gave opening remarks in the first keynote speech of the European Freedom Network's Bridge Conference 2021 on October 5, 2021.

The European Freedom Network held an online anti-trafficking conference to connect Christians across the globe to fight against the serious issue.

Cooperating with 485 partners and 268 organizations in 44 countries, the European Freedom Network (EFN) was established in 2012 as a “Christian community that exists to fight human trafficking and commercial exploitation in Europe and to seek the restoration of victims in collaboration with strategic stakeholders”, according to its official website.  Affiliated with the European Evangelical Alliance, “EFN is focused on issues of modern-day slavery, human trafficking, prostitution, commercial exploitation and within that, sexual exploitation”.

Bridge Conference 2021 was conducted on Zoom on Oct 5-9, including three days of learning and discussion around the theme, one-day consultations and workshops, and the first-ever Church Engagement Day which focuses on preventing exploitation and protecting children in the church.

Five keynote speeches were given concerning human trafficking. John Cotton Richmond, a partner in Dentons’ Federal Regulatory and Compliance practice who previously served as the US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for the US Department of State, talked about five ideas in the first speech World Trends in Human Trafficking: the vulnerability caused by COVID-19 was driving an increase in trafficking; individualized protection and not shoehorning victims into prescribed programs were needed more; the issue of persecution, corporate accountability, and the debate around the decriminalization of prostitution.

EFN has recently partnered with WEA to develop the World Freedom Network.

Adam Kahane, Director of Reos Partners which is an international social enterprise that helps people move forward together on their most important and intractable issues, delivered the second speech titled “Why Stretch Collaboration is Required to Address Complex Challenges”.

Aarti Kapoor, the Managing Director of Embode, an independent Asia-based human rights consultancy working on the ground issues of human trafficking, child labour, forced labour, women’s empowerment, and community development, share her thoughts in the third lecture “Unpacking Complexity, the Complex Dynamics of Trafficking”. The rest of the keynote speeches were centering around due diligence and counter demand.

In early August, EFN and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) announced the launch of the World Freedom Network (WFN), a new global network focusing on “how churches can get involved and play a unique role in addressing this issue in their own local contexts”, according to WEA.

Leanne Rhodes, Executive Director of the EFN, works as its Global Director. Jennifer Roemhidlt Tunehag has been recently appointed to direct global church engagement for the WFN, with a focus on Asia and the Americas. 

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