Catholic Social Teaching and the issue of modern slavery – questions and activities

Laura Kings 18 August 2022

In recognising the experience of St Josephine Bakhita, the Church acknowledges that it must play a part in putting an end to slavery. Explore the issue of modern slavery with these classroom activities and questions.

Lower Primary - Discovering the issue of slavery
1. Read aloud
Read ‘Awaited by Love’ and find out about how St Josephine Bakhita was someone who experienced first-hand the evil injustice of slavery. 
Then, Read The Singing Mermaid by Julia Donaldson where tempted by the promise of fame and fortune, the Singing Mermaid joins a circus. The crowds love her, but the poor mermaid is kept in a tank by the wicked circus owner Sam Sly, and she soon longs to return to the freedom of her ocean home.
Find some ideas for simple questions to ask listeners during your read-aloud sessions here
2. Discuss the notion of freedom and how it applied to Josephine Bakhita and the Singing Mermaid. 
Suggested strategy: Think, pairs, squares, and shares (adapted from Edutopia)
•    Assign students a partner, as well as a square (two pairs combined). 
•    Students talk in their pairs from bell to bell between direct instructions about the topics of the day. 

•    Groups then come to a consensus that they share with the class. They may need to elect a spokesperson to speak on behalf of the square.
•    This can work in groups of six as well, but consensus may be harder to reach.
•    At the end of the lesson, each student thanks their partner for something they did for them and shares what they think was the pair’s best moment together. 
Read more here.
Discussion questions:
•    What is freedom?
•    How did Josephine Bakhita find freedom? How did the Singing Mermaid find freedom? 
3. Create Venn diagram listing the similarity and differences between St Josephine Bakhita and The Singing Mermaid.
4.  Carry out a role-play activity at the point when Sam Sly asks the mermaid to join his circus. Should she go? What are the pros/cons of joining?
5.  Write a letter from the singing mermaid to her friends in the ocean while she was in the circus. How does she feel about being kept in a tank?

(courtesy of Caritas)
Saint Josephine Bakhita, 
You remained strong and brave through years of slavery. You used your knowledge and experience in helping to prepare Sisters who were going to work in Africa. 
Your gentle manner brought peace and strength to all. 
Help us to have courage when times are hard; help us to be strong and supportive to anyone in need; help us always to remain close, as you were, to Jesus, and show his love to all. 

Prayers of Intercession
(courtesy of Caritas)
Leader: As we honour the memory of St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of trafficked people, let us pray that God’s freedom and justice will come for all. 
1. We pray for all people who have been trafficked or sold into slavery, that they will know freedom. God of life, hear us. 
Response: God of life hear our prayer. 
2. We pray for organisations that work to rescue people enslaved, that they will continue their good work. God of life hear us. 
Response: God of life hear our prayer. 
3. We pray for all people who are living in poverty which makes them vulnerable to trafficking, that they will have the resources they need to live life to the full. God of life hear us. 
Response: God of life hear our prayer 
4. We pray for our local community, that we will continue to learn and care about others who are suffering and find ways to help. God of life hear us. 
Response: God of life, hear our prayer

Upper Primary - investigating the issue of Modern Slavery and how we can help stop it
1.    Read ‘Stamping out slavery’ by Andrew Hamilton SJ in Australian Catholics magazine. 
Read about ‘Using Read-Alouds to Improve Older Elementary Students’ Literacy Skills’. 
2.    Class Discussion: Write Pair Share on the issue of slavery
Students write their response to a question, then share their answers with the person next to them, then students share their responses with the class. 
•    What is slavery?
•    Does slavery exist today? 
Learn more about your class as they work by using this keep track strategy from Rose Reid for Edutopia:
‘I keep a blank grade book roster on a clipboard, and while students are working in pairs, I put a tally mark next to each student’s name every time I hear them speak during class. I’m sure I don’t catch everything, but the act of keeping track forces me to notice the participation patterns in the room and to seek out those who have learned to fly under the radar.’
3.    Make a persuasive advertisement to raise awareness of modern slavery. You can find a lesson plan on creating advertisements here
4.    Brainstorm an action plan. 
What can you do to take action against modern slavery? E.g. shopping and eating habits, knowing where products come from.
You can find some tips on effective brainstorming from Edutopia
Check out these ideas from Anti-Slavery Australia. Read more about ethical consumerism:
Why shop ethically?
How to shop ethically
Ethical consumerism 
Online Register for Modern Slavery Statements
Fashion ratings system by ‘Good on You’
Ethical fashion guide by Baptist World Aid
Driven to shop: The psychology of fast fashion
Check this list of mind mapping apps for kids from common sense education. 

Lower Secondary – Slavery and Catholic Social Teaching
1.    Read aloud: read the story of Josephine Bakhita in Australian Catholics magazine.
Read more about how ‘How Read-Alouds Can Benefit Older Students'
What is Catholic Social Teaching? What are the principles of Catholic Social Teaching? 
Apply these principles to the story of Josephine Bakhita. When was she treated according to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and when wasn’t she? Ask students to record their findings in a Venn diagram. They can list the elements of Catholic social teaching in the middle and examples of how Josephine’s story showed where she was treated according to these principles on one side and where she wasn’t on the other.
Going further: What are some things we can do in our own lives to make sure everyone is treated well according to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching?
2.    Guided reading: Read the article ‘A guide to combatting equality’ and complete some of the activities that accompany the article.  You can find some tips on how to conduct guided reading here
3.    Read ‘Biblical adventures’ in Australian Catholics. Which stories relate to the issue of slavery and why? You can find further activities here
4.    Investigation: complete a report or write an essay outlining how attitudes to slavery have changed since Biblical times and why. How do you feel about this change and why?  Use evidence from the Bible, Church tradition and teaching, and the experience of Josephine Bakhita in your response. Check out these free editing and revising resources to support students in their work and these strategies to support reluctant writers. 

Upper Secondary - Taking on Modern Slavery
1.    Reading on the topic of slavery.
Read ‘Parish Life Blog: Taking on Modern Slavery’.
Then read 'Slavery’s continued impact' by Kate Mani.
Answer the following questions after reading each article: 
•    What’s in the article?
•    What’s in your head?
•    What’s in your heart?
•    Now what would you like to do?
6.    What is ACRATH?
Go to the webpage, take notes using the Cornell note-taking strategy and then write a paragraph summary in your own words.
7.    Find a great selection of further resources on modern slavery from ACRATH and Caritas to further explore your teacher of this subject. 
8.    Write a feature article for Australian Catholics magazine. Explain why modern slavery is an issue for today’s Catholics, what we are called to do about it and why. Conduct your own research and reference Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic Tradition and the Bible in your response.