One of the appealing characteristics of the Uniting Church is the passion many members have for social justice. We acknowledge that from the Old Testament prophets through Jesus’ commands that we love God and our neighbour there is concern for the poor and the disadvantaged. There are 2000 verses in the Bible which speak about the poor.
Many congregations have impressive ways of helping the needy at a local level and Christians are generous in responding to financial appeals. On every aid agency website there is often a big button which says “donate”. However, there is a limit to how much we are able to give financially.
Fair trade is a way of expressing the love of God and neighbour by helping people overseas within our personal shopping budget.
We can start with fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate. These products are now regularly available on supermarket shelves.
The label fair trade simply means that the people who produced the goods received a fair wage for their labour, working in healthy conditions and in an environmentally sustainable way. This is surely what we expect for workers in Australia.
Although many Christians recognise the fair trade label it seems we are often blocked from taking the step to purchase those products because we are thinking more of what satisfies us rather than how our purchases affect the producer.
I believe we need to move towards a fair trade culture where our default purchasing position for all sorts of goods is to seek first the fair trade option.
Edinburgh now has Fairtrade City status where fair trade is a part of the culture of the community. The city council officially works towards associated goals and regularly meets with businesses to find ways to promote the issue in the Scottish city.
Our churches can develop a similar fair trade culture by becoming fair trade faith communities. This means that fair trade tea and coffee are served after church and at church functions, and that an event is held annually promoting fair trade.
At this month’s 32nd Synod meeting there will be a fair trade stand providing more information, so if you are attending please drop by and say hello.
The Fair Trade Association website has further information and a comprehensive shopping guide, fta.org.au. Many resources can also be found at Fairtrade Australia, a labelling authority, fairtrade.com.au
Rev John Martin