Michael Walsh is an active parishioner at Our Lady and St George in Enfield and an office volunteer at the CAFOD Westminster office. Here, he tells you how to put your faith into action by making your parish Fairtrade.
Pope Francis reminds us that as Christians we should never consider ourselves exempt from concern for the poor. In the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he insists that the current state of play is not acceptable: society needs to be cured of a sickness which is “weakening and frustrating it”. It needs to reject speculation and uncontrolled markets to eliminate the deep-rooted causes of poverty and inequality.
The Pope recognises that this requires politicians and governments to take heed and “broaden their horizons”, but these issues involve everyone. So what can the rest of us do in our daily lives and in our local communities to bring about change peacefully?
Here in Enfield, we’ve been taking steps together to show solidarity with the world’s poorest people. We’ve brought together a group of parishioners who, when buying their every day groceries and clothing, choose to make a difference by supporting better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. This means purchasing Fairtrade products.
The Fairtrade Foundation, founded by CAFOD and five other charities in 1992, recognises products where producers and farmers are paid a fair price for their goods, and are given a little bit extra to put back into their communities. The idea is that the more consumers buy fairly-traded goods, the closer we come to the transformation of markets and business practices. This means the poorest farmers and workers can improve their position and have more control over their lives.
A few years ago our parish priest readily agreed that we should become a Fairtrade parish. Nearly half of the parishes in the Westminster Diocese have made the same commitment: a few more and Westminster itself will be a Fairtrade diocese! Will your parish be the one which tips the balance?
Why become a Fairtrade parish?
By supporting and promoting Fairtrade within your own parish, you are speaking out for a fairer global food system. This is something CAFOD has been asking all of us to do with its Hungry for change campaign. When the Diocese of Westminster is recognised as a Fairtrade one, it will give our campaigning a bigger impact and inspire more people to think about where their food comes from. This could happen in your diocese and parish too.
How do I do it?
There are three simple steps that your parish needs to take in order to become Fairtrade:
• Use Fairtrade tea and coffee after services and at all parish meetings.
• Strive to use other Fairtrade products (such as sugar, biscuits and fruit).
• Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and throughout the rest of the year during social events, worship and any other relevant activities. If you’d like more information on how to do this then read the Fairtrade Church Action Guide.
Once your parish meets these criteria, submit an application form to apply for Fairtrade status. If your application is successful, you’ll receive a lovely certificate to display in your church.
I wish you all the best of luck on your own Fairtrade journeys!
CAFOD is supporting Fairtrade Fortnight as part of our Hungry for change campaign. Find out more.