Faith and Fair Trade

By Alaina Paradise

“Now listen you rich oppressors, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you… Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. “ ~ James 5:1,4

The Bible is clear that God detests injustice and oppression. This verse from the book of James speaks of unfair treatment of workers who have earned their wages through hard work but are not paid. Unfortunately, this is an injustice that is happening all over the world, even today. Agricultural workers are not paid for their hours, they are forced into unpaid overtime, or required to reach outrageous harvest quotas before getting minimum pay. In many cases, women suffer physical or sexual harassment and abuse. The environment is polluted with harsh chemicals and fertilizers, and workers are not given proper protection from these harmful agents.

In contrast, Fair Trade is a powerful and practical model to help build economic justice, promote human rights, and support responsible stewardship of the earth. Fair Trade ensures that workers are paid a living wage, which is far beyond the minimum wage in most countries. Human rights are protected and guaranteed. Workers are able to report abuses and receive remediation through an overseeing human rights organization. In addition, the most harmful agrochemicals are banned from use and replaced with integrated pest management. In the event that a chemical or pesticide must be used, workers are provided with protective gear to prevent chemical poisoning, and proper precautions are taken to close the fields until it is safe to enter.

 

Fair Trade is a way to do business God’s way; showing compassion and respect while enjoying products grown with love and care for people. The values and principles of Fair Trade business fit so perfectly into a Christian life. True Christianity is a committed lifestyle of identifying with Christ – not merely a Sunday morning religion. So, Christians of the true kind will strive to apply biblical values to every area of their lives and in each role that they play. One of the most overlooked but powerful roles that we all play is that of consumers.

Many of us do not realize the power we hold when we make decisions at the grocery store or when shopping for the home. We have in our wallets the power to make a difference for workers around the world. If you are a Christian seeking to apply Biblical principles of living into every area of life, it is important to reflect on the choices we are making with our money.

By purchasing Fair Trade Certified™ products, we are making a statement that we agree with the values behind the label – justice, sustainability, stewardship, and the value of human life. All of these things are pleasing to Christ and reflect His character. Fair Trade is a practical way of taking Christian beliefs to the marketplace, and a means of “putting your money where your mouth is.” Fair Trade is not a substitute to a saving relationship with Christ, nor is it the answer to all of the world’s woes, but it is one more way of reflecting Him to the world around us.

Here’s what you can do:

• Purchase Fair Trade Certified products when you shop—look for an expanding product line including coffee, tea, chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, vanilla, rice, and flowers. Fair Trade flowers and chocolates can be sold at church fundraisers for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

• Serve Fair Trade coffee, tea, and cocoa at coffee hour, congregational meetings, and events—make justice a part of fellowship.

• Give Fair Trade items as wonderful gifts.

• Host a Fair Trade House Party and include a Fair Trade products tasting.

• Share the Fair Trade story with family, friends, and coworkers— publish an article in your church newsletter.

• Celebrate Fair Trade Month every October and World Fair Trade Day every second Saturday in May—special times to promote Fair Trade.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” —Micah 6:8

Published on Saturday, May 19, 2012