Thursday, 20 October 2011

Every Week's a Chocolate Week, but at what price?

The Joint Public Issues Team is a unique ecumenical relationship which enables our three churches to have a social and political voice. This is my last blog before retiring, and I don't doubt that I shall miss the stimulation of working in the Team! For example, I didn't know it was Chocolate Week until URC colleague Wendy Cooper led us in reflection and prayer for the growers. I love the stuff, but I shall never again eat chocolate in ignorance again.

Of course we all know that Tradecraft, Divine, and the Meaningful Chocolate Company produce Fairly Traded chocolate and why. It was fantastic to hear how growers in the Dominican Republic have used their Fair Trade increments to buy better machinery, new storage sheds, and so increase their yield. Their raised profits have enabled them to build schools for their children and improve their standard of living.

But for five years, Methodist Colleague Steve Hucklesby has monitored the campaigns against the illegal use of child labour by chocolate growers in the major producing countries: Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Unless we only buy Fairly Traded chocolate, it is highly likely that we will be eating or drinking chocolate from huge African plantations supplying Western companies, and Western sweet teeth - on the backs of children.

African farmers should be free to grow food for their children, and sell the surplus produce in order to send their children to school and on to higher education, or at the very least being paid a Fair Trade price for their crop of cocoa beans. I think I know what Jesus would have said about it!

This week is also Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday, and you may have heard him speaking on the Sunday Programme on BBC Radio 4 (09.10.11). His prophetic voice speaks condemns injustice. On this occasion he said, "I shall never keep quiet. It isn't because I am a political animal. It is all to do with my understanding of the God who is revealed in the Bible; this God who has this notorious bias in favour of the downtrodden and the despised."

We do wish Archbishop Desmond Tutu a very Happy Birthday, and thank God for his spiritual leadership which continues to influence so many lives.

Twenty years his junior, I shall continue to read the Joint Public Issues Team's newsletter and vote, and lobby my MP on issues which threaten the livelihoods of the millions whom God cares for the most.