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Workers bear the Cross – sweatshop makes “Jesus junk”

Crucifixes made at the Junxingye Factory in China. Photo smuggled out of the factory by the National Labor Committee www.nlcnet.org

A disturbing report from the US based National Labor Committee (NLC) claims that religious goods sold in Christian bookshops are manufactured in a Chinese sweatshop by workers labouring under abysmal conditions.
Workers are reportedly paid just 26½ cents an hour, less than half China’s legal minimum wage of 55 cents, which is itself set at below subsistence levels.

The report indicated workers were routinely at the factory over 100 hours a week, including being forced to work 51 hours of overtime.

The report also indicated that workers were housed in primitive, filthy company dorms, sleeping on narrow, double-decker bunk beds. There was also concern that workers may be handling toxic chemicals, paints and solvents whose fumes sting their eyes and skin contact causes rashes.

The religious goods made at the factory are distributed in the US by the Association for Christian Retail.

The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has launched an investigation into whether items such as crosses and nativity sets currently sold in Christian specialty stores across Australia are made under similarly horrific work conditions.

Victoria and Tasmania Synod Director of Justice and International Mission Dr Mark Zirnsak told Crosslight, “The Christian community in Australia needs to take action to ensure that goods sold to proclaim the glory of God are not made through gross violations of the person who made them.

“In many ways it is also exploiting the good intentions of people who purchase such material. Many would be shocked to know that treasured religious items were made through the exploitation of young people,” Dr Zirnsak said.
Journey contacted a number of Christian bookshops in Brisbane to ask what assurances they had that religious paraphernalia sold in their shops was made under humane conditions, by workers whose fundamental rights are respected and are paid a fair wage.

National buyer for gifts for Koorong Books Mr Robert Rombay told Journey he had no knowledge of the companies named in the NLC report. He said Koorong checked when possible that there were no abuse of labour in the manufacture of goods, but it was difficult to be 100% certain.

“We actually import very little for our gift range directly from China. “Most of the things we buy come in from wholesalers or suppliers in the USA,” Mr Rombay said. “Some of their stuff would be made in China too but that would be up to the USA to ensure their suppliers were checking it as well.”

Minister at Broadwater Road Uniting Church, which manages Vision Books, Rev Bruce Johnson said his bookshop didn’t sell “Jesus junk”.

“Our original intention was to pick up the gap of getting access to Uniting Church resources in Queensland but has expanded in response to people looking for books they can’t access from the larger Christian bookshops,” Mr Johnson said.

Journey asked Mr Johnson why Vision Books didn’t sell Bible covers and fridge magnets.  “We just can’t see the point,” he said. “You can get them anywhere else so why would we bother.”

To read the full NLC report go to www.nlcnet.org

Photo : Crucifixes made at the Junxingye Factory in China. Photo smuggled out of the factory by the National Labor Committee www.nlcnet.org