It is the start of FairTrade Fortnight, which has got us thinking: Are our decisions to try and live more ethically an act of mission as well as a way to live out our personal faith?
We asked three women who have made changes in their lives, and are encouraging others in their ethical decisions too, to tell us about the outworking of their faith…
Mim Skinner is co-founder of REfUSE, which is based in Chester-Le-Street:
“I frequently pray, as part of the Lord’s Prayer, that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Ethical living is just part of the way that we live out that mission statement. God’s Kingdom champions fairness, grace and equality. It looks at what has been labeled worthless and gives it value.
I help to run a project called REfUSE where we collect food that would go to waste and use it to draw people into kind and inclusive community though our Pay As You Feel Cafe. We created a community hub from a disused building which is sustained by a group of people from hugely diverse backgrounds working together. If God’s Kingdom is about sitting around waiting for it all to come good, then we’ve missed the point. Our mission is to live like we want to bring it to earth now. By consuming fairly, standing up to the waste and overconsumption that’s become a normal part of our culture and recognising the God-given value of people and places that can otherwise be overlooked.”
Hazel Dobson is Manager of the Gateway World Trade shop at St Nicholas Church, Durham
“Fair Trade Is a Ministry.
Fair Trade is a place you can bring your faith and your beliefs, a place where you know you are making a difference. It’s more than just business it’s a ministry we can all take part in whether we are the exporter, importer, retailer, seller or buyer of the end product.
Fair Trade offers dignity, independence, empowerment, sustainability, educational and development opportunities to those who only want to work themselves out of poverty.
Gateway World Shop in St Nicholas Church, Durham has been trading for justice for 40 years supporting artisans, food producers and special projects from all over the world. It’s not only a welcoming way into the church and an integral part of Durham’s Market Place it’s a gateway to the whole world. Over the years the staff and volunteers there have been instrumental in forming BAFTS (British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers) and also largely responsible for Durham’s ‘Fair Trade City’ status being awarded. All BAFTS members follow the 10 principles of Fair Trade as laid down by WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) and BAFTS is a National Network member of WFTO. Durham and St Nic’s has an interesting Fair Trade history and the church has given the space for Gateway to trade fairly as part of its ministry to the world’s poor since 1979. The shop is run by employees of the Gateway Trust which is a charity and has elected, unpaid directors and they manage a fund specifically for the relief of poverty through the development of Fair Trade businesses.
As the present manager of Gateway I have visited artisans and producers and hosted them in Durham too, as well as sharing these travels with others in many presentations. The beauty of Fair Trade products is that they almost all have a story to tell and can be traced back to the group that made them. In Gateway we use these stories as part of our mission to educate potential customers about Fair Trade and it can be very liberating for them to know they have made a difference to someone’s life. In our country most people have no idea and have not really been taught to care about where their goods come from or the lives of the people who produced them.
Fair Trade suppliers have very often become traders because of travelling abroad and being shocked by what they have seen and then committing to making a difference. There is an old adage about not being able to change everything for everyone, but if everyone changed even just one of their products to a fairly traded one the difference would be vast. Imagine if we all committed to a complete change in our buying power how the world would be radically different.
It’s not charity to buy Fair Trade; it’s not a donation but an investment in someone’s future. So supporting it is a no-brainer because the effect can mean permanent change in a community – schools, healthcare and sanitation, ecological and environmental improvements. Fair Trade addresses the concerns of the poor; it changes their situations and their lives for the better.”
If you are looking to take part in Fairtrade Fortnight, these resources may be just what you’re looking for – from recipes, to partners’ stories to posters to print and go! It’s all here!
Hannah – Previous Chair of CEYC, Youth Children and Families Minister, lover of camping, rock music and documentaries!
“For me, living ethically is a Scripture-based way of life that amounts to being called to witness and worship!
Following Jesus is counter-cultural and in that process we show others how following Jesus makes a difference – it changes the way you act, live and think.
Asking hard questions about where I’m buying from, who I’m paying, why I need it and thinking about the effects my singular purchase can make is all based in how my actions have potential for real harm or for showing God’s love to all I meet.
Trying to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly” and love everyone (including the people I’ve not met, who make my clothes, for example) in a Christ-like way has been the hardest counter-cultural shift. Harder, in fact, than I ever thought possible – full of pitfalls, unseen traps, learning curves and ‘duuuhh’ moments! But it is also, without a doubt the closest I’ve felt to following Jesus.
A small group of us from CEYC (the Church of England Youth Council) started the “Ethical Living Community UK” Facebook group to create a community that was going on a journey together. It’s sooo hard to live like this and you need a group around you with top tips, etc. The group was created after we were challenged by some workshops and discussions at a CEYC event.
Over the past couple of years, it has grown to become a diverse collection of people where those of all faiths and none have joined because of the focus on ethical living. They then are seeing Christians actually living it because of their faith and can perhaps form a different perspective.”