Blog

Image: Give, Reflect and Act with SCIAF

07/04/2017

Patricia Ferguson, Outreach Manager with SCIAF, writes this week's blog and reflects on the 4th Sunday of Lent and SCIAF's lenten campaign.


The WEE BOX is recognised by Scottish Catholics as an important part of SCIAF’s Lenten fundraising efforts.  For many years, individuals, parishes and schools have supported the campaign and been amazingly generous in their giving.

This year’s WEE BOX features the Munyindeyi family who live in a small rural village in Zambia and are part of a SCIAF project there.   David Munyindeyi and his wife Maté have been given tools, seeds and vital training which allow them to farm better and more productively.  As a result David and Maté are able to produce better and more reliable harvests and no longer worry about sending their children to bed hungry.

But not everyone is as fortunate as David and Maté.  On the 14th March, SCIAF launched an urgent appeal to help get food and water to thousands of people being hit by famine and hunger in parts of East Africa.

The United Nations has warned that over 20 million people could face starvation in, what they deem, is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.

As part of the global Caritas network of Catholic international aid charities, SCIAF is already working with local organisations in South Sudan to get emergency food supplies and water to those in need.

SCIAF is also working in other countries affected by severe food shortages such as Ethiopia where we are helping cattle herders to access clean water, both for people and for livestock, obtain animal feed and veterinary services to help maintain income.

The situation will get worse in the spring and summer months and many lives will be lost unless food aid going to the region is massively increased.  Details of how to donate to SCIAF are to be found at the bottom of this blog.

Important though fundraising is, SCIAF also asks supporters to reflect on the situation faced by those they work with around the world and to pray for their intentions.  As we look forward to Easter and the blessings that holy season brings, it is right to take a moment to ask for God’s blessing  for all those who are struggling to support their families wherever they may be.

God our Father, we pray for all those suffering from hunger – in a world of plenty no one should go hungry.

We pray O Lord that, with your help, emergency food supplies and water will reach those most in need and that all who are working to bring an end to this disaster are protected by your loving embrace.

Amen

Donations to SCIAF’s East Africa Appeal can be made via the website www.sciaf.org.uk by post or by telephoning 0141 354 5555.


Image: Fairtrade Fortnight 2017

31/03/2017
DON'T feed exploitation - Choose Fairtrade

In our latest blog, Justice and Peace Commissioner, Margaret McGowan looks back at Fairtrade Fortnight 2017, telling her story on becoming a fairtrader and challenging  us all to question what we buy.


Fairtrade Fortnight has ended. Where I live, I had to search to find recognition of it in my local stores and supermarkets - a bit different from 2011 when Scotland had Fairtrade Nation status.

I became involved with Fairtrade many years ago. I was a member of a parish “Third World Group” who raised tens of thousands of pounds for SCIAF but nothing seemed to change. There were still famines, people were dying and people were being exploited. A few of us decided to form a Justice and Peace Group and through that I became involved in Fairtrade and many other campaigns.

We started with a monthly coffee morning with a Fairtrade stall. Initially we got our goods on a sale or return basis from another fairtrader, and eventually we took the decision to go it alone.

It was not an easy path. First we had to get our parish priest to support us. He claimed he did not like Fairtrade coffee. This was probably due to the taste of the original Campaign Coffee. His housekeeper bought Fairtrade coffee from us and put it into his well known brand jar. He never noticed the difference and after a few months she revealed what she had done.

We also had to raise funds to ensure we had enough in our account to pay the monthly bills for goods. We got great support from our parish community and we have never looked back. Our fears about not being able to pay the bills were unjustified and we eventually became a Fairtrade Church.

We also became members of the Hamilton Fairtrade Town Group that worked toward Hamilton getting Fairtrade status in 2005. Through this involvement, we met producers during Fairtrade Fortnight. Banana producers from the Windward Islands visited Hamilton in 2006. They visited various schools including my own school. One pupil asked how they spent their Fairtrade premium in their community and was surprised by the answer.  They said it was used to erect a fence round their school. There was no fence and often younger pupils wandered away during break time, risking danger. Sadly this plantation was destroyed during a hurricane the next year but the Fairtrade Foundation helped them to get it re established.

“Every perspective on economic life that is human, moral, and Christian must be shaped by three questions: What does the economy do for people? What does it do to people? And how do people participate in it?” Economic Justice for All.

As Catholics, we are called to ask these three questions about all of our economic activities. Fairtrade offers us the opportunity to answer them in ways that reflect core principles of Catholic Social Teaching on economic justice. If we purchase of Fair Trade items we:
• Exalt the HUMAN DIGNITY of small-scale producers overseas
• Exercise a preferential OPTION FOR THE POOR
 • Act in SOLIDARITY with our brothers and sisters in need
 • Ensure that farmers and artisans earn a JUST WAGE
 • Contribute to a more just DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH
• Apply the principle of SUBSIDIARITY
• Practice responsible STEWARDSHIP of our natural resources

All of these are pillars of Catholic Social Teaching.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight was themed around fighting the exploitation of small-scale farmers but these farmers and other larger producers also employ other workers and the rights of these “wage workers “often go unnoticed.

In Fairtrade certification the rights of these workers should be taken into account but the reality is it is difficult to police and in one survey it was found that Fairtrade did not have a either a positive or negative effect, so there is still a lot of work to be done on the Fairtrade front.

Perhaps this Lent instead of giving up chocolate, coffee or wine we should all buy Fairtrade - and then do the same all year round.



Image: Nuclear Ban Treaty 27th-31st March 2017

24/03/2017

Throughout March we have been highlighting the Nuclear Ban Treaty talks which begin next Monday, 27th March in New York.  Now you can read our latest blog by Janet Fenton, Vice Chair of Scottish CND who will be attending these historic talks.


In a 2016 presentation to the UN Working group that explored the processes for  eliminating and prohibiting nuclear weapons, the Vatican made it clear that peace cannot be achieved through a balance of power between enemies, but requires a profound respect for strengthening mutual trust amongst all nations. Pope Paul VI said that “Development is the new name for peace.”
 
The Vatican was in line with the overwhelming majority of UN member states, and supported them when they voted for the most significant resolution for nuclear disarmament in decades.
 
The vote at the UN for a Conference to devise a Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty was achieved despite the efforts of nuclear-armed states like the UK and the US.
The negotiating conference will be held at the United Nations in New York on 27-31 March 2017 and 14 June-7 July 2017. All governments, international organisations and civil society are invited to participate in these historic negotiations.
 
Any detonation of a nuclear weapon would cause catastrophic humanitarian harm. The blast, the firestorm, the immediate fallout and the long-term impact of radiation would cause unspeakable suffering for civilians.  Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not banned per se, and now things can be put right, by banning them specifically, and for good.
 
By speaking about the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons and by including the perspective of states which do not have nuclear weapons, the ban treaty will address the shortcomings of previous treaties.
 
While the UK Government and the nuclear armed states oppose the treaty, Scotland is left in democratic deficit again. Our elected representatives will not be able to represent Scotland's view, despite the UK siting its nuclear weapons in this country.
It is imperative that civil society attends the negotiations, to support the states that want to ensure  the ban goes ahead, and to hold the powerful minority of the nuclear weapons states to account.  India, China and Pakistan abstained from the vote, showing a willingness to participate in discussions. With each achievement, the movement for elimination and prohibition grows, and with it the courage of governments who can make the change happen.
 
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) has been the leading civil society coalition advocating for a treaty to prohibit this inhumane and unacceptable weapon of mass destruction.
 
The UK Government takes the position that it supports multilateral disarmament through the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT does prohibit nations from acquiring nuclear weapons if they did not already have them at the time that the NPT was negotiated, (1968) and it also requires all of its parties to pursue negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament. New legal instruments to advance the objective of nuclear disarmament are specifically required by the treaty. The nuclear weapon ban treaty will fulfil that requirement, and complement and reinforce the NPT. It will neither replace nor undermine it, and the NPT will remain in force after the ban treaty has been concluded.
 
A statement submitted to the 2016 UN General Assembly First Committee by Faith Communities Concerned about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons on October 12, 2016, New York urged “… all governments to support the resolution mandating a conference in 2017 to negotiate a new legally binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and leading to their elimination. Civil society organisations, including faith-based organisations, have a vital role to play in such negotiations, and we call for their full inclusion in the conference and negotiation process.”



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