Thought of the week

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?

Although we are promised that better times lie ahead, these continue to be hard and difficult days. And now we come to the most challenging period of the church’s year: the dark days of Lent leading up to Good Friday. In his recent Thought for the Week Michael Kingston reminded us of the purposes of this Lenten season - deepening our spiritual life and relationship with God; practising self-discipline; and giving charitably to good causes.

I would like you to add an additional element, which bears the imprint of each of them, because this week we are in the middle of ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’ when, in normal times, thousands of individuals and groups across the UK come together to share the stories of the people who grow so much of our food and drink, mine our gold and grow the cotton in our clothes - people who are so often exploited and underpaid.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is asked: “Who is my neighbour?” His answer is to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan – the one who showed kindness. Who are our neighbours today? The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us more than ever how interconnected we all are globally. This interconnection is at the very heart of the Fairtrade message – understanding our relationships with people we will never meet, but on whom we depend for so much of what we buy, just as they depend on us for their incomes and livelihoods. Buying Fairtrade means buying responsibly and following this path gives us the power to drive long-term change, not only with our shopping choices

but with our support in spreading the message. 

Right now, farmers and workers in the communities Fairtrade works with not only face the pandemic, they also face the growing challenges of climate change. Climate change is an immediate and ever-increasing threat across much of the world. While it is having its effects here in Britain, we have yet to see the scale of change and harm that is affecting many other parts of our world. The facts are straightforward. Farmers and workers in poor countries like Bangladesh, Honduras and Kenya, who have done the least to contribute to climate change, are affected by it far more than we are. Right now:

  • Climate change is one of their biggest challenges – droughts in Kenya, hurricanes in Honduras, floods in Bangladesh. 

  • Shrinking harvests and low prices for their crops mean that they are struggling to fight back. 

  • Only with more money will they feel equipped to meet their everyday needs and deal with the challenges they face from climate change.  

The global COVID pandemic brings additional challenges for farmers, with falling commodity prices and widespread shocks reverberating along our global supply chains. Ongoing poverty in farming communities makes it increasingly hard to cope with the effects of climate change. 

They should be at the heart of our concerns. Our global trading system favours the rich and powerful few. Trapped in this system, poor farmers already struggle to meet their immediate needs. More than ever, they need a fair price for their crops and all their hard work. ​ 

Fairtrade works to give farmers and producers a fair price, to raise the voices of farmers and workers and prioritise what they need to respond to the environmental crises unfolding in already vulnerable communities. This Fortnight, among your many concerns, please give time to recognise the challenges that these neighbours of our around the world face from climate change and show your support by buying Fairtrade. 

 

Colin Cockshaw