by Rachel Harden
THE Christian community is in a unique position to make its voice heard
among international decision-makers in a new drive to combat global poverty,
says a new report released this week.
The report, Trade Justice: A Christian response to global poverty,
which was commissioned by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs
Council and written by Christian Aid, will inform a debate on international
trade at the General Synod next month.
The report stresses that Churches constitute one of the few remaining
community-based organisations in this country, having members meeting weekly in
almost every town and village. It calls on Churches to campaign for justice in
world trade, and contains a section on “how to communicate this report to your
parish or synod”. Congregations are encouraged to lobby MPs and join events
during a Global Week of Action in April next year.
The report regards 2005 as being of critical importance, as the UK will host
the G8 Summit and will take over the presidency of the European Union for six
months from July.
The Mission and Public Affairs Council commissioned the report at the end of
last year, after noting that a number of dioceses had passed motions on fair
trade and trade justice. It “recognised that the main focus of the Churches’
development agenda had shifted in the past three years away from debt-relief to
international trade”. But it stressed that the campaign for the cancellation of
Third World debt remained a priority.
The report contains a chapter on a theological approach to world trade, and
looks in detail at how international trade laws are developed: who makes them,
and why they “are systematically biased against the interests of poor
communities and poor countries”.
Ghana is described as one country that has suffered under new, more liberal
international trade laws. “Since Ghana reduced its tariffs and opened its
markets to more international trade, Ghanaian farmers have struggled to compete
against cheap imports — many of them subsidised by either the US government or
the European Union,” it says.
In the preface, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, who
chairs Christian Aid’s Board, says: “Responding to God’s call to work for
justice in the world, the Church has a responsibility to be at the forefront of
moves to transform the world . . . There are many ways in which the Church
seeks to do this, including prayer and raising money to fund development and
relief work throughout the world. But one of the most important is in
supporting the growing international campaign for trade justice.”
Trade Justice: A Christian response to global poverty
(£4.99, Church House Publishing; 0-7151-4047-7;