The season of Lent calls us to take stock of our lives. How well are we witnessing to our values and beliefs? Do they permeate every dimension of our lives, or do we, perhaps without thinking too much about it, bracket them from some parts of our lives? During the season of Lent we ask ourselves how we can follow Jesus more closely, accepting his invitation to make the Kingdom of God present in the world. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us that evangelisation is not complete if the Gospel is separated from any part of life (EG, n 181). The light of the Gospel touches every part of our lives – if we let it in. For example, we can make the Kingdom of God present in the world through what we do – and do not – buy. Fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the light of the Gospel shinning on the economic dimension of life. Is Chocolate a Faith Issue? Will you be buying fair trade Easter eggs? Perhaps you haven’t really thought much about chocolate production as a faith issue? However the way in which a lot of chocolate is produced involves the exploitation and even enslavement and trafficking of workers, including children. Unfair terms of trade also keep communities in poverty and dependence. These are issues that Pope Francis is very concerned about. So, if you want to stand with him against these injustices, one thing that you can do is to buy only fair trade chocolate. Never heard of fair trade chocolate? There’s lots of information about fair trade chocolate at Stop the Traffick. Each year Australian Religious Against Trafficking in Humans runs an Easter campaign designed to raise awareness of the links between chocolate production and trafficking in persons and how we can use our power as consumers to promote change. We can witness to our faith by shopping for fair trade Easter eggs. How will you recognize fair trade chocolate? There is a system of accreditation and labeling run by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand as part of the international fair trade network. It works in a similar way to the accreditation and labeling of organic products. There are also producers and retail networks that specialise in fair trade products. The Trading Circle, created by the Good Shepherd Sisters is a good example. They support income-generating projects that provide women with alternatives to prostitution and that reduce the vulnerability of communities to trafficking. You can support their work by buying their products online or in-store. Another Way of Behaving in the Economy Fair trade networks witness to the Gospel by demonstrating that there is another way of behaving in the economy. Exploitation is not inevitable – it is a choice on the part of producers and consumers. Witnessing to alternative ways of living in the world is a particular gift to the church of the religious institutes and they have been at the forefront of Catholic action on fair trade. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, calls for love and the logic of gift to be part of the way in which the global economy operates. This should not be a redistributive afterthought, but an integral part of systems of production and consumption. What fair trade networks have demonstrated is possible must now become an ordinary part of all production and consumption. The Sign with Mary campaign takes up this next step by asking large retail chains to integrate fair trade into their supply chain policies and to stock fair trade chocolate. Clearly, a Christian commitment to fair trade products must go beyond chocolate, and beyond the Easter season. Likewise our participation in making the Kingdom of God present in the world goes beyond our patterns of consumption. But right now, fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the new life of the Resurrection present even in acts of production and consumption.
Catholic Social Teaching in Asia Pacific Catholic Social Teaching principles may take root in and be expressed through every culture. Each particular experience can enhance humanity’s understanding both of reality, and of God’s call through it. By examining the local and particular, universal Catholic Social Teaching principles may be recognized and understood more deeply. Local Bishops share with the Popes in the task of teaching on issues of social justice. The international and local teachings inform one another. This website holds up the experiences of the people of the Asia Pacific region by making Asia Pacific Catholic Social Teaching more widely known. Find Asia Pacific Catholic Social Teachings
The Catholic Bishops of Aotearoa-New Zealand encourage people to think carefully about how they will vote in the 2014 national election. They see it as an opportunity to take faith into the public arena and to defend the poor and vulnerable. Read their statement here. What are some of the ways in which you speak up for the poor and vulnerable throughout the whole political cycle?
Bishop Gerard Hanna has criticised the Australian government’s efforts to resettle in Cambodia those asylum seekers found to be refugees after having been intercepted at sea by Australia and sent to have their claims assessed in Nauru. “If the Australian Government is serious about expanding resettlement opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, negotiations should commence with nations who have the resources to support refugees, such as Singapore, Japan, Korea and New Zealand,” he said. Bishop Hanna is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Delegate for Migrants and Refugees.
Trafficking in persons is an affront to the dignity of all people. Here are some simple things that we can do about it: – buy fair trade products. Organisations like Fair Trade Australia New Zealand can help you locate sellers of fair trade products near you. – support action against trafficking taken by religious institutes for example the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans – donate to services that assist victims of trafficking in your own country and beyond – support programs that reduce poverty and build livelihoods for vulnerable groups to reduce their risk of becoming victims of trafficking – encourage your faith community to celebrate the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita – find out about the Global Freedom Network
‘For some New Zealanders, Christmas is becoming a time of over-consumption, while for others it is a time of great stress and anxiety to meet their basic necessities. It would be good if all of us could think about how we can live a bit more simply this Christmas and, wherever possible, reach out to someone who might be struggling even just a bit more than we are ourselves.’ Read the full message from Archbishop John, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference here.
Are you celebrating Fair Trade Fortnight in your country? For information about events in Australia and New Zealand, visit www.fta.org.au What’s happening near you?