Reports that twenty-four men have been rescued from conditions of slavery at a travellers’ camp in Bedfordshire have been deeply shocking. (See the BBC accounts) The fact that the men come from vulnerable backgrounds and were kept in appalling conditions underlines the inhumanity of their captors. All right-thinking people will surely condemn what was done to them. Or will they? It is amazing how often we can turn a blind eye to the suffering or exploitation in our midst. It is not that we don’t care; it is that we don’t see, don’t want to become ‘involved’.
Quite what was going on in that travellers’ camp we may never know, but each of us must ask ourselves anew, am I my brother’s keeper? To what extent do we have a duty to become involved when we suspect others of suffering or being exploited? I don’t know. Even in monastic communities we can fail to see signs of distress in our brethren. Perhaps there is more than a bit of Cain in all of us.