Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February – 10 March) raises a range of issues that may feed into your worship planning or church activities, supported b the lectionary readings and StF’s suggestions for accompanying hymns.
This year, Fairtrade organisers are highlighting their #SheDeserves campaign. They tell the story of cocoa farmers in West Africa, women in particular, and highlight their need to earn a living income. A living wage, say the campaign organisers, is a human right.
This is not just about paying a bit more to purchase Fairtrade chocolate bars in our local supermarket. For producers, it is about accessing training, investing in farm improvements, an about a re-balancing of power. Fair trade is about the reconciliation of “consumer and producer, which is a relationship distorted by injustice”.
The lectionary Old Testament readings that bookend Fairtrade Fortnight this year (Sundays 24 February and 10 March) offer a striking pair of avenues into this theme and as usual we accompany them with helpful hymn suggestions. See also the Justice and Peace section (#693-723) in Singing the Faith.
In Genesis 45: 3-11, 15 (24 February) the sons of Jacob (now called Israel) come face to face with the head man in Egypt, to whom they have turned for much needed food in a time of shortage and austerity. The head man is of course Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph, presumed dead. He has been holding one son, Simeon, hostage, and, to the brothers’ horror, implicated the youngest of them, Benjamin, in an act of theft. The reasons for how Jacob’s family have been brought to this pass, are complicated, and personal responsibility weighs heavily in the story.
Nevertheless, in the light of Fairtrade fortnight, our attention is surely drawn to the power balance between Egypt and Jacob’s homeland – between the haves and the have nots. Joseph’s brothers lack power, autonomy and choice.
Such a situation is also recalled in Deuteronomy 26: 1-11 (10 March). Here, the Hebrew people are required to offer God first fruits and tithes – in return for which “you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house”. Aliens, too, will have sufficient – resources are shared appropriately.
Perhaps we will be reminded of Fairtrade’s statement:
“£1.98 is the amount a cocoa farmer in West Africa needs to earn each day in order to achieve a living income. Currently, a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on less than 78p a day. Almost all cocoa farmers in West Africa live in poverty, despite some chocolate companies making massive profits.”
“If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”