• 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 begins this Monday - and already there's been a significant announcement and the launch of a new short advertising film.
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.
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 ...
And some of them started to participate in the church because they feel acknowledged, they feel welcomed, they feel in a place that they can rely on. There are some very bold projects with sex workers or transvestites or gay people who are very marginalised. When our church opens the door they feel actually welcomed – and they think, “I’ve never seen this before, I was never welcomed into the church, I am in a place where at first nobody wants to change me, but just welcome me." So it’s touching; it’s emotional actually. Lots of work is being done with disabled people, in Peru for instance and in the Costa Rica church too we see lots of provinces very committed to human rights issues.
* * *
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.
(Marie Pattison, Katherine House)
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.
• 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