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Posts Tagged ‘Just Mercy’

Opinion – Food Prices and the Micah Challenge

September 9, 2010 3 comments

Last evening I attended the CWR Intercessory Prayer Evening in conjunction with Revd Joel Edwards from the Micah Challenge. I found that I couldn’t get past his first statistic and had difficulty in concentrating on the prayers due to the impact of this appalling statement: ‘As a result of recent increases in world food prices and the impact of the food futures market, potatoes in Ethiopia (a staple food) have shot up from 7p to 40p per kilo’.

I started to think about food. Imagine if that’s what you or I were paying, but in Pounds Sterling. Can you work out how you’d manage such a huge uplift in your food bill if potatoes went from £7 to £40 per bag?  I couldn’t – and the thought stayed with me well into the evening. Throughout today the statistic has troubled me.

Last evening’s event at Waverley Abbey House was part of the Micah Challenge 10-10-10 Global Initiative to ‘hold Governments to account for their promise (in 2000) to halve the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty by 2015’.  The Micah Challenge takes its name from the Old Testament prophet and his well known exhortation in Micah 6:8 – ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’

Over the past 24 hours, I have revaluated my idea of being thankful for the food that I eat. I was brought up to say grace before every meal. But in all honesty, this has simply become a meaningless repetition. I admit that I take the availability of food for granted. I expect to be able to eat. Food is all around us. Am I thankful? Probably not. How do I know that? Because my attitude mostly says otherwise.

This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I was truly thankful for my breakfast cereal – and I told God so!

The media inform us that bread and cereal prices are on the way up after various disasters around the world have forced shortages on the world market. Will we in the UK suffer? I doubt it. Certainly not on the scale of communities elsewhere who do not have the ‘benefit’ of our western economic ‘buffers’ which largely protect us from the wildest swings in price. Not so in the developing world. Food pricing is a daily ‘life and death’ issue. Make no mistake, food pricing is both a political and a spiritual issue.

I’m horrified to read of the high levels of food waste here in the UK. Apparently, everyday we throw staggering amounts of food away in this country (an estimated 8.3m tonnes per year). This is wrong and it’s probably also ‘sinful’ (to use theological language) to misuse scarce resources in this way. Literally millions of children go to sleep each night without having had anything to eat. It’s time to do something.

On Sunday, 10th October 2010 (10/10/10), Christians around the world are invited to join up to 100 million people via the Micah Challenge to pray, act and give a voice to the global poor.  For more details go to www.micahchallenge.org

You can read my earlier blog post here on a similar theme: https://eddieolliffe.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/opinion-bank-lending-a-basic-unfairness/.  

For a copy of Joel Edwards book, Just Mercy (CWR) linked to the Micah Challenge, visit your local Christian bookshop or go online at  http://www.cwr.org.uk/store/p-864-just-mercy.aspx

Opinion – Bank lending; the basic unfairness

August 2, 2010 4 comments

Media reports today of a number of UK Banks getting back to financial health largely fail to convey the sheer misery meted out to so many people in recent months who’ve lost their businesses and sometimes their homes as well.           

At one level we should be pleased that balance sheets are being rebuilt but at another level, this can seem as having been done in a rather heartless fashion. One worries that any social conscience banks might have had has been swallowed up in the rush to rebuild equity. Banks – generally speaking – are still NOT lending; and when they do, these loans come with stringent strings attached.           

Where is the justice in one section of the community prospering so hugely at the expense of another?  Knowing that some people are being paid massive bonuses poses very real issues when at the same time, business people dependent on bank credit are unable to move forward and in some cases are plunged into bankruptcy, often through no fault of their own.     

This is wrong.           

I know that this subject raises all kinds of hoary and difficult questions – questions concerning justice and fairness which, whilst although having been posed down through the centuries, still fail to find adequate answers in my view.  But I am reminded in these verses from Jeremiah 12 – often called Jeremiah’s complaint – that such questions have always been asked and probably will continue to be asked. However, that does not make it either right or fair to act in this way.           

 1 You are always righteous, O LORD,
       when I bring a case before you.
       Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
       Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
       Why do all the faithless live at ease?
           

2 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
       they grow and bear fruit.
       You are always on their lips
       but far from their hearts. (NIV)
           

I’m sure that there are many fine theological responses to Jeremiah’s questions. I’m just not sure that these explanations make today’s reality any more palatable?  I can remember telling my kids when they complained of unfairness, ‘well, life’s not fair’!  Maybe we should heed these words? Is this little phrase actually the only correct answer? Do we simply have to accept that a basic unfairness is written into the very laws of the universe?           

A quick look at so many other unjust situations around the world leads me to that conclusion; not that that’s any excuse to do nothing in terms of social justice. There’s still an awful lot we can learn from the likes of the Quakers, the Co-operative movement and the Amish community.           

The Micah Challenge - Halve poverty by 2015

 

The themes of ‘Justice’ and ‘Fairness’ are on many people’s lips these days, not least from within the new UK coalition government. I pray that this Government will right a few basic wrongs and sort out the Banks in one way or another before too many more personal disasters unfold in our country.         

Tonight the BBC stated that lending to businesses in the past year by the banks has actually remained static!  Those increased profits just announced by the banks have been generated by higher fees and charges from the fewer loans that have been granted.           

What a topsy, turvy world!     

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