Sunday, 9 June 2013

IF Service, by Neia Glynn

My Visit to the IF Service

Spurred by my desire for the world to be a better place (!) yesterday I cycled up to Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, to be part of the IF campaign service. The IF campaign was set up by several charities to put pressure on the G8 to commit to fair treatment of the world’s poor. The G8 is an annual meeting of leaders of the world’s richest countries who discuss world issues such as climate change and economies. IF’s long-term passion is to eradicate hunger entirely.

Singing “Be Though My Vision” it was moving and uplifting to look around and know that 2200 people (not including those in overflow rooms/churches/greenspaces) were longing for the same goal. Later 45000 people heard Rowan Williams and Bill Gates talk in Hyde Park. We were reminded of the 4 aims : shutting down tax avoidance (developing countries lose three times the amount of money in tax each year that they receive in aid); stopping landgrabs (where people’s land is forcibly taken with the unfulfilled promise of compensation); aid (only the UK has kept its promise to give 0.7% of national income); transparency in dealings (so that people are not deprived of appropriate remuneration and governments use their earnings to prioritise people above e.g. warfare). The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols spoke of the people of God being in an especially important position, that through prayer and honouring the sanctity of God’s creation – His earth and people – we could bring about equality in the resources given us. He ended by reinforcing the idea that the poor are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The songs were beautifully chosen. We also sang “Here I am, Lord” and “Tell Out My Soul”. Thankfully they were all ones that we sing at St.John’s! Perhaps next time we sing these we can think especially of what the lyrics mean for us in relation to those we depend on for what we consume.

Aimee Manimani, World Vision representative from the Democratic Republic of Congo gave an example of the exploitation she deals with daily. Pascal, who is 10, feels there is no option to support his family except by working in a gold mine many miles from home. He does not know the value of gold so sells it very cheaply so that he has enough for food. His life is not ambitions, like our young children’s, but unhappy stasis. ”Landgrabs” mean that people across the developing nations see the earth that provided their sustenance turned into biofuel fields. This forces them to buy food in unstable markets where prices can limit what they can afford to nothing at all.

Pressure on the G8 is a start but we have potential to change the world ourselves! It might appear that against corporations’ huge financial and lobbying power we can do very little but companies depend on us as consumers to provide their wealth. If we limit that they have nothing to profiteer with and will have to rethink how they treat the people who ultimately provide for them. In these days of international sourcing we can effect change for those whose countries we might never see, simply by thinking about what we buy. We can do this on a daily basis - we can buy fairly traded, organic, recycled; we can look at  (e.g. via Google or Ethical Consumer) whether companies use tax havens or have an ethical sourcing policy. If we only supported (as much as possible as I know finances are stretched these days) those companies who treat the earth and its people unfairly the commercial world really would change.

10 days of G8 meetings have begun. Yesterday David Cameron hosted a “hunger summit’ in London and the summit of G8 meetings is held in Enniskillen on 17th and 18th June. Please pray that these leaders will exemplify God’s will to His people and that we can see the end of global poverty and hunger.


  1. What a turn out! Well done Neia for your support and bringing it to our atention. Liz

  2. Thanks for this report Neia, I find it informative and challenging, I need convincing that I can make a difference, because I want to help and I support the cause but feel my input is insignificant and pointless in the face of the enormity of the task.

    By the way, I think there is a mistake in para 5, last sentence, the word 'unfairly' should read 'fairly' surely?

    1. David, I too found Neia's article to be informative and challenging. Forgive the directness however, but you don't appear to be allowing yourself to be challenged, nor to be challenging yourself.

      The argument "little old me can't make a difference" is weak, and for a large part explains the unfairness of the society and world we've created.

      The message I take from the IF event and campaign is that the power of the collective can make a difference. Surely Christianity and the Church are prime examples? At risk of trotting out an overused quote, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" (Edmund Burke)

    2. Trying to live ethically in a world full of beliefs that tell us we can have whatever we want can feel lonely but that is why the IF charities spent an enormous amount of money on bringing the issues of unfair sourcing to public attention. I remember Peter Knight quoting, in a sermon years ago, that the only way the world has ever changed is through a small band of people who tried. Companies listen when people vote with their cash – think of the protests against McDonalds that led to them using only British beef and not adding to deforestation in South America. It can be a matter of trust – trusting that others are out there who listen to their hearts too.

      I think it is also a matter of conscience. If I choose to buy something from a company that has looked after the people at earlier phases in the chain then I can know that I have benefitted people who might be able to e.g. afford books for their children where they could not before. If I support a supplier who does not allow workers to e.g. join a trades union or who makes them work inhuman hours according to seasonal demand then I am helping sustain an enterprise based on profit above welfare. It takes millions of people to make these companies so profitable just as it would take millions of people to lift the hungry out of poverty…usually the only difference in where these millions purchase is saving money. Recently I contacted M&S regarding the lack of organic cotton in their garments. The reply said that they tried bringing in a range but it sold in too few numbers to make it viable…so they went back to genetically engineered cotton, maybe the stuff farmed from Uzbekistan where children are forced out of school to harvest. I do know that, financially, times are harder than before but I wonder how much of what we buy we really need or whether the increased price in buying ethically would really burden us.

      In these days of transnational supply it is very easy to buy something and have no idea what was involved in its production. Unfortunately High Street brands that appear wholesome can be anything but or, if they do put up great big signs designating themselves as committed to bettering the world, can be guilty of nothing more than tokenism. It might be fine for Asda to sell organic hummus but if they are simultaneously selling clothes for a couple of pounds surely we must ask where their loyalties lie. Thomas Berry, an American ecologist, believes that corporations are stronger than governments in terms of the impact left on the Earth and its people. It’s dispiriting to consider that but if everyone who e.g. wanted gold jewellery decided to ask about its provenance and refused to buy from a company that couldn’t provide an ethical policy then mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be forced to listen or go under…similarly if everyone goes ahead and upgrades their computer without a notion of the very dubious supply chain that provided the rare metals in the boards then the mining companies guarded by military juntas associated with local atrocities that leave people landless will do very nicely thankyou.

      If anyone wants to know more about how companies operate in terms of Earth and human welfare then I have many back-issues of Ethical Consumer. It is time consuming, tedious and heartbreaking to look into the background of what we consume but I would rather know I had no part in the misery or mistreatment of other humans, albeit that I might never even see the countries they work in.

      For me Christianity is a way of life and Christ’s love and longing for the joy of His people is a model for every micromoment of the day (of course I fall down a great deal). I often think of an offender who came to Christ in prison whom I used to work with at HMP Bullingdon. He wore a band around his wrist that read WWJD? The bottom line for Christians is – What Would Jesus Do?

      Neia (not really Anonymous)

  3. Ouch, Malcolm!
    I accept that I am weak, guilty of apathy, and I don't challenge myself with the issues we are discussing. I feel ashamed, but I will try harder in future. Thanks for the jolt!
    I like the quote, and it's not one that I recall, but then we move in different circles.

  4. Thank you Neia. So glad you got to the IF Campaign Service and the giving us such a well informed report. We had hoped to get there but had an 80th birthday to celebrate! However it looks so well attended, some good hymns and speakers.
    Thank you