- Freedom Sunday
- Short Notes: Ethical Investment, Nigeria, Fair Trade, Updates (Climate, Tax, Conflict in the CAR)
This week's Revised Common Lectionary readings offer food for reflection on the way God calls people. In the reading from Isaiah, Cyrus is portrayed as God's agent, called by God for the sake of God's people and "though you do not know me"; Paul speaks of a call that overcomes persecution and leads to a life of faith. What is our calling? How do we see God's calling in the lives of others?
This Sunday is Freedom Sunday, a day of worship, prayer and action for those affected by human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the activity undertaken by those who recruit, transport, transfer, harbour or receive people "for the purpose of exploitation." This might include prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or servitude, or organ harvesting. Traffickers derive power over the people they exploit by means that include use or threat of force, coercion, deception, abuse of a position of responsibility, or payment made to someone who has control over the trafficked person - as, for example, to a child's parents.
Traffickers dehumanise the people they target, treating them as commodities, depriving them of freedom and dignity, and forcing them to engage in activities which are contrary to human flourishing. Such actions deny the value God has instilled in each human being and do violence to the mutuality, love, respect and justice which characterise right relationships in God's Kingdom (see the Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery paper by the Mission Theology Advisory Group for a full discussion of these themes).
At present there is particular concern about the high number of children who are being targeted by traffickers. The traffickers often focus on poor communities, offering children and their families the prospect of employment in cities. But instead of employment, it's estimated that as many as 1.2 million children taken from their homes every year find themselves trafficked - forced into prostitution, placed in unpaid or poorly paid labour, or in some cases even used for their organs.
Can this be changed? Agencies like Tearfund, which is focusing on the issue with its "No Child Taken" campaign, are finding that they or their partners can, by working with whole communities, counter the traffickers. Such work begins by educating parents and community leaders about the dangers of trafficking, and the likely result for their children. It continues by building up community networks, often involving churches, which can take responsibility for vulnerable children as well as seeking to prevent traffickers having easy access to their town or village.
Education and the creation of support networks is important not only elsewhere in the world, but also in the UK, into which 2744 people were estimated to have been trafficked last year, many being subject to sexual exploitation. The challenge to us is real: can we become communities which will not allow victims of trafficking to go unnoticed and unbefriended?
This Freedom Sunday, please pray:
- for people who have been trafficked - that they may find freedom and healing
- for traffickers, that their hearts may be turned, so that they stop exploiting people and become part of a web of right, rather than distorted, relationships
- for people at risk of trafficking, that they may be protected from those who would exploit them
- for the work of governments, individuals, agencies, churches and other groups who are seeking to befriend and protect people who are at risk of experiencing or who have experienced trafficking. Pray for wisdom, safety, courage and effectiveness
- for an end to the poverty and hopelessness which so often place people at risk of being trafficked
Resources (can be used at any time):
Short Notes: Ethical Investment, Nigeria, Fair Trade, Updates (Climate, Tax, Conflict in CAR)
- Ethical Investment
What should Christian attitudes towards holding property be? From the beginning of the Christian era, this has been a lively topic of debate. Jesus called the rich young ruler to give up everything to follow Him - and some Christians throughout the centuries have felt this calling. Other followers of Jesus clearly used their wealth to provide for the needs for the Lord and His followers. In the early church, Acts tells us that all things were held in common to provide for the needs of the community.
If one believes that holding property is appropriate for Christians, then what does Christian stewardship of that property look like? How can Christians - as individuals and within institutions - use their resources in ways that don't injure others and that contribute to the common good?
Using money for the common good is the theme of National Ethical Investment Week - now renamed "Good Money Week." The "Good Money Week" website offers links to many opportunities "to ensure those you trust with your money are looking after it well and using it in ways that benefit society and protect the environment." It includes links to information about ethical investment, case studies of people who have used their money in ways that provide environmental and social returns, a toolkit for taking action, and more.
- that all people who have property will consider how they can best use it
- that Christians will see their relationship with money and material goods as a matter of discipleship, and will seek God's guidance in this area
- in thanksgiving for all who use the resources of money, time and talent they have wisely and well
"Local and International News Media have been agog with news that the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Boko Haram Sect have reached a cease fire, which also includes the release of the 219 abducted Chibok girls. While we await official confirmation from our President over this development, we are extremely anxious but cautiously optimistic that the abducted Chibok girls will be released swiftly or at least in a matter of days ..." Bring Back Our Girls campaign statement
On Friday, the Nigerian government told media that negotiations with Boko Haram had led to a ceasefire that would see the release of the Chibok girls and others who have been abducted in the conflict in the northeast of the country.
While reactions inside and outside Nigeria were broadly positive, many articulated reasons for caution in assessing this news: The Guardian and BBC note that the Nigerian government has made similar claims before without result, and The Guardian cites uncertainties around the authority of at least one person named as a Boko Haram negotiator. Little has been said about the terms of the agreement, either. As time has gone on, and people have been killed despite the supposed truce, hope seems more distant - but it is still present.
As we await further news about the Nigerian conflict and the fate of the Chibok girls, please pray:
- for all who have been abducted in the northern Nigerian conflict, and for their families. Pray that they may know the consolation of God's presence and love, and that they may be safely reunited.
- for the Nigerian government, that it may have wisdom and discernment in its negotiations with Boko Haram.
- that the hearts of all who are prone to violence may be changed, and justice and peace come to the region.
- Fair Trade
This week, the Fairtrade Foundation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Fairtrade mark. Hundreds of campaigners, representatives of businesses engaging in Fairtrade, government officials, NGO staff, academics, journalists and others came together to celebrate the impact that Fairtrade has had and to look at the opportunities and challenges for the future. You can read the press releases relating to the 20th anniversary and see the 20th anniversary video.
We'll be looking at some of the questions raised about the future next month. For now, here are some points of thanksgiving for what has been accomplished.
As Fairtrade celebrates its 20th birthday, please give thanks for:
- the growth of Fairtrade over the past twenty years. As the range of lines has grown from 3 to over 4,500, the number of people helped by fair prices, premiums and other forms of support has grown by millions.
- the way in which Fairtrade has helped to overturn the assumption that people are unwilling to consider ethics when they make purchases and has brought (as National Campaigner Committee Chair Sue Bentley reminded people at the 20th anniversary) values of justice, kindness and humility into the marketplace
- the lives saved by clinics Fairtrade paid for, the children who have learned to read in schools Fairtrade premiums paid for, the communities improved by roads and access to utilities that Fairtrade premiums paid for ...
- the lively debate about the future of Fair Trade, and the campaigners and activist businesses who seek to ensure it stays faithful to its values
Climate: This week the European Union will seek to decide on climate and energy targets for 2030. The three key areas under consideration are emissions reductions, increases in energy efficiency, and increases in the percentage of renewable energy in the European energy "mix." On emissions reductions, the current consensus appears to be a target of 40% below 1990 levels, though many ( see analysis from RTCC, The Carbon Brief, Oxfam) feel that the proposed measures are not strong enough, and some countries, such as Sweden, Germany and the UK, are said to be pushing for greater reductions.
Please pray for courage and wisdom for those at the EU meeting this week. Pray that all EU members will be able to act as wise stewards of creation and will provide inspiration for others to take positive action at the UN climate talks in December.
Tax: In this week's Revised Common Lectionary readings, Jesus skillfully avoids the trap set for him by the Pharisees' question on tax. A good week to re-read Paula Clifford's and Richard Murphy's pieces on the theology of tax justice - and to look forward to some forthcoming work on the topic. It's also worth looking at the Christian Aid report that shows how much money the government of Sierra Leone has lost through tax incentives - money that could have been used to build the health structure that has been so catastrophically lacking in recent months.
- for work going on in preparation for November's G20 meeting to ensure that companies and individuals pay the taxes that they owe;
- that the money raised from taxes will be used for the common good; and
- that people will understand the role of tax in creating just and equitable societies
- in thanksgiving for the work of Christian Aid, the Tax Justice Network, Action Aid and others in raising tax justice issues
Conflict in the CAR: The focus right now is on Iraq and Syria - and please do keep the people of that region in your prayers. But please also pray for the people of the Central African Republic. While the country has fallen off the news radar, there have been both positive and negative developments. Overall, despite the presence of the new UN peacekeeping forces, the country remains unstable and divided, and in recent weeks, there have been renewed outbreaks of violence in the capital, Bangui, as well as in the central and western portions of the country. At the same time, the heroic work of individuals working within their society for reconciliation continues, and there are some efforts at rebuilding.
for teachers and children in temporary schools and those schools that have reopened for a new school year in spite of the difficulties
- for all people who have been caught between the different armed groups and who have lost family, friends, homes and/or livelihoods. Pray that they may receive (or continue to receive) the healing of memories and hearts, a certainty of God's presence, the meeting of key material needs, and hope of new life.
- for wisdom and discernment for peacekeepers and for safety for minorities in areas where they are under attack.
- for wisdom and discernment for the government and those seeking to determine how the transition process in the country will unfold.
- that those who are seeking revenge will learn reconciliation and turn from violence.
- in thanksgiving for people like Fr Bernard Kinvi and Remy. Pray for the work they and their Christian and Muslim co-workers are doing for peace. Give thanks, too, for the reconciliation groups being run by the Catholic Relief Services and for those who participate in them.
- for the safety of Father Mateusz Dziedzic and all who have been taken hostage by armed forces
- for those who are working to rebuild and to ensure that vital physical and spiritual needs are met. Pray that the violence that is impeding agencies (for example, MSF) from delivering assistance will cease.