Fair Trade Prayers and Reflections from CCOW

Are you looking for Fair Trade prayers and reflections for a church service or for personal prayer? Materials for Prayer and Reflection on Fair Trade offers the materials we’ve provided for Fairtrade Fortnight Church Action Guides and other resources over the years.

Download the resource

Fairtrade Foundation’s Church Action Guides

For many years, the Fairtrade Foundation, in conjunction with other agencies, has produced an annual Church Action Guide for Fairtrade Fortnight. Take a look at this year’s – and some from past years.

2018: Theme – Come On In to Fairtrade

2017: Theme – Time to Fairtrade Your Break

2016: Theme – Wake Up to the Big Fairtrade Breakfast

2014: Theme – Stick with Foncho to Abolish Unfair Bananas

2012: Theme – Take a Step in 2012

2011: Theme – Show Off Your Label

2010: Theme – The Big Swap

2009: Theme – Fair Trade and Trade Justice

2008: Theme – Change Today; Choose Fairtrade

 

Buy Fair Trade

Fair Trade Shops in the Thames Valley

Deddington

Deddington Farmers Market Fair Trade Stall
 4th Saturday of each month 

Faringdon

The Mustard Seed
19 Market Place, Faringdon SN7 7HP; (01367) 244821
Open daily, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, Saturday, 9 to 1.

Grove

The Cornerstone
Grovelands Shopping Centre, Savile Way, Grove; (01235) 772280
Open daily, Monday through Saturday, 10 to 4.

Oxford

Fairtrade at St Michael’s
St. Michael at the Northgate, Cornmarket, Oxford; 01865 722505
Open Monday through Saturday, 10 to 5. Will also provide sale or return stalls for churches. 10% discount for church orders.

Headington Fair Trade
104 London Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 9AJ ;  01865 236944; www.headingtonfairtrade.org.uk; mail@headingtonfairtrade.org.uk .
Open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 to 5:30. Will also provide sale or return stalls for churches.

Trading for Development
Online shopping: http://www.tradingfordevelopment.co.uk/. Will also provide sale or return stalls for churches.

Reading

RISC
35-39 London Street, Reading; 0118 958 6692
Open Monday to Friday, 9:30 – 5:30 (7:30, Th), Saturday, 10 to 6.

Wallingford

Just Trading Wallingford
17 St Mary’s St, Wallingford OX10 0EW; 01491 826600
Open Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday, 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Will also provide sale or return stalls for churches.

Woodstock

One Village is an independent foundation begun in 1979. It offers online shopping and has the One Village Outlet shop on the A44 in Woodstock. Shop open  Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 5:30 (and on Sunday 1:30 to 5:30)

Trading out of Poverty, Freedom Sunday, Food Justice: 15 – 21 October 2017

Trading Out of Poverty

This week, we celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October).

A few weeks ago, I (Maranda) had the privilege of visiting Fair Trade producers in Swaziland.

Swaziland is a beautiful country, a little larger than Northern Ireland and a little smaller than Wales. It’s landlocked, surrounded largely by South Africa, but sharing more than half its eastern border with Mozambique. The western side of the country contains mountains which gradually shift into the Middleveld of rolling hills; the eastern side is a lowland plain leading, on the border with Mozambique, to the Lebombo Plateau.

Though beautiful, however, Swaziland faces many development challenges. While the size of its economy makes it  nominally a lower middle income country, the distribution of wealth is unequal, and as of 2010, 42% of its population lived on less than $1.90 a day. Work is hard to find: unemployment is over 25% for the whole workforce and over 50% for young people. And health-related issues – and their impacts – are serious: UNAIDS lists Swaziland’s adult HIV prevalence as the world’s highest at 27.2%; and the World Food Programme estimates that over a quarter of all children are stunted because of malnutrition and 45% of children are orphaned or vulnerable.

In short, pro-poor development is essential, and exploring options that can deliver it is vital. One possibility for farmers is Fairtrade – the production of commodities certified with the FAIRTRADE Mark – and three sugar producers in Swaziland are Fairtrade certified. We are focusing, however, on Swaziland’s manufactured goods and crafts, and so I was looking at Swazi groups that are, or are working towards becoming, Fair Trade Organizations as defined by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)’s ’10 Principles of Fair Trade’.

For Fair Trade Organizations, of which the best known in the UK is Traidcraft, it’s not so much a question of setting standards for the production of individual products, but of ensuring that everything the relevant business does is done according to Fair Trade principles – starting with the fact that “poverty reduction through trade forms a key part of the organisation’s aims” and “the organisation supports marginalised small producers…[and] seeks to enable them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership.”

What can organisations working to these principles, whether certified as yet by the WFTO or not, contribute to human flourishing in situations such as Swaziland’s? Here are five initial reflections:

There are enormous reserves of artisanal skill within Swaziland – and great pride in the work people do. Fair Trade builds on and enhances that.

Much of the work produced by both individual artisans and groups is truly beautiful: Swaziland’s Fair Trade products are not a ‘charity buy’ but are worth purchasing because of their quality. People connected in different ways with Fair Trade emphasised the businesses’ role in giving skilled creative people an outlet, recognising the artistic merit of what they are doing. That recognition was in itself important.

Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT), a Fair Trade business network, is helping individuals and groups overcome the initial obstacles to making a fair income from the goods they produce.

SWIFT is a member-based association which aims to make Swaziland a leading supplier of “world class, ethically produced products resulting in the upliftment of communities throughout the country.” To that end, it provides training and support services to individuals and groups starting or growing Fair Trade businesses. At entry level, it’s helping ‘Level 1’ members, artisans still involved in very small-scale production, to develop sustainable business models, an understanding of the quality control needed to sell their goods formally, and access to local and wider markets. This involves a range of services in addition to in-class training: for example, SWIFT takes artisans to trade shows so that they can see the markets they’re trying to enter, and all SWIFT members are able to display information on the SWIFT website and to sell their goods at SWIFT’s store. Thanks to funding from Comic Relief via the Shared Interest Foundation, some artisans have also received seed funding to improve their manufacturing or retail capacity.

SWIFT states that 25 new businesses have been established since 2011.

Larger Fair Trade enterprises are also reaching some of the people who are often the most marginalised, enabling them to gain an income.

There are numerous examples of this among SWIFT members at ‘Level 2’ (larger, formally registered businesses) and ‘Level 3’ (the largest, export-ready businesses). For example, ‘Level 2’ member Amarasti offers rural women the chance to do embroidery work at home, enabling them to earn a living while caring for family members. The women pick up piece work, take it away, and then return the finished work to the organisation’s base. The work is highly skilled: Amarasti has recently been able to fulfill an order for a large retailer that demanded high standards of workmanship and uniformity.

‘Level 3’ member Eswatini Kitchen, meanwhile, buys produce for its jams and chutneys from local small producers – while the carved wooden spoons that form part of their gift sets are carved by disabled people in remote communities. In another instance, Traidcraft has written about the grandmothers growing chilli peppers for Level 3 member Black Mamba, and the difference that Fair Trade has made to them and their community.

While what has happened so far is encouraging, there is scope for far more.

It’s inspiring to hear people talk about the difference Fair Trade has made in their lives – and we’ll be sharing some more of that with you over the months to come. But one thing that emerged from conversations was that there is the capacity for much more. True, for some individuals and organisations, the orders they are receiving match their current ability to deliver. But others have the capacity to export new lines or significantly larger amounts of already available products. Especially for those businesses that have relatively large permanent workforces, expanding the volume of orders is crucial to maintaining stability … and to perhaps being able to increase the number of staff they can hire.

Eradicating poverty is a shared enterprise

What we do matters.

Early on in the conversations with Eswatini Kitchens, I’d confessed to a fondness for their lime pickle and Swazi fire. As we entered their honey processing facility, one of the staff turned to me and asked, “How do you eat the lime pickle?” In that moment, the connection between my daily life at home in my kitchen and what I was seeing in rural Swaziland came together with a sudden clarity.

In reality, those connections between our lives and the lives of other people around the world happen all the time, every day. We just don’t see them. But as we know, the products we buy and the energy we use and the things we support politically and the way we pray matter. And if we can help ourselves and others to see the choices we make in our homes and gardens and schools and churches and and workplaces for what they really are – choices that affect local and global neighbours – we can begin to try to choose a way of life that works to end poverty, to reduce inequality, to seek the restoration of creation.

That’s not a new thought for our supporters. But it’s a thought worth holding onto – and sharing and praying about – this next Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Please pray:

  • for work people are doing around the world to help themselves and others overcome poverty in all its dimensions
  • that all people may be able to access the resources and freedoms they need to flourish
  • that all people may understand the deep interconnection that links us with each other – and seek to act in ways that benefit neighbours near and far
  • in thanksgiving for the work of Fair Trade businesses and networks in Swaziland and around the world
  • that the Fair Trade vision of a more just, sustainable world may continue to inspire action for good in Swaziland and elsewhere

Short Notes: Freedom Sunday, Food Justice

Freedom Sunday
The 18th of October is observed as ‘Anti-Trafficking Day’ – a time to resolve to pray and act on behalf of the millions of people who are trafficked and/or trapped in forms of modern slavery. The Clewer Initiative is asking churches particularly to think about how we may be connected to people who have been trafficked or enslaved, either through the goods we purchased or through what’s happening in our own communities. The Initiative has produced a wide range of excellent resources, ranging from a collect, full ecumenical service and materials for individual prayer times to simple-to-print posters alerting people to the signs that someone may be enslaved – and how to respond. They’re heartily recommended.

Some churches will be using these resources this Sunday or next Sunday, as they’re close to the 18th. It’s a busy week, though, and The Clewer Initiative stresses that the resources can be used at any time during the year. Please pray:

  • for an end to human trafficking and modern slavery
  • that our churches may be aware of the issue and may offer appropriate support to help people who have been trafficked and/or enslaved
  • in thanksgiving for organisations seeking to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, to end these practices, and to protect those who have already been harmed by them

And please consider introducing these (or other) resources into your church’s worship at some time in the coming year.

Food Justice

Let us share in this bread of life that God gave to us this day. Remember those who hunger and thirst on their journey in search of shelter.
Response: As we eat a piece of this bread, we commit to stand in solidarity with those who are hungry and stateless. We pray earnestly that God may use us as instruments to eradicate homelessness and hunger. Amen.

World Food Day is on Monday the 16th; the UN theme for this year is “Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”

The choice of theme reflects a recognition that the factors forcing people to leave their homes are not only conflict, persecution and political instability but also “hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization is calling on the global community to invest in rural development, “creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods” as well as providing “increased food security … better access to social protection, reduced conflict over natural resources and solutions to environmental degradation and climate change.”

“By investing in rural development,” the organisation notes, “the international community can also harness migration’s potential to support development and build the resilience of displaced and host communities.”

The World Council of Churches and Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is inviting churches to celebrate the Churches’ Week of Action on Food around World Food Day (week of 15 to 22 October) and has adopted the UN theme. As part of marking World Food Day and the Week of Action, could you perhaps use the prayer above, taken from this year’s WCC-EAA prayer resources, to signal your (and your family’s, or home group’s, or church’s) commitment to food justice? Please also pray:

  • for all who have been forced to leave their homes because of food insecurity and hunger
  • for greater investment in ecologically and socially sustainable rural development

Speak Up, Charles Scribner, Cholera in Yemen, Fairtrade Update, Sea Sunday – 2 July 2017

In this week’s email:

  • Speak Up
  • Why I care about the environment: Charles Scribner
  • Cholera in Yemen
  • Fairtrade Update
  • Coming Up: Sea Sunday

Jeremiah is the focus of one of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary Old Testament readings. The context is that Jeremiah has been called to prophesy prolonged service to a foreign kingdom when the false prophets are speaking about a return of the exiles and a restoration of the Kings of Judah. Are there places today where we are seeking words that promise a false peace when God is calling us to a faithful acceptance of challenge?

Speak Up

This coming week is the latest ‘Speak Up Week of Action’, in which the Climate Coalition and its members are encouraging people around the UK to speak with their MPs about climate change.

The focus is on asking MPs to “reflect their constituents’ concerns about climate change by asking the Prime Minister to:

  • 1) Show global climate leadership by working with others to implement the Paris agreement
  • 2) Ensure government departments work together to produce a strong emissions reduction plan
    • Unlocks local and community energy
    • Cuts energy waste in homes
    • Tackles emissions and air pollution from vehicles”

If you would like to undertake action, you can either attend your MP’s surgery or write to your MP, noting that it’s the Week of Action and that you have some concerns and requests. The Climate Coalition has an outline briefing on what to say (p.13 of the Action Guide): we would recommend in addition that you ask your MP to ask the Prime Minister how she intends to implement the Climate Change Committee’s most recent recommendations. The recommendations were published this week: a summary can be found here.

If you would like a template letter, please email us. If you are meeting – or plan in the future to meet – your MP and would like the brilliant new Hope for the Future booklet on preparing for such meetings, please also email.

And please pray:

  • that many people will participate in the Speak Up Week and will communicate to their MPs that there is a constituency for climate action
  • that this week’s discussions will begin or continue fruitful, constructive relationships between people concerned about climate change and their MPs
  • that the Government will respond by working to implement the Paris Agreement and taking rapid action to support local and community energy and to tackle energy waste in homes and emissions from vehicles.

Why I care about the environment: Charles Scribner

As this month’s Pray and Fast prayer points note, Donald Trump’s removing the US from the Paris Agreement – and his government’s attacks on environmental legislation and funding more generally – have had the perhaps unanticipated impact of galvanising many in the US who remain committed to care for the environment.

US Christians are at the forefront of many environmental initiatives, and we’re delighted this week to launch a series of ‘Why I care about the environment’ articles reflecting their perspectives. The first of these is by Charles Scribner, the Executive Director of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.”

Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, the controversial Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, are currently seeking to weaken, postpone implementation of or repeal legislation around water pollution – so it’s a particularly appropriate time to hear from Charles Scribner and to keep him and the vital Riverkeeper work in our prayers. We’re hugely grateful for this piece – and we pray:

  • in thanksgiving for Charles Scribner’s work and the work of the Riverkeeper movement and the Waterkeeper Alliance
  • for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and its work to protect one of Alabama’s richest sources of water and biodiversity
  • for all the Waterkeepers, as they seek to “strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water”
  • for wisdom and courage for all who are seeking to counter moves to weaken environmental protection rules, in the US and worldwide


Cholera in Yemen

The cholera crisis in Yemen has reached exceptional proportions: as of the 1st of July, some 246,000 cases have been reported since the outbreak began, and 1,500 people have died since late April. The deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s delegation to Yemen writes: “Yemen now suffers three-way tragedy: a population under siege, suffering the violence of war and unable to work or access nutritious food or health care; an economic collapse that has led to a rise in criminality; and now a devastating health crisis. This all leads to what could be the largest cholera outbreak of our lifetime.”

The directors of UNICEF and the World Health Organization noted: “This deadly cholera outbreak is the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict. Collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread. Rising rates of malnutrition have weakened children’s health and made them more vulnerable to disease. An estimated 30,000 dedicated local health workers who play the largest role in ending this outbreak have not been paid their salaries for nearly 10 months.”

There is some hope that a dramatic scaling up of work undertaken by agencies is beginning to see a reduction in deaths – but the situation remains critical.

Please pray:

  • for all affected by cholera, asking God to bring hope and healing to the people with the disease and those loving and caring for them.
  • in thanksgiving for the dedicated health workers labouring – despite, in many cases, lack of equipment, medication and pay – to prevent and treat cholera. Pray that God gives them strength in the face of difficulty and that they are able to access the medicines and equipment they need. Pray that they will also be able to get the pay they need for themselves and their families.
  • in thanksgiving that parties to the conflict are now allowing medical assistance into areas where aid has previously been blocked.
  • for a just end to the conflict that is devastating Yemeni’s lives and Yemen’s  infrastructure and that is creating the circumstances where cholera can flourish.
  • Pray for wisdom for those leading efforts to press for diplomatic resolution of the conflict – and to hold all parties accountable for their actions in the conflict.

Please act:

  • Could you donate to the ICRC or MSF, which are two of the biggest providers of medical assistance to people affected by cholera in Yemen? (MSF does not have specific appeals, so the donation is to their general fund)
  • Or could you donate to any one of the many charities (eg Christian Aid, Tearfund, Oxfam) offering assistance in the country?

Fairtrade Update

A few weeks ago we reported on the worrying development that Sainsbury’s was preparing to pull the Fairtrade label from some of its own brand tea (and rooibos tea) products, replacing it with a “fairly traded” label as part its new ‘Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Programme’. We noted grave concerns around this, centering on the lack of transparency in the process and Sainsbury’s refusal to allow producers direct control of the equivalent of the Fairtrade premium; we’re also very concerned about the misleading nature of the ‘fairly traded’ label.

Since then the ‘Fairly Traded’ tea has gone on sale – and there have been several further developments:

  • ISEAL, a major organisation which “represents the movement of credible and innovative sustainability standards,” issued a statement noting that, while Sainsbury’s announcement included a statement of intention to apply for ISEAL membership, “Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Programme and its tea pilot are not endorsed by ISEAL and Sainsbury’s has not applied for, nor obtained, ISEAL membership.” Indeed, ISEAL “did not have any involvement in setting up the tea pilot or knowledge of it prior to the public announcement.””The principles of transparency and engagement,” ISEAL added, “are two Credibility Principles that underpin good practice when setting up and implementing a credible sustainability standards system. ISEAL strongly encourages Sainsbury’s to uphold the Credibility Principles to which it has publically committed.”
  • The Fairtrade Foundation has countered Sainsbury’s explanation that the new programmes were designed to help farmers deal with climate change by pointing to Fairtrade’s own work in this area. It has also issued a strong, clear statement of why producer empowerment – through things like self-determination in the use of the premium – is such an important part of Fairtrade.
  • Some of the founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fairtrade Foundation – including Christian Aid, CAFOD, Oxfam and Traidcraft – have written an open letter to Sainsbury’s, expressing “a number of serious concerns.” These included:
    • seeing “‘own brand’ certification standards as a step backwards in tackling major issues related to poverty and environmental sustainability,” as such standards undermine collaborative work across sectors.
    • the sense that the labelling is misleading: “Products sourced in such a different way to both Fairtrade certification and Fair Trade principles will mislead consumers if branded as ‘fairly traded’.”
    • the failure of the proposed standards to address issues around wages [The Fairtrade Foundation now requires plantations to have a plan for raising wages towards a living wage]
    • the disempowering of farmers: “Removing decision-making on the use of premiums from farmer organisations goes against the clear evidence that financial decision-making power for workers and farmers is essential to help them realise human rights, improve environmental sustainability and increase economic development.”
    • the apparent lack of “meaningful consultation of trade unions, workers or farmers’ organisations in the development of the standards” and the failure to reflect the feedback of some of the organisations who were consulted.

    On these bases, the organisations ask Sainsbury’s not to extend the proposals to other products until it has “published independent evidence of the impacts of your pilot including a clear analysis of the costs to all stakeholders” and encourages them “to urgently review and reconsider your plans.”

  • A piece in The Observer brought these issues to wider attention, highlighting some of the issues involved. This was one of a number of examples of negative press coverage: the Financial Times and industry publications (eg Sustainable Brands, The Grocer) also carried articles noting criticism of Sainsbury’s.
  • A major petition, with the support of many of the agencies involved in Fairtrade, has been set up on Change.org.

It’s hard to tell what impact the protests are having: Sainsbury’s has not officially announced any changes and has continued to permit its employees to make statements, occasionally of questionable accuracy, regarding the relationship between their model and Fairtrade.

What next? It feels important to continue protesting, and we would strongly urge those who care about Fairtrade to sign the online petition. If you are part of an institution (Fairtrade church, Fairtrade town, Fairtrade denominational body, etc) that supports Fairtrade and would like some template letters to Sainsbury’s, get in touch, and we’ll happily send some.  We’d also suggest continued prayer:

  • for the more than 200,000 Fairtrade tea farmers affected by Sainsbury’s move. This may well be an anxious time: pray that they may have a sense of security for the short and long term.
  • for wisdom for the leadership of the Fairtrade movement as it decides how to make the case for Fairtrade – and how to deal with the consequences of Sainsbury’s actions
  • for the leadership of Sainsbury’s as they consider ways forward: pray that they will be responsive to the concerns of producers and consumers
  • that this will be an occasion to galvanise new interest in Fairtrade, reminding seasoned Fairtrade campaigners and informing new audiences about the full range of benefits of Fairtrade and the reasons why it exists
  • in thanksgiving for the way Fairtrade makes connections among producers and consumers, and for the way it helps to redress inequalities. Pray that it may continue to do these things, and to do them well.

Coming Up: Sea Sunday

We’ll have a full item on it next week – but this is just a reminder that next Sunday is Sea Sunday, a time for remembering and raising up in prayer those who work at sea. You can find resources at:

Manchester & Egypt, Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade, Tobacco, Climate Prayers – 28 May 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Manchester and Egypt
  • Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade
  • World No Tobacco Day
  • Short Note: Pray and Fast Prayer Points

In the Revised Common Lectionary readings this week, Jesus says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” An appropriate reading for this first Sunday of Thy Kingdom Come! Pray that people everywhere may come to know Christ.
____________________________________________________________________________

Manchester and Egypt

#Egypt #Manchester #Westminster #Paris #Berlin #Stockholm #Nigeria #Pakistan #Iraq#FellowshipInSuffering #StrengthInPrayer #PowerInLove

Tweet from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

The tweet above, from Bishop Angaelos, came just after we learned that the week that had begun with sorrow in Manchester was ending with sorrow in Egypt. As a Bishop in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Angaelos understands well the fellowship in suffering that unfortunately unites people in so many parts of the world. As we pray for those affected by this week’s attacks, we also lift before God the many still suffering from previous violence, whether acts of terrorism or acts undertaken as part of more conventional conflicts.

Prayers for Those Affected by Manchester Bombing

Prayer Points for Those Affected by Recent Attacks in Egypt (taken from statements)

 

Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade

The announcement on 23 May by Sainsbury’s that it plans to replace its own-brand Fairtrade Red Label,  Gold Label, green and rooibos teas with a new ‘Fairly Traded’ brand (press release and documents) has caused concern among both Fairtade producers and Fairtrade consumers.

A fuller briefing paper will be available shortly, but in summary, the changes to tea are part of a broader proposed change in Sainsbury’s sourcing of what it describes as its “35 key crops and ingredients” – ultimately including not only tea but also, by 2020, other Fairtrade products such as coffee, bananas and sugar.

The new  programme offers benefits for farmers – tailored advice to help deal with the challenges of climate change, for example, and long term Memoranda of Understanding promising purchasing and volume commitments.

But a sustainable supply chain established by a major retailer is not the same thing as Fairtrade, where the aim is not merely to have sustainability and traceability but to redress the balance between producers and the major buyers. And this is where the new programme seems much weaker than Fairtrade: as Traidcraft’s CEO said: “We fear that this new scheme from Sainsbury’s may instead consolidate the power of the retailer over the supply chain.”

The new Sainsbury’s programme would require producers to agree to a new set of ‘Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards’ established by the supermarket in conjunction with a global risk compliance firm into which the affected producer groups appear to have had no direct input. Information released publicly thus far does not make clear who will determine the programme’s guaranteed minimum prices. And crucially, the programme removes the ‘social premium’ – the money paid to producers for community and business development – from the producers’ direct control, forcing them to apply to a UK-based ‘Sainsbury Foundation’ to get funding for any proposed projects.

This last point was the grounds on which Fairtrade Africa refused the partnership and the Fairtrade Foundation announced itself unable to participate. We would strongly recommend reading the entirety of an open letter posted on the Fairtrade Africa website, which explains their reasoning. The following extracts give a sense of the arguments:

“Fairtrade is owned 50% by the producers it represents and we, Fairtrade tea farmers, workers, producer members of Fairtrade Africa, are unanimous in our decision to reject this unequal partnership with the Sainsbury’s Foundation. We believe it will strip us of rights and benefits attained over the years under the Fairtrade system.

Our position is based on the response of our representatives who heard directly about the detail of the model from Sainsbury’s who recently visited Kenya and Malawi. Whilst we appreciate Sainsbury’s overall aim and ambition to improve their supply chains, we are fundamentally opposed to their plans to take over the control and management of Fairtrade Premium …. the proposed ring-fencing of the Fairtrade Premium is  unacceptable and we have outlined this to them as a non-negotiable. As producers we are very aware that when consumers choose Fairtrade purchases, they expect the benefits to go directly to producers. Premium is not donor money but is created through a commitment to purchase Fairtrade products by conscious consumers …

We are particularly concerned that within the proposed model, Sainsbury’s approval process means that any project requested by producers in Africa can be rejected by a few decision makers in the UK. This process will jeopardise our existing long term development strategies and further threaten   premium pooled projects from our other committed Fairtrade buyers.

We told Sainsbury’s loud and clear: “Your model will bring about disempowerment”. We are extremely concerned about the power and control that Sainsbury’s seeks to exert over us which actually feels reminiscent of colonial rule. We work for, OWN our product and OWN our premium. We see the proposed approach as an attempt to replace the autonomous role which Fairtrade brings and replace it with a model which no longer balances the power between producers and buyers.

There are many questions yet to be answered, but as we await answers, please pray:

  • for the more than 200,000 Fairtrade tea farmers affected by Sainsbury’s move. This may well be an anxious time: pray that they may have a sense of security for the short and long term.
  • for wisdom for the leadership of the Fairtrade movement and of Sainsbury’s as they consider ways forward
  • in thanksgiving for the way Fairtrade makes connections among producers and consumers, and for the way it helps to redress inequalities. Pray that it may continue to do these things, and to do them well.

If you would like to take action:

  • if you are a representative of an institution (town, village, school, diocese, district or synod, etc) that has a commitment to Fairtrade, please email us for guidance.
  • If you would like to take action as an individual, there is a petition on Change.org.

 

World No Tobacco Day

Most people are aware that tobacco has a staggeringly deleterious effect on both personal and public health. But as the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco day makes clear, its impacts go well beyond the sphere of health – creating “a millstone around the neck of global development”.

What are some of the impacts of tobacco? Is there any good news? And what can be done to counter tobacco’s deadly impacts?

Smoking Rates and Health Impacts

A recent analysis of the prevalence of smoking globally and the disease burden attributable to it, published in The Lancet (full article here; editorial comment here), found that “worldwide, one in four men, and a total of 933 million people, are estimated to be current daily smokers…. Half of these, or half a billion people alive today, can be expected to be killed prematurely by their smoking unless they quit.”  In 2015, 11.5% of global deaths (6.4 million) were attributable to smoking and smoking was the second leading risk factor for early death and disability worldwide.

The prevalence of smoking is actually falling globally. Between 1990 and 2015 there was a 28% reduction in the prevalence of smoking amongst men, and a 34% reduction amongst women. Rates amongst adolescents also fell significantly in this period – from 16.1% to 10.6% for men and from 4.8% to 3.0% for women. This is all clearly encouraging. However, the pace of reduction varied from country to country, with greater reductions being seen in high socio-demographic index countries and Latin America, “probably reflecting concerted efforts to implement strong tobacco control policies and programmes”. Furthermore, even though low- and middle-income countries  saw variable decreases in smoking prevalence, the overall disease burden attributable to smoking in these countries increased due to population growth and ageing. And the majority of smokers – around 80% – live in these countries.

Because of these demographics, overall global deaths due to smoking are expected to rise in the coming years. In an editorial on the imperative of tobacco elimination, The Lancet says, “Currently, around 6 million people die from tobacco use every year, a figure that is projected to rise to 8 million by 2030 unless stronger measures are taken. Most (80%) of deaths are expected to occur in low-income and middle-income countries, and everywhere tobacco use is concentrated in the poorest and most vulnerable people”.

Impacts on Child Labourers

Whilst the diseases caused by smoking are well known, some of the other impacts of tobacco are less often discussed. For example, children who work in tobacco farming are especially vulnerable to ‘green tobacco sickness’, caused by the absorption of nicotine through the skin as a result of handling wet tobacco leaves. Ayu, a 13-year old girl from Indonesia who helps her parents cultivate tobacco, described to Human Rights Watch the symptoms she experiences when harvesting tobacco: “I was throwing up when I was so tired from harvesting and carrying the [harvested tobacco] leaf. My stomach is like, I can’t explain, it’s stinky in my mouth. I threw up so many times…. My dad carried me home. It happened when we were harvesting. It was so hot, and I was so tired…. The smell is not good when we’re harvesting. I’m always throwing up every time I’m harvesting.” Human Rights Watch says these symptoms are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.

The particular threat to children from tobacco makes it especially appropriate that next weekend is the Viva Network World weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk. Viva is an international charity focused on releasing children from poverty and abuse.

Wider Impacts on Development

This year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on the wider threat tobacco poses for development. In a short video produced for this year’s campaign, Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO Director for the Prevention of Non Communicable Diseases, says, “It’s not just health that tobacco damages. Tobacco use is a major barrier to sustainable development on a number of fronts: food security, gender equity, education, economic growth and environment just to name a handful. It is a millstone around the neck of global development…. [Low- and middle-income countries] bear almost 40% of the global economic costs of smoking [with] health expenditure and lost productivity estimated at over US $1.4 trillion – a truly staggering figure”.

The US National Cancer Institute’s monograph on The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control expands on the connections between poverty, development and tobacco saying, “Tobacco use is concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups, and tobacco use accounts for a significant share of the health disparities between the rich and poor. These disparities are exacerbated by a lack of access to health care and the diversion of household spending from other basic needs, such as food and shelter, to tobacco use. Moreover, tobacco use contributes to poverty, as illnesses caused by tobacco lead to increased health care spending and reduced income.” More specific statistics were presented at a World Bank event, reported on by William Savedoff in his blog for the Center for Global Development. He writes, “Average consumption of cigarettes is more than twice as high among the poorest quintile than the richest in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Uruguay. Researchers at the event presented studies on Chile and Armenia that demonstrated how the poor are more likely than the rich to smoke, to die from smoking, to suffer ill health and high medical costs from smoking, and to impoverish themselves and their children by smoking.”

Where does responsibility lie and what can be done to change this situation?

The Lancet and other commentators are striking in their condemnation of tobacco companies. In his editorial ‘Death, Disease and Tobacco’ John Britton writes, “Responsibility for this global health disaster lies mainly with the trans national tobacco companies, which clearly hold the value of human life in very different regard to most of the rest of humanity”. William Savedoff’s blog is similarly damning – reflected in its title, ‘The World’s Most Profitable Disaster: Tobacco’. He writes, “[Tobacco companies] profit immeasurably from selling cigarettes. Prabhat Jha estimates that every $10,000 in profit is associated with one premature death… And profits are huge… Cigarette companies are one of the best investments you can find.”

Also remarkably consistent is the call for increased taxation to reduce the demand for tobacco – and consequently its adverse impacts. The WHO say, “Tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among young and poor people. A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and about 5% in low- and middle-income countries”. Dr Douglas Bettcher expands on this saying, “Increasing tobacco tax and prices is one of the most effective yet least utilized control measures that countries can use…. Tobacco taxation is a unique tool for reducing non-communicable diseases, death and generating revenues for governments to support universal health care… If all countries increased taxes by just one international dollar (about 80 US cents) an extra US $140 billion would be generated… This windfall of funds could be used to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.” William Savedoff puts it particularly succinctly when he writes, “The bottom line: raising tobacco taxes will save lives. Tripling excise taxes around the world would double prices, reduce consumption by about one-third and avoid 200 million deaths in this century.”

 

Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for all the campaigns that have led to a reduction in the prevalence of smoking world wide – and for the people behind these initiatives.
  • For all young people affected by tobacco – those whose health is damaged by second hand smoke, young people tempted to start smoking and those affected by working in the tobacco industry.
  • For investors to understand the consequences of their investment choices and to divest from tobacco.
  • For imagination and determination on the part of policy makers to increase measures, including taxation, which will lead to reduced tobacco demand.

 

Short Note: Pray and Fast Prayer Points

The June Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points are now available. They include information about the UK election, progress on renewable energy, developments in the earth’s oceans (and responses to those developments), new campaigns, and more. Download them here.

One further prayer point for this week relates to the G7 communique, which states:

“The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policiest on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics. Understanding this process,  the Heads of State and of Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.”

This is the outcome of apparently quite intense negotiations, in which participants in the meeting attempted to persuade the United States of the importance of remaining in the Agreement and honouring commitments.

Give thanks that the other members of the G7 stood firm in their commitment and pray that they will match words with deeds.

President Trump has stated that he will make his decision on the Paris Agreement this week. Pray for wisdom for him and for his advisors as they make their decision and that if the US does stay in the Paris Agreement it does so in a way that is constructive.

Featured Image Photocredit: Heart of Candles and Flower, James O’Hanlon, used under Creative Commons License.

Depression, Climate, Paraguay, South Africa, Trade: 2 April 2017

In this week’s email:

  • World Health Day – 7 April
  • Pray and Fast for the Climate – April
  • Short Notes: Paraguay, South Africa, Brexit and Trade, Fair Trade at Easter
  • John Madeley

Can these dry bones live? Whether these words in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings make you think about dry places in your own life or other people affected by spiritual, mental or physical dryness, it’s a question which we’ve all asked at some point. Thanks be to God for the hope of new life in this week’s readings … and in the saving work of Christ on the cross, which we are preparing to celebrate.

World Health Day – 7 April

World Health Day, held annually on the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s founding in 1948, is “a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.” This year the WHO has  chosen to focus on depression.

Perhaps the same impulses that mean we are often reluctant to talk about depression here in the UK mean that people don’t raise it as a genuine and pressing issue in other situations around the world. But it is no less real for that – and no less real than more obvious issues like hunger. Indeed, last October the WHO launched a year-long campaign, Depression: Let’s Talk, focusing on depression as a global issue.

In their recent publication ‘Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders – Global Health Estimates’, the WHO report that globally the total number of people with depression was estimated to exceed 300 million in 2015.

That’s more than 4% of the world’s population. And contrary to the common supposition that depression is a ‘Western’ disease, 80% of the people affected live in low- and middle-income countries, and the highest rate of depression is 5.9% among women in the African region. Depression is more prevalent in women than in men in every WHO region (and, globally, across all age groups).

Unsurprisingly, people are more likely to suffer mental health problems in emergency situations. Mental health problems can be induced both by the emergency itself (for example as a result of grief, distress, family separation, loss of livelihood or the tearing of the fabric of ordinary life) and also by circumstances arising during the humanitarian response (for example through overcrowding in camps, lack of privacy or anxiety caused by a lack of information). In addition, an emergency can exacerbate people’s pre-existing conditions.

In a World Bank blog Patricio V. Marquez calls for more to address these issues, noting “While most of those exposed to emergencies suffer some form of psychological distress, accumulated evidence shows that 15-20% of crisis-affected populations develop mild-to moderate mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). And, 3-4% develop severe mental disorders, such as psychosis or debilitating depression and anxiety, which affect their ability to function and survive.” Mental health issues affected over 10% of people visiting clinics in Nepal following the earthquake in 2015 and recent harrowing reports from Syria show the profoundly traumatic impact the conflict is having on children’s mental health. In their recent report, Invisible Wounds, Save the Children quote a teacher from the besieged town of Madaya who told them, “The children are psychologically crushed and tired. When we do activities like singing with them, they don’t respond at all. They don’t laugh like they would normally. They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and the lack of food.” Save the Children also reference a 2015 study of Syrian refugee children in Turkey, which found that 45% of the children showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and 44% showed symptoms of depression.

As we think about and pray for people suffering debilitating depression in traumatic situations of crisis, we also want to remember and pray for people who might not be ‘clinically’ depressed, but whose mental well-being is adversely affected by crises or by chronically difficult situations – perhaps of poverty or providing long-term care. The reality of this issue was forcefully brought home to me (Elizabeth) back in 2005 when I visited a home-based care project for people living with HIV and AIDS in Zambia. At the time, antiretroviral drugs were not commonly available, and death rates were very high. I spent a morning with Anne, a nurse counsellor, visiting clients in the area she supervised. I was able to meet some of the people she helped care for: women living in extreme poverty who received nursing care, medicines, nutritional supplements and practical help with cooking and cleaning from volunteers of the home-based care (HBC) programme. The love and care shown to the clients by the HBC staff and volunteers was deeply moving and greatly appreciated by the recipients. But it came at a cost. Anne told me about the burn-out that staff and volunteers commonly experienced from the relentless cycle of “making friends with clients, seeing them struggle with insufficient food, and eventually dying… and the toll of constant funerals”.

Please pray:

  • For all people living with depression – that they might find support and healing.
  • For the WHO’s Depression: Let’s Talk campaign – that it would help to break some of the stigma associated with depression and other mental health disorders, help people to become better informed about depression, and encourage people with depression to seek help.
  • In thanksgiving for the recognition, by the WHO and other agencies, of the need to integrate mental health care into how they respond to emergencies. See here for more.
  • For agencies working in crisis situations as they work to provide effective mental health care.
  • For the children of Syria and other conflicts, who have experienced trauma and mental scarring – that they might find healing and peace.
  • For the millions of unknown people who feel overwhelmed and burnt-out by the care they provide in chronically difficult circumstances.

Pray and Fast for the Climate – April

The first of each month is marked as a day to Pray and Fast for the Climate – but we need prayers for climate action throughout the month … so we’re including the Pray and Fast April prayer points with this email.

Please do use the materials in your public and private prayers throughout this month.  And during the Easter season, look forward to some stories of hope from Christians who are working to care for creation, sometimes under difficult circumstances ….

Short Notes: Paraguay, South Africa, Brexit and Trade, Fair Trade at Easter

Please pray for …

  • Paraguay

    Paraguay’s capital of Asunción erupted last night as protesters demonstrated against a secret Senate vote in favour of a constitutional amendment allowing the current President, Horacio Cartes, to run for re-election in 2018. Pray for a just and peaceful solution to the situation and to the wider political and economic issues facing the country.

  • South Africa

    South Africa also faces political instability – and, many are arguing a fundamental choice of direction (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Oscar van Heerden, Mail & Guardian, Richard Calland, FT, ) – after President Jacob Zuma, over the objections of many in his party, fired widely-respected Treasury Minister Pravin Gordhan in a major cabinet reshuffle. Gordhan had opposed state corruption, and his ousting and replacement with a Zuma loyalist is seen as problematic both economically and politically. The Archbishop of Cape Town described this as “an assault on the poor,” adding, “Who stands to gain when corrupt elites enrich themselves on the side while doing deals worth billions of rand with state-owned enterprises? … I hope the ruling party will reflect on how they are betraying the hopes of our people and take appropriate action. Civil society too will have to consider for how long we stand by helplessly and watch the gains of our democracy destroyed.”

    Pray for wisdom for all in government and all in positions of religious, economic and social leadership. Pray for moves that increase justice and transparency, reduce corruption and inequality, and provide stability and a better life for all South Africa’s people.

  • Brexit and Trade

    There’s much to pray for around post-Brexit trading arrangements, but today we’d commend two points. First, pray for a new campaign that asks the government to  protect people from the world’s poorest countries against negative trade impacts following Brexit … and to go further by promoting development-friendly trade. Secondly, the US has just released its 2017 report on what it considers ‘foreign trade barriers’. If you read the chapter on barriers to trade with the EU, you’ll see that it includes many environmental, chemical and food standards that help to promote care for creation. If these are considered ‘trade barriers’, they will almost certainly be key negotiating targets in any bilateral deal that the US does with the UK. Pray firstly for US politicians to grow in their desire to care for creation – and secondly for UK politicians to be prepared to stand up for higher standards while negotiating new deals.

  • Fair Trade at Easter

    Please do remind people in your churches about Fairtrade Easter treats, especially the Real Easter Egg (available in Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and a few Co-ops, as well as online through Traidcraft and the Meaningful Chocolate Company itself). Many churches have already ordered the eggs for parishioners … but there are always a few people still looking late in the day. The Real Easter Egg is Fairtrade-certified, offers a donation to charity, and tells the story of Easter … a win/win all around.


John Madeley

It was with great regret that we learned this week of the death of John Madeley, a leading writer on development issues – especially around trade – and a good friend to CCOW for the past several decades.

John combined gentle kindness, a deep spirituality, and a fierce passion for justice for the poor. We give thanks for his life, and ask God to send comfort to all who mourn his death.

Fairtrade, Church Action on Poverty, Malta Declaration: 26 Feb 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Fairtrade Fortnight
  • Poor Church, Transfigured Church
  • Malta Declaration

The Gospel in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings begins with Christ’s transfiguration – Jesus, Peter, James and John ascend a mountain, and the awestruck disciples behold their master, shining as God had when he revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, in conversation with Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. A voice proclaims the Christ as God’s son, the Beloved. And then … they are alone again. Things are normal. And Jesus reveals that he is now on his way to death. As we enter Lent, can we take time apart, in quiet, with Christ, asking for the grace to perceive His glory … and to follow the way of the cross?
___________________________________________________________________________

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight begins this Monday – and already there’s been a significant announcement and the launch of a new short advertising film.

Co-op Announcement

The announcement was genuinely a major one, indicating that by the end of May 2017 the Co-op would become the first UK retailer to use only Fairtrade cocoa across its entire own-brand product range. This affects over 200 products, including everything from chocolate bars to the sprinkles on its doughnuts to the battering on frozen fish. The retailer estimates that the increased usage will see a five-fold rise in its purchasing of cocoa on Fairtrade terms, and will create £450,000 a year in social premium payments for cocoa communities, in addition to the payment of the Fairtrade price.

The Co-op’s Fairtrade strategy manager, Brad Hill, noted that the switch had been made possible by the retailer’s “working hard with the Fairtrade Foundation to produce a successful ‘retail ready’ version of the Fairtrade Cocoa Sourcing Program.” The company’s own-brand chocolate will continue to bear the FAIRTRADE Mark, as it will use not only Fairtrade cocoa but also Fairtrade ingredients wherever this is possible. For other products, where the cocoa is the only Fairtrade ingredient, the assumption is that the Co-op’s labels will use the Fairtrade Cocoa Sourcing Program logo, which allows manufacturers and retailers to note the Fairtrade Cocoa element of a product without going fully Fairtrade.

This is precisely the kind of outcome that the Fairtrade Foundation was hoping for when it introduced the Cocoa Sourcing Program, and both it and the Co-op have expressed the hope that other retailers will follow suit … much as they did after the Co-op became the first major retailer to turn all its own-brand chocolate Fairtrade in 2002. With the Co-op the new development appears very positive: it would seem that their commitment to their fully Fairtrade brands remains, and the expansion of their use of Fairtrade cocoa in ancillary products benefits producers. There has been concern, however, that some manufacturers and retailers could use the Cocoa Sourcing Program to move from Fairtrade to ‘Fairtrade-lite’, using only Fairtrade cocoa where they used to use all Fairtrade ingredients, reducing the amount of other ingredients (such as sugar or vanilla) bought on the Fairtrade market, and cutting their costs in a way that undermines those who remain with the higher costs of producing fully Fairtrade goods.

Why Fairtrade matters

Why does it matter whether Fairtrade flourishes? That’s a question that the Foundation’s ‘Don’t Feed Exploitation’ campaign – and the short film that accompanies it – seeks to answer. The film, used as an advertisement, confronts ordinary people with the fact that cheap prices are often underpinned by exploitative practices, such as child labour. It’s a deliberately hard-hitting message.

And it’s a message we can’t afford to forget. Last week we asked for prayer for those detained protesting against low wages and poor working conditions in Bangladesh. This week we give thanks that, responding to pressure from organisations and businesses, the Bangladeshi Labour Ministry met with the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) and the Manufacturers’ Association BGMEA on Thursday; the Bangladeshi government released some detainees; and it pledged to release all those remaining and to call for reinstatement offers for fired workers. This is real progress –  give thanks for it, and for the actions of the Ethical Trading Initiative and the major retailers (H&M, Inditex [parent of Zara], Gap, C & A, VF Corporation, Next and Tchibo) who refused to attend the government’s Dhaka Apparel Summit focused on sustainability as a protest against the government’s actions. There is no question that their actions – and by extension the actions of those who press the companies on corporate responsibility issues – had an impact.

But while we can rejoice in that, the conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh remain untenable, and much more work needs to be done there, and in countries around the world, to ensure that people are able to work in safe conditions with fair pay. Fairtrade is part of that work – and it matters.

 

We’re attaching some of our Fairtrade prayers for use during Fairtrade Fortnight (more resources are here). In addition, as Fortnight begins, please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the way Fairtrade has encouraged people around the world to be mindful of those who produce the goods they use
  • in thanksgiving for the Co-op’s action to increase use of Fairtrade cocoa
  • that the Co-op’s move will lead to greater use of Fairtrade products by other retailers, and that the Fairtrade Cocoa Sourcing Program will benefit cocoa producers without reducing the market for other ingredients and for fully Fairtrade products
  • in thanksgiving for the release of the detained labour leaders in Bangladesh and for the evidence that a principled stance by businesses can have a wider impact
  • that this will not be an isolated event but will lead to better working conditions and pay for Bangladeshi garment workers
  • that those who farm or produce manufactured goods everywhere will have enjoy the right to fair remuneration, free association, and safe working conditions.


Action Point:
One of the areas where Fairtrade has the potential to make the greatest difference is in small-scale and artisanal mining for gold. There are a very few remaining tickets for Greg Valerio’s Fairtrade Gold talk on Shrove Tuesday. Tickets close tomorrow at noon: please register here if you wish to come.


Poor Church, Transfigured Church

This Sunday is Church Action on Poverty Sunday. It falls on the day we celebrate the Transfiguration and has as its theme “Poor Church, Transfigured Church”.

In the resources for the day, Church Action on Poverty ask congregations to reflect on the challenge of what it means to be a church for – or of – the poor. How can we ask God to transform us to enable this to happen?

Our congregations locally will each have their own reflections on this – please let us know your thoughts. As a contribution to reflection, Elizabeth recently interviewed some of the regional facilitators for the Anglican Alliance, which “has a mandate to bring together development, relief and advocacy work across the [Anglican] Communion.” The facilitators’ thoughts are presented below, together with the Church Action on Poverty prayer for this Sunday.

A church of the poor

June Nderitu (Regional Facilitator for Africa)

I think it’s important to note that the church in Africa is part of the social fabric. The church is a community. For a lot of people the church is their family. So the church is a church of the poor, for the poor and with the poor. I don’t think there’s any church (at least the ones that I know) that doesn’t have some concern for the poor. I think “poor” is a very loose term because “poor” can mean anything. If you’re talking about economic poverty, where people maybe have fewer resources or lower incomes you will find a bit of segregation. Especially in urban areas some churches are not attended by poor people. That’s normal. But they will still have a concern for the poor. So they will have their programmes… they do stuff like donate money, clothes, especially when churches in the lower income areas have some trouble: churches have been known to be burnt down or families lose everything in a fire or flood or whatever.

Ministering and working with the poor is as old as the church itself. We have schools, we have health centres, skills centres. I don’t think there’s been a time when we’ve not had [them]. They might not have been programmatic (which is more modern) but there’s always been that focus. And for churches that are a bit more advanced in how they engage, they actually have full-fledged departments for development.

We are at a cross roads, where more and more people are embracing an assets-based approach. We still have pockets of dependency, where people think that the poor can only be helped, but I think that is diminishing and the assets-base is coming to the fore more and more. I think a lot of work needs to be done, especially with the church leaders because when they say it’s going to be assets-based the community will follow suit. But if the leaders themselves have this dependency thing in their heads and they don’t want to be envisioned about it then the community will remain stagnant – and they will always be saying what they don’t have. So the assets-based is becoming the centre. At CAPA (the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) and the Alliance we say that the future of economic development is going to change drastically over the landscape of Africa because when it becomes asset-based… communities start asking what are we going to do with what we have. It may not necessarily happen everywhere, because dependency has taken very many years to cement, but there will be pockets of difference and we can already see that. I remember a lady I once visited somewhere in Kenya who lives in a very dry area, and she said that when she looked at her environment with asset-based eyes she was shocked at the number of resources around her. She was a teacher and used to rely on her teacher’s salary but now she has so many other things that give her income. And she said “having more money in my pocket means I give more in church”… which is true. Actually, all the churches that have taken CCM (Church Community Mobilisation) seriously, their giving has grown exponentially. They are able to pay their quotas [diocesan allocations] by March and they have money to spare. So they are able to build their own churches without fundraisers or relying on outside help. They become self-reliant and are able to pursue big scary, hairy dreams that otherwise they would never think of without thinking of a donor – like water projects or dairy projects.

Tagolyn Kabekabe (Regional Facilitator for the Pacific)

In the Pacific we say that people make up the churches. So the church is a church for the poor with the poor and of the poor. There is no space for people to be marginalised within our churches. So the people have been involved in all the church work and all the activities over a long period of time, and have brought it to what it is today. So in a way we can say that the church empowers the people but the people also empower the church – in the various activities that are being carried out in the different parishes and communities. And people embrace the church.
In the Pacific there’s not really so much of that looking at different layers of the community – such as the educated and those who are from rural communities. Everybody participates, wherever they are… There aren’t really groupings. People are able to worship together without difference or discrimination. There’s no such thing as that. People come together…. We don’t talk about people being poor… we don’t have this conversation. And yet they do exist within the community. The Mothers’ Union do a lot of work around this because they are the ones who talk to women and they know the situations families are confronted with. So in their organisation they attend to the needs of those who may not have [much], but seriously speaking, we do not talk about “they are poor people, we are better off” and speaking collectively as “we are from this parish, we are Anglicans” lessens that discriminatory attitude. I think that’s an important strength that we have within churches in the Pacific that we don’t discriminate.

Clifton Nedd (Regional Facilitator for the Caribbean)

My region is vast and varies from country to country or diocese to diocese but in some areas you do tend to find the old colonial model of the church being comprised predominantly of perhaps those who have a bit more money and wealth than those who lack that material wealth in some instances but more and more up and down the region the church is emerging and really finding itself as a church whose base is among the masses of the people.

The word “poor” is not really a word I like to use because oftentimes it speaks of particular metrics in terms of financial wealth or income but does not deal with what true wealth is.

Janice Proud – Relief and Programmes Manager at the Anglican Alliance, remembering when she was part of the Anglican Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I remember the Canadian Ambassador saying he loved coming to church because it was the only time he could be… next to a refugee as equals – whereas wherever he went he was always in a role and if he was visiting a community he was a high status person, whereas at the communion rail he was just equal before God.

Paolo Ueti, Regional Coordinator, Latin America

In my experience in my region which is Latin America … I do think there is a huge effort to be the church of the poor and with the poor. Not in my perspective a church for the poor because a church for the poor is a little bit too messianic in a bad sense: that the church will solve problems on behalf of the poor, the church has the only and unique answer and will give it to the poor – which is not what’s happening.

What I see happening is actually church leaders and ordinary faith people very engaged to do things together in order to have better sanitation, in order to have better education, in order to support each other in pain, in disasters, in order to worship together and sing together and have parties together, build church together. Of course there is lots of conflict within this – relationship is about conflict – but …  I do feel, really, that faith people and faith leaders and are very committed – not only to people who participate in the church but also to everybody else – to build new relationships and new societies and [are] actually attending [to] people who do not even belong to the church, doing social service or social ministry – are reaching people the government and NGOs don’t. There are lots of good projects in rural areas and urban areas in South America and Central America and I think it’s most important to highlight that many of our leaders and many of our ministers are very connected to the most marginalised people – indigenous people who have lost their homes and lands, and women who have suffered extreme violence, children out of homes – and there are lots of organised projects in every province to attend to this kind of work in a diaconal way …

The following prayer points are based on material from Church Action on Poverty’s resource booklet. Please pray that:

  • our churches, following the One who “does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (Psalm 9:12), may listen more attentively to the cry of those in poverty within and outside our congregations
  • people experiencing poverty may feel welcome and valued in – and may play a full role in the life of – our churches and all churches
  • the church may genuinely stand alongside the poorest and most vulnerable people in society
  • our churches may allow God to transfigure and transform them so that they can live for love of God and neighbour and exemplify Christ’s teaching “Blessed are the poor ….”

You may wish to use Church Action on Poverty’s prayer for this Sunday:

You call us, God
You call us out of a harsh land and into freedom
You call us out of despair and apathy
You call us into a vision of another way of living

You call us, Jesus
You call us into hope and friendship
You call us to build your kingdom
You call us to break bread with you and with the hungry

You call us, Holy Spirit
You call us to transformation
You call us to shine into the darkness
You call us into the world to change it
Give us the strength to follow where you call.

Amen

Marie Pattison,

Malta Declaration
Earlier this month EU leaders met in Malta and agreed on a controversial plan to stem the flow of refugees from North Africa to Italy along the Central Mediterranean route.
Migration at the Greek-Turkish border has significantly decreased following the EU-Turkey deal last year. However Frontex, the EU border agency, says that high numbers of people arrived in 2016 via the Central Mediterranean route, and the European Council quotes the number as 181,000. Four thousand four hundred refugees reached Italy by sea in January 2017 alone, with most departures occurring from Libya.
The Malta Declaration, adopted by the 28 EU Heads of State on 3rd February, was introduced as an attempt to “significantly reduce migratory flows, break the business model of smugglers and save lives,” (unseaworthy vessels and often dangerous conditions meant that over 5000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2016, with more deaths anticipated this spring as crossings increase with the end of the harsh winter weather). It commits EU countries to “step up cooperation with Libyan authorities,” specifically Libya’s UN-backed Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, though with a willingness to work with Libyan “regional and community authorities” and focuses on the following groups of priorities:

  • Preventing people from leaving Libya by providing “training, equipment and support to the Libyan national coastguard and other relevant agencies” to intercept boats and by undertaking “further efforts to disrupt the business model of smugglers through enhanced operational action,” involving Libya, other countries on the route, international partners, Member States, and European agencies
  • Attempting to provide safe accommodation for migrants and asylum seekers in Libya by “supporting where possible the development of local communities in Libya, especially in coastal areas and at Libyan land borders on the migratory routes, to improve their socio-economic situation” so that they can better act as host communities and “seeking to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM”
  • “Supporting IOM in significantly stepping up assisted voluntary return activities”
  • Discouraging people from attempting to travel through or from Libya by “enhancing information campaigns and outreach addressed at migrants in Libya and countries of origin and transit … particularly to counter the smugglers’ business model” and by helping Libya to strengthen its land borders.
  • Trying to ensure that increased security in Libya doesn’t simply lead to another diversion of migration routes, by “keeping track of alternative routes and possible diversion of smugglers’ activities, through cooperative efforts with Libya’s neighbours and the countries under the Partnership Framework, with the support of Member States and all relevant EU agencies and by making available all necessary surveillance instruments” and by “ deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration with all countries neighbouring Libya, including better operational cooperation with Member States and the European Border and Coast Guard on preventing departures and managing returns.”

The declaration also supported Italy’s bilateral agreement with the UN-backed Libyan government to return migrants to Libya for repatriation from there.

This idea is similar to the EU deal with Turkey – which itself represents, in effect, a controversial outsourcing of EU hosting of asylum seekers – but has the further complicating factor that Libya does not have the same level of relative political or economic stability that Turkey does. Since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has lacked an effective central government: neither the UN-backed government with which the EU declares its intention to work nor the other factions controlling different areas would currently appear to have the capacity to deliver safe reception facilities for migrants and asylum seekers as Europe has proposed. Moreover, given that direct in-country support is difficult to realise given the security situation, there is no certainty that they will be able to do so in the foreseeable future.

Libya is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no domestic law or procedure for considering asylum claims. The evidence of brutality against migrants in Libya is overwhelming, Human Rights Watch said. A damning December 2016 report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN mission in Libya documented widespread abuses: it opens “The situation of migrants in Libya is a human rights crisis. The breakdown in the justice system has led to a state of impunity, in which armed groups, criminal gangs, smugglers and traffickers control the flow of migrants through the country. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)  has  also  received  credible  information  that  some  members  of  State  institutions  and some  local  officials  have  participated  in  the  smuggling  and  trafficking  process.  Many [migrants and asylum seekers] … are subjected to  arbitrary detention, torture, other ill-treatment,unlawful killings, sexual exploitation, and a host of other human rights abuses. Migrants are also exploited as forced labour and suffer extortion by smugglers, traffickers, as well as members of State  institutions.  Women  migrants  are  the  most  exposed,  amidst  numerous  and  consistent reports of rape and other sexual violence.” The EU’s own scoping report reached similar conclusions.

Moreover, relying on UNHCR and IOM to ensure adequate monitoring will be challenging until they can return to Libya from Tunisia, where they mainly remain due to security constraints. In a joint statement, UNHCR and IOM made it clear that they do not support Libya’s use of automatic detention for migrants, and noted that “security constraints continue to hinder our ability to deliver life-saving assistance, provide basic services to the most vulnerable and find solutions through resettlement, assisted voluntary return or self-reliance”

Working with Libya to turn back boats before these issues have been addressed may well, therefore, while possibly preventing deaths at sea be putting people’s lives at risk on land. Twelve Libyan NGOs recently criticised the agreement, saying that it represented a fundamental “immoral and inhumane attitude” towards migrants and expressed concern over the “inhumane conditions” faced by migrants in detention centres in Libya. Outgoing UN special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler told the UN Security Council that repatriation via Libya could not work because of the humanitarian conditions in the country.
The international principle of non-refoulement prevents people being sent back to countries where there is a threat to their life or freedom; and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights “as  providing  an  effective  means  of  protection against all forms of return to places where there is a risk that an individual would be subjected  to  torture,  or  to  inhuman  or  degrading  treatment  or  punishment.”
A significant coalition of agencies working with refugees, including both secular organisations such as Amnesty International and such Christian agencies as Caritas Europa, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the ACT Alliance (a global coalition of 143 churches and church-related agencies) has stated: “European governments cannot themselves return people to Libya without breaching the international principle of non-refoulement – as people returned would be at risk of being exposed to serious human rights violations. Thus we see that the new EU policies, which aim to enhance the Libyan authorities’ ability to intercept refugees and migrants at sea and pull them back to Libya, represent a clear attempt to circumvent the EU’s international obligations, in plain disregard of the harsh consequences thousands of men, women and children would be exposed to. “

The agencies asked the European Council to:

  • Facilitate safe mobility by opening and strengthening safe and regular channels to Europe for refugees and migrants including through resettlement, humanitarian admission and humanitarian visas, family reunification, worker mobility across skill levels and student visas. Safeguard the right to seek asylum under all circumstances.
  • Review the plans set out by the Malta Summit to ensure that safeguards for human rights and respect for international law are in place; ensure that the human rights of those on the move are respected, regardless of their status, as set out in the Valletta Action Plan.
  • Guarantee that EU border management policies protect people and their rights, not aim to stop migratory movements. Fundamental freedoms must be upheld, and the security needs of different groups, including the most vulnerable, must be assessed.
  • Take evidence of human rights abuses in Libya seriously and stop any actions that may lead people to be pulled back towards the Libyan coast. The current approach risks violating people’s fundamental rights and the rule of law, including the principle of non-refoulement.
  • Thoroughly assess the human rights situation of migrants and the risks they face in Libya, and undertake objective and genuine impact assessment of the actions funded and coordinated by the EU and support international agencies in ensuring that Libya fulfils its duty to uphold human rights.
  • Demand specific measures to identify and protect vulnerable groups including children, migrants and refugees with disabilities, victims of torture or trafficking and those at risk of discrimination.
Please pray:

  • For those on the move, having fled their home countries and currently making their way to or from Libya.
  • For migrants and refugees held in reception sites in Libya; that they would be treated well and that God would give them peace as they wait with uncertainty about their future.
  • For wisdom and compassion for EU leaders as they look at issues on migration, and that they will hear and heed the concerns raised about the Malta Declaration.
  • That any implementation of the Malta Declaration does not contribute to further instability in the already fragile Libyan situation. Pray for stability for the Libyan government and people

South Sudan, Famine, Bangladesh Workers’ Rights: 19 Feb 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • South Sudan
  • Averting Famine
  • Short Notes: Bangladesh Workers’ Rights, Iraq and Pakistan

There are challenging words in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. They remind us that the call to holiness and love of neighbour is nothing abstract or easy: it entails everything from ensuring that all – including the “poor and the alien” – have what they need … to taking responsibility for helping each other live rightly … to loving enemies and praying for those who persecute us. As we ponder the readings, it’s good to let their challenge sink in … and to ask for grace to follow what they command.
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South Sudan

Please continue to pray for people affected by the disastrous situation in South Sudan.

In December, the UN warned the country was on the brink of genocide.  Atrocities continue to be perpetrated, and this week a general of the government Sudan People’s Liberation Army, Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka (a man who is respected by the international community) resigned saying, “President Kiir and his Dinka leadership clique have tactically and systematically transformed the SPLA into a partisan and tribal army. Terrorising their opponents, real or perceived, has become a preoccupation of the government.” The terrifying and costly impacts of the chaotic situation on local people trying to bring health care and relief to their region can be read here.

South Sudan’s economy is in ruins, with even military families – who would normally be amongst the more privileged – facing extreme hardship. Inflation rose to 830 percent at the end of last year and prices of basic foodstuffs are beyond the reach of most.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that nearly 7.5 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance and say that hunger and malnutrition have reached historic levels. They expect as many as 5 million people to be severely food insecure this year, adding, “more than one million children under age 5 are estimated to be acutely malnourished, including more than 273,600 who are severely malnourished”.

Over 1.5 million people have fled South Sudan since civil war broke out in December 2013,  making this the third largest refugee crisis in the world after Syria and Afghanistan. Some 698,000 refugees are being hosted in Uganda – the number tripling over the course of 6 months. More refugees entered Uganda last year than crossed the Mediterranean (PRI, UNHCR figures).  The UN reported that an average of over 3,300 people a day – more than 46,500 in total – entered during the two weeks between the 25th of January and the 7th of February. This represents more than the total number of asylum seekers being supported by the UK government at the year ending September 2016. And officials reported even greater numbers of people – 4,000 a day – entering in the week prior to February 16th.

Uganda has been lauded internationally for its openness to refugees. In addition to keeping its borders open, it has an official policy of allowing refugees freedom to travel and work, and to access education and health services. It also operates a ‘self-sufficiency policy’ offering refugees small plots of land on which to build houses and grow their own food, as well as basic resources to help with doing so – something which has been shown to benefit surrounding communities as well.

Uganda is endeavouring to do all this on a large scale very rapidly: the Bidibidi refugee camp has received over 270,000 refugees from South Sudan and is now at full capacity, having become one of the world’s largest refugee camps in just 6 months.  A piece from the Norwegian Refugee Council, published also in The Guardian, illustrates some positive stories of refugees and hosts in and around it. Amongst the refugees featured is 17-year-old Mary Kiden, who fled to Uganda from South Sudan last October with her brother and sisters. She expresses a note of hope: “It is good to be in Uganda. They allocated us a piece of land, we have free access to medical services and we feel safe. People were killed in South Sudan. It made me afraid. Here we no longer need to listen to the sound of the guns.”  Never Rukia, a Ugandan who is featured, says, “Wars are no good for the civilians. I am glad Uganda can give them land and provide security. It has some benefits for us as well. There are more goods being sold at the market now. And there are clean water sources available to us, as well as the refugees. I think we should stay together in harmony and share the available resources”.

The volume of refugees entering Uganda has, however, caused stresses in transit sites, refugee camps, and within the host communities. At a transit site in the Moyo district, refugees interviewed by Radio Miraya reported “dire conditions, mentioning a lack of basic necessities ranging from food, water and shelter to toilets and medicines.” Bidibidi has had issues with provision of water, power and food. With respect to food, last August a lack of funding forced the World Food Programme, UNHCR and the government of Uganda to halve the rations of South Sudanese refugees who had been in Uganda for more than a year – and as land becomes more scarce, the plots being given to some newer refugees to cultivate are widely recognised as not capable of supporting their needs. There are also tensions and flare-ups within the camp between refugees from different ethnic groups as the head of the camp, Robert Baryamwesiga, explains: “What is happening over in South Sudan affects the relationships of refugees in the settlement a great deal.”

As another snapshot, in this piece from Medecins sans Frontières, Rose and Richard share their stories of the violence that drove them to flee South Sudan and their experiences in the Bidibidi camp. They describe the relief they have found in Uganda, both in the finding a place of safety and in receiving basic, if limited, provisions.  But Richard, who now works as a translator for MSF, also describes the difficulties faced by people in the camp: “Most of our patients here have malaria. People are sleeping outside or have nowhere to hang the mosquito nets that have been distributed. There is also a lot of diarrhoea. People are neglecting the basics, cutting back on food and water, because they’re in a desperate situation and then they fall ill.” He also recalls a frightening altercation with some members of the local community in a dispute over land.

The Government of Uganda has noted that it cannot continue to absorb refugees well at current levels without greater assistance from the international community.

Please pray:

  • For peace in South Sudan – may God turn the hearts of the violent towards peace, and bring together the right people to work towards a new, just future
  • For healing for those who have suffered and/or are suffering as a result of the conflict.
  • In thanksgiving for all people and countries which are generous in welcoming refugees. Pray that they may receive the assistance that is necessary to enable them to continue their humanitarian efforts.

Averting Famine

South Sudan is one of four countries on the brink of famine. Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia are also at risk. Gareth Owen, humanitarian director of Save the Children, said: “The potential this year is we may have four famines looming, which is a truly scary thought and will stretch our resources. We are at a critical moment.” But the danger extends even more widely, with Owen adding, “Right now, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, there are 12 million people affected [by food insecurity]. These three countries together look as bad as Somalia in 2011. If you add South Sudan on top of that, with that conflict, and Nigeria, you have millions more. And Yemen has 18 million people. That’s creating this real concern that we are facing a major crisis that we have not seen before.”

In Yemen, the UN estimates that “an alarming 18.8 million people – more than two thirds of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 10.3 million people are acutely affected and need some form of immediate humanitarian assistance to save and sustain their lives including food, health and medical services, clean water & sanitation and protection. Nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished while 2 million people remain internally displaced”. Launching an appeal on February 8th to raise US$2.1 billion in assistance for Yemen, Stephen O’Brien, from the UN’s OCHA, said, “Two years of war have devastated Yemen and millions of children, women and men desperately need our help. Without international support, they may face the threat of famine in the course of 2017 and I urge donors to sustain and increase their support to our collective response.”

The FAO report that immediate intervention is needed to assist over 5 million people facing food insecurity in north-east Nigeria. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network says evidence indicates there has already been famine in some inaccessible parts of Borno State and that “There is an elevated likelihood that famine is ongoing and will continue in the inaccessible areas of Borno State”. In its analysis of the situation the FAO say, “The Boko Haram insurgency has led to massive displacements and high levels of food insecurity in the area. Already poor and vulnerable host communities have absorbed large numbers of people fleeing violence, placing considerable pressure on fragile agricultural and pastoral livelihoods, while the insecurity has severely disrupted markets and food availability”.

Oxfam has an appeal for the wider West Africa region, saying “A desperate humanitarian crisis is growing in parts of West Africa as a result of the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram and the military operations to counter them. The violence has spread from north-east Nigeria into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon forcing 2.6 million people to flee their homes and leaving over 11 million people in need of emergency aid. Unable to grow or buy food, or get to humanitarian aid, millions are going hungry. Thousands of people are estimated to have died already”.

Somalia is also at risk of famine. The short rainy season at the end of last year was poor and there is concern that if the long rainy season, due to start in April, fails, the possibility of famine will return. Already more than 6 million people – over half the population of Somalia – are in need of assistance (according to the FAO and Famine Early Warning Systems Network), with 3 million of these projected to be  “in crisis” or “in emergency” between now and June (up from 1.1 million six months ago).

The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq has warned, “we need to rapidly step up the humanitarian response to effectively respond to the extensive needs and avert a famine. If we do not scale up the drought response immediately, it will cost lives, further destroy livelihoods, and could undermine the pursuit of key State-building and peacebuilding initiatives. A drought – even one this severe – does not automatically have to mean catastrophe if we can respond early enough with timely support from the international community.”

Please pray:

  • For local and international organizations seeking to bring relief and aid in the face of multiple, acute crises and the resultant strain on resources and staff.
  • That governments, businesses and people around the world will respond to the extraordinary humanitarian needs rapidly and with generosity.
  • that in all the areas involved, God will bring an end to their conflicts, turn the hearts of the violent towards peace, and satisfy the needs of those who have suffered and are suffering because of the violence.

Short Notes: Bangladesh Workers’ Rights, Iraq and Pakistan

  • “You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.”Please pray for the safety, well-being – and release – of Bangladeshi labour leaders and garment workers who have been imprisoned after workers struck for a rise in the minimum wage. The minimum monthly wage for people working a 48-hour week (8 hours a day, 6 days a week) in Bangladesh is about $67, a little under £54: a worker on this wage is below the World Bank poverty level. In theory, overtime could give more (many labourers work far more hours) – but overtime abuses are rife, and pay can be docked for any number of causes, from making an error on a piece of work to not meeting a target (which could be 120 to 150 pieces of work an hour for 14 hours). The Asia Floor Wage Alliance has calculated that a living wage in Bangladesh would be $367 (£296) a month. Pray that the workers’ actions will lead to fairer pay and conditions for labourers in Bangladesh and more generally throughout the world. Pray that companies with supply chains in Bangladesh will genuinely press for action in this area.
  • Pray for those who were injured or who mourn the dead in the recent bombing of a street of car dealerships and garages frequented by Shia Muslims in Baghdad, which killed almost 60 people and injured 66. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. Pray, too, for the residents of Western Mosul, which the Iraqi Government is hoping to retake from the Islamic State: there are reports that hundreds of thousands of civilians are suffering from hunger and lack of access to water, and are generally ‘under extreme duress’.  Pray for those injured or left mourning by an attack, also claimed by the Islamic State, on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan. Pray for wisdom for all responding to the attacks and grant that they may act with courage and discernment, and avoid the temptation to mirror the behaviours they fight.

Featured Image: David Lemi, a refugee from South Sudan, photographed near his new home in Bidi Bidi refugee camp, Uganda. Image from Trocaire on Flickr: http://bit.ly/2leoaVZ. Reproduced with thanks via Creative Commons License.

‘The Fast That I Desire’ – Trade, Aid, Food: 5 Feb 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • “The fast that I desire”

This second part of our email ties into the Old Testament passage in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. Isaiah 58’s call to honour God by living justly is a constant source of inspiration: here are three reflections on phrases from verses 6 and 7.

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‘The fast that I desire’

To loose the bonds of injustice …

There are many forms of injustice in our world. But this week, as we’re coming up to Fairtrade Fortnight, we’ll focus on just one – the injustices in trade that concentrate power in the hands of wealthier countries and companies and leave small producers of commodities and manufactured goods unable to negotiate fair prices and working conditions.

For many years, the Trade Justice Movement’s logo has been an uneven balance, symbol of the way trade is often tilted against the poor. For Christians, this may bring to mind the prophet Amos, who raged against people who sought to profit unjustly by falsifying balances (Amos 8:5). At the small scale, such falsifications – and the fight against them – can still be a live issue in trade.  A few years ago, in a conversation with local Fairtrade supporters, one Ghanaian producer talked about how her cooperative was helping its members to ensure that the balances purchasers used to weigh products were accurately read, so that the producers got what they were owed. It felt quite Biblical!

On a larger scale, the Fair Trade movement’s standards help to ‘tip the balance’ back towards fairness overall by, for example, requiring companies that purchase Fairtrade goods to pay a price that covers or moves towards covering the costs of sustainable production. Fair Trade can also involve increasing producers’ negotiating power in other ways: when a Fairtrade producer group  was being given unhelpful terms by the government body that controlled trade in their product (and through whom they had to sell), the Fairtrade Foundation ensured that the producer group’s manager received training that enabled him to negotiate a fairer deal.

But Fair Trade is only part of the picture. There are wider questions about the rules of trade. For example, how, while enabling the flow of goods and services, do – or don’t – trade rules  protect workers’ rights, encourage small producers and low-income countries to grow and flourish, and address issues related to the concentration of economic power?

These are questions which are going to become ever more important for us in Britain. We’ll be setting a new trade policy at a time when trade issues are becoming more and more complex, in a world where many major countries explicitly state their intent to pursue national interests above all. How will we respond?  Will the UK, for example, commit to keeping EU rules that allow the poorest countries to export to us without facing tariffs and quotas? Will we negotiate new trade agreements in ways that take into account the good of the weak as well as the power of the strong … both domestically and internationally? (Check out this information from Traidcraft for a discussion of some of the issues)

As Christians seeking to live out the ‘fast’ that God desires, pray:

  • for all who are affected by trade injustice globally – that they may see the day when their mourning is turned to joy
  • for all who are working to tackle injustices in trade, that they may be given wisdom, courage and vision in their work
  • that those undertaking the UK’s – and other countries’ – trade negotiations in the days and years to come will have wisdom and godly vision
  • that we may be mindful of the need to love those neighbours – near and far – who make the goods we use each day.
  • that we will live out our love in daily, small-scale choices that favour justice … and that we’ll support larger-scale choices that favour justice, too.

To undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke

International Justice Mission works to free people from slavery, including such forms of slavery as bonded labour. If you haven’t encountered their work, we’d suggest looking at some of the case studies they’ve recently posted about their activities helping people trapped in bonded labour in India. They’ve joined with local authorities to free people who had been trafficked into bonded labour and to pursue justice in the courts, gaining convictions of those who enslaved and tortured workers. They also offer after-care programmes for those who are released from slavery.

It’s estimated that there are tens of millions of people around the world who are enslaved. In the UK, it’s estimated that there may be up to 13,000 people living in slavery, many of them trafficked.

At a local level, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has called on all of us to keep our eyes and ears open for the signs that people might be trafficked:

“To understand where each and every one of us can make a difference and how we can play our part, we must first fully acknowledge this as a criminal phenomenon that can unwittingly interact in our daily lives. We must become intolerant to the presence of modern slavery by making a moral choice – let’s stop using substandard car washes, let’s question the price of our products, let’s look twice at the rough sleeper begging on the street…

Let’s choose to open our eyes to see whether those on farms and construction sites are wearing appropriate clothing and using appropriate gear. Let’s choose to think carefully when we notice a worker who appears injured or malnourished. Let’s choose to stop what we are doing when we see residential homes with curtains constantly closed and countless clients visiting the premises night after night. Let’s choose to give attention to who takes our cash at nail salons and whether the technicians doing the work are open to conversation. Let’s choose to notice when numerous people are being transported from a single home to work in fields for hours on end.”

There’s also the broader question of slavery in supply chains. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act (2015) requires companies with a turnover of more than £36 million to “engage in meaningful due diligence to find risks and produce robust statements detailing the steps they have taken that year to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking from their operations and supply chains. These statements must be approved by the company boards and signed by a company director (or equivalent), and be available from the homepage of the company’s website.” There’s still a long way to go, though, until this is as effective as the proponents of the legislation had hoped. Analysis of companies’ reports, and public engagement with that analysis, are part of the process of making the legislation effective. Organisations such as the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and ECCR, Stop the Traffik and USPG have scrutinised the reports that leading companies have provided, and the latter coalition has provided a series of questions that people can ask any companies in which they have investments. But we need more analysis – and more people need to ask questions, both as investors and as users of the goods and services that companies provide.

As Christians seeking to live out the fast that God desires, pray:

  • for all who are suffering because they or those they care about are enslaved.
  • that we can keep our eyes open for the signs of slavery in our communities and alert local authorities, so that they can free those who are enslaved and bring perpetrators of trafficking to justice.
  • that we can advocate for victims of trafficking to be treated with compassion and justice
  • that we can support those who are working to end slavery in other contexts, and
  • that we can be part of a movement to scrutinise the actions of companies, wherever they are, and to bring greater transparency and justice into supply chains.

Action Points: Could you take a look at Stop the Traffik’s materials on fighting trafficking? They have everything from practical guides giving the signs that someone might be trafficked to guidance for businesses in particular sectors to prayer materials for churches. Could you use the ECCR/Stop the Traffick/USPG questions for businesses?

To share your bread with the hungry

A few years ago, I (Maranda) visited a tiny pre-school housed in a church in a remote settlement near the South African border with Botswana. It was winter, and freezing cold  outside – there had been frost on the ground earlier. And it was cold inside as well: the church had no heating, and the chill came in through the thin windows and the cracks and holes in the metal roof. The children, bundled up in sweaters, fleeces, or – if they were fortunate – parkas, sat on tiny plastic chairs and worked on colouring and other projects. The school couldn’t offer them much in the way of resources – but it offered safety, a sense of order, what enrichment it could on limited resources … and food.

It offered the food despite the fact that the government often wasn’t paying the costs of doing so. Indeed, when I visited, the government was at times failing to pay any of the costs associated with running the pre-school: the women working there hadn’t received a salary in over a year. And yet, they continued working. And the leader told me that when the government money to provide food for the children didn’t come in, the women themselves, despite not being paid, often took food from their own houses so that they could offer the children meals.

As Christians seeking to live out the ‘fast’ that God desires, please pray:

  • for all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition
  • for all who give sacrificially of their own food so that others may have something to eat
  • for organisations that are working to provide food to people caught up in humanitarian crises
  • for organisations that are working to secure sustainable and equitable access to food for all people in the long term
  • that we, as Christians, may share our bread – literally and figuratively – with those who are hungry

Action Point: If you don’t already, could you share locally? Or with people farther afield? The UN and development agencies presently support millions of people displaced from their food supplies by conflict and natural disaster. News reports indicate that the World Food Programme has just had to halve the rations of 1.4 million displaced Iraqis; in December, they were forced to cut rations for people in Kenya’s refugee camps. Could you donate to the World Food Programme, or to another agency, such as CAFOD, Christian Aid, or Tearfund, which offers humanitarian relief? Could you write to your MP to express thanks for the UK’s contributions – like this one – to helping provide humanitarian relief, so that MPs know there’s a constituency that supports such aid?