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Churches called to campaign for fair trade

02 November 2006

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; www.chpublishing.co.uk).

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