Transparency on the global landscape is not an end in itself but a needful value towards the effectiveness of aid and justice for all. The IF campaign is a great coalition: yes a truly great coalition teaming together petition and practicalities in a demand for an ending to the scandal of hunger.
Transparency will often be a thing that is left vague, fuzzy or maliciously obscured for wrongful gain. The call for transparency is vital as an approach that underpins all development activity.
might be a historic push for greater transparency in land acquisitions, a commitment to stop
corrupt deals and the establishment of data checks to hold governments and companies to
confidence in talking about this: become an advocate for a truer way!
Johnny is new to the Breathe team, an Anglican pastor in London who eats too much chocolate and is still being challenged by this consumer-detox revolution! www.johnnydouglas.org
This month’s links
This week is the Live Below the Line challenge, and thousands of people will be sticking to a budget of £1 a day for their food. It's to raise awareness of and raise money for global poverty, and it's now in its third year. We're not taking part this year, but you can see what we learned from last year's experiences here…
This is a Guest post from Laura Taylor who is Tearfund’s Public Policy Team Leader. This post originally appeared on Tearfund’s Just Policy Blog. Breathe has signed up to be part of the coalition of the IF Campaign, of which Tearfund is also a member.
Hunger is one of the most visible signs of poverty. A child’s bloated belly or a grandfather’s withered arm are images which we too often see on the TV in a time of crisis and which stay with us for years to come. Tackling hunger is very much part of Tearfund’s business. We were set up in 1968 by UK churches who wanted to respond to the severe famine in West Africa, and have provided emergency food supplies in countless crises since then. We also work alongside many churches around the world as they mobilise communities to find their own, more long term solutions to improve their food security and health, from sustainable farming to hygiene promotion, to speaking out against land grabs.
But, in a world where there is enough food for everyone, it is outrageous that one in eight people go to bed hungry every night. It is vital that the root causes of hunger are tackled which is why the IF campaign, which Tearfund is part of, is so important. Ahead of the G8 we are calling on leaders to fight land grabs, tax dodging and corruption and to ensure that promises of aid and climate finance are delivered and spent well. Thousands of our supporters have been joining this call for real change.
But it hasn’t escaped my notice that, as well as being the year where leaders can make decisions which will help to end extreme hunger around the world, 2013 may also be a year remembered for alarming increases in hunger in the UK. Reports of children returning to school malnourished due to the lack of free lunches over the holidays have really shocked us. As steady work becomes more difficult to find and delays and cuts in the provision of emergency assistance in our own country increase, the press have noticed that many churches have been stepping into the breach here as well as overseas.
Tearfund hosted a meeting in Parliament today and were joined by the Trussell Trust, the Christian charity who are behind many of the food banks which have been springing up across the country.
Their aim is to step into the breach if a family hits a crisis and to provide a limited supply of food, provided by local people and businesses free of charge, until appropriate state or alternative provision can be arranged. As times get tougher, the numbers needing this kind of help are steadily increasing and their volunteers are doing amazing work.
Of course, as we know from our experience overseas, emergency aid like this is a vital sticking plaster, but inadequate on its own. Foodbanks are a crucial last port of call but can’t provide a sustainable solution for families or act as a replacement for the state. What is clear is that, in the UK as well as overseas, the church needs to go beyond emergency relief to build longer term resilience and to tackle the root causes of hunger – and in many cases it is.
Other organisations, like Christians Against Poverty (who I’m proud to say Tearfund helped to birth), provide debt counselling, and The Lighthouse Group, who Tearfund also partners with, are mentoring and counselling kids at risk of being excluded from school. These kind of initiatives help to people to take control of their own situation before crisis point is reached, to manage their resources and to develop skills which should equip them well for the long term and ensure that meals are not missed.
And churches and NGOs in the UK are also engaging with policy makers – from local authorities to the Prime Minister – to hold leaders to account for the way that they deal with those in most need. In Parliament today, Chris Mould, the Executive Chairman of Trussell Trust, quoted the prophet Jeremiah to remind the MPs and Lords there that their responsibility should be to defend the cause of the poor and the needy. He explained that many of the people who arrive in food banks are there because the wages they are earning are too low to support the whole family, or because they have fallen through a bureaucratic gap. There are policy changes that they could work for which could improve this situation.
The church and many others in society are doing great work, but let’s not rest on our laurels. While people are hungry we need to continue to meet their immediate needs, empower them to feed themselves and to work with them to tackle the injustices which keep them hungry. Let’s make 2013 a year to remember for the right reasons.
Campaign Bootcamp is a five day residential course for young people who want to run more effective campaigns.
You’ll be trained by experts in creating great strategy, writing better emails, building winning websites, getting the most from social media and much more.
It doesn’t stop there. Once Bootcamp is over we’re planning to help you build a career in campaigning with mentorship and ongoing support.
Bootcamp is run by six volunteers who want to see more people using the internet to campaign for good. This is the first bootcamp we’re going to run. Hopefully there will be many more in future.
This is a great opportunity for emerging and enthusiastic campaigners. You can find out lots more here:
I think I may have had enough of Lady Thatcher’s legacy. In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard so many tributes and tirades and been overwhelmed by the Thatcher quotes – and the ensuing comments – which have popped up as friends’ Facebook status updates.
In many ways, these debates about Thatcher’s legacy are becoming just another reincarnation of the wider debates surrounding welfare reform which have filled the news in the past few weeks. Whose responsibility is the allocation of the common good? Does the common good even matter when all individuals could be out for themselves? Who should pay for what? What about the poor?
Christians will undoubtedly hold different opinions about the roles of the state and market in the distribution of welfare and, as has been evident in people’s comments about Thatcher’s life and work, take different political stances on things like the budget, deregulation, taxation, employment etc etc etc. However, as debates have become increasingly heated and their language more toxic – whether that’s in vilifying the ‘bogus’ benefit claimants or the politicians who are perceived to have impoverished them – I’ve been reflecting on the responses of Christians who are seeking to live more simply and generously in this competitive, complicated context.
Over Easter, I was encouraged to read about a coalition of church groups which is challenging the way that politicians and the media have perpetuated certain ‘myths’ about poverty and, in doing so, further fuelled justification for the cuts. Their report , ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’, argues that ‘the systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society is a matter of injustice which all Christians have a responsibility to challenge’. If we’re thinking about how to bring alternative perspectives into current debates, this report could be an interesting starting point.
Of course, reports like that force us to look honestly at the opinions we hold and the language we use ourselves because it’s very easy to point out the speck while ignoring the plank. 468,325 (and counting) people have signed a petition calling for Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week, a 97% reduction in his current income, as he claimed he could do if he had to. A considerably smaller number, I imagine, have asked themselves whether or not they could do the same.
Sara Kewly Hyde asks this of herself in ‘What is Enough?’, a recent blog post for the Evangelical Alliance in which she considers what it means to live in a way that reflects Jesus’ teaching and example in both our generosity and judgement of others. Whether we’re discussing Lady Thatcher, debating government policies, feeling the impact of recent welfare cuts, or simply seeking to be more generous in our words and actions, the questions raised in Sara Kewly Hyde’s article might be a helpful place to begin.
The internet has been the defining technology of my generation. We grew up without it, but were the last generation to do so. It is now ubiquitous, deeply embedded in the way that we work, rest and play. It has revolutionised communication, business, entertainment, education, and much else besides. It has brought unimaginable benefits, but no technology is neutral. A technology as pervasive as the internet is going to have profound implications for how and what we think, how we understand ourselves and the world around us.