Make a Difference at Christmas
Three ways that your Christmas celebrations can show love of neighbours near and far
Give alternative and/or ethical gifts
The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities have alternative gift programmes: you can find a selection listed below. Check the websites to see what they offer and how each programme works.
- CAFOD‘s World Gifts
- Christian Aid‘s Present Aid
- Oxfam‘s Oxfam Unwrapped
- Rope‘s Lifeline Gifts
- Traidcraft‘s Gifts for Life
- World Vision‘s Must-Have Gifts
If you want to buy people a tangible present, why not take a look in your local Fair Trade shop … a Fair Trade online retailer such as Shared Earth, True Origin, or We Are Fair Trade. We have some suggestions for stocking fillers here.
Use Local Organic Animal-Friendly and Fairtrade foods in your Christmas celebrations
Celebrate with food that helps producers and their communities earn a decent livelihood and that doesn’t ‘cost the earth’ in terms of sustainability!
If you’re looking for even more sustainability, try going meat free for some or all of your Christmas festivities. There are a plethora of good vegetarian and vegan options now.
Send a card to someone imprisoned for their beliefs
It’s just a card – but it’s more than that, too. It’s a sign to someone imprisoned for their beliefs that they’re not forgotten. A reminder to those who have imprisoned the person that other people care about his or her well-being. And for some (see guidelines) a welcome message of Christmas hope.
Christian Solidarity offers the ‘Connect and Encourage’ guide with brief biographies of people who would welcome cards and guidelines on what to write.
Campaigning for a fairer asylum policy
We share the widespread concern about the new “Illegal Migration Bill” introduced to Parliament on 7th March, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric accompanying it.
As the UNHCR says “the effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum-seekers in need of safety and protection, and even deny them the opportunity to put forward their case. This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”
Moreover, the broad consensus is that the provisions of the bill are not only morally and legally problematic, but also unlikely to be effective in practice.
As people who serve a God who is compassionate and hates injustice, we long to see compassion and justice in policy towards asylum seekers and refugees. So what can we do?
Individually, in small groups, and with your whole church, earnestly ask God for justice and protection for people affected by the proposed legislation, for a change of heart for the government, for care and compassion in the media, and for wisdom for all of us in responding to the situation. We have a prayer available here.
This great post from Tearfund, which sets out the issues in a way that’s really helpful for church discussions.
Write to your MP. If you just have a few seconds, you can use the Safe Passage email action, but the best email is one that you write yourself. You don’t have to be an expert – you just need to share your concerns. Use the material above or look below for other materials you can draw on. If you can write this weekend, please ask your MP to reject the bill at its seond reading on Monday.
We have had some people ask whether it is worth writing, given the likelihood that the Bill will go through. The answer is yes. Each letter conveys to your MP that this is an issue that you, as a voter, care about – and that you do not agree with current policy. As this is an issue where parties are looking closely at voter sentiment, your voice really matters.
Encourage others to write
Movements grow when people inspire each other. If each of us convinced one other person to write … and that person convinced another person … and that person convinced another person …
Continue to fight hostility and fear with hospitality and love
The number of people who attended the January event on supporting asylum seekers in hotels was a reminder of how much good will and desire to help there is in our area. If you’re feeling discouraged, join with everyone who is continuing to show care and love. Come to one of our events to find out more!
Information: UNHCR statement, Refugee Council “Understanding the Government’s problematic new asylum bill,” Enver Solomon (Chief Exec of Refugee Council) on “performative cruelty at its worst“, Asylum Welcome, “Not only immoral and probably illegal, but unworkable“, Colin Yeo, “What is in the illegal migration bill?”
Live in a way that helps to reduce future climate risks
Some of the most effective ways to do this are
- switching to a green energy supplier for our electricity and gas – it’s easy and has a significant impact. An average UK household switching to renewable energy for its electricity would reduce its emissions by about 1.4 tonnes a year. (Data: Average UK domestic electricity consumption; Climate Stewards footprint calculator). You can also work on making your home more energy efficient … saving emissions and money.
- not flying unless it’s absolutely necessary. The difference it can make in your footprint is truly astonishing. A return flight to New York adds about 1.7 tonnes to your footprint, Orlando 2.1 tonnes, Rio de Janeiro 2.8 tonnes, and Sydney? A whopping 5 tonnes. By contrast, Eurostar to Paris comes in at just … 4.1 kg. (Climate Stewards footprint calculator, Eurostar)
- using public transport, taking advantage of some of the amazing new technologies in electric vehicles (see our piece on electric cars and the information from the Energy Saving Trust) or getting exercise on our bikes or on foot for shorter journeys
- eating less meat … or switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet
All of this becomes even more significant if we encourage others. What if your church encouraged people to switch to green energy and ten families did?
We can encourage our Government to increase its ambitions on carbon reduction, help Britain adapt to a changing climate, and work to ensure that other people have what they need to develop sustainably and to adapt.
- Hope for the Future is a leading advocacy charity that helps people develop positive relationships with their MPs around climate issues. They have great advice on how to approach and hold good conversations with MPs (contact us for a copy of their handbook) as well as issue briefings covering topics from health and climate change to decarbonisation of heating and the encouragement of renewable energy.
And we can encourage businesses to act responsibly on climate issues:
- The Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investment “provide a framework for engagement between climate-conscious investors and companies across the global economy.” It focuses on planning for net zero emissions – which is something that both governments and businesses need to have at the heart of their strategies.
- Christian Aid’s Big Shift campaign is calling on UK banks to stop investing in fossil fuels.
- Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign has information on divestment.