Keep buying clothes from Bangladesh, says church minister

(AP)
Bangladeshis display portraits of their missing relatives during a prayer ceremony for the souls of the 1,127 people who died in the garment building structure collapse last month, in Savar, near Bangladesh, Tuesday 14 May 2013.

The Church of Scotland General Assembly was today asked to establish an ecumenical consultation with the Church of Bangladesh to campaign for improvements to working conditions and pay for garment factory workers.

It follows the factory collapse in Dhaka, which claimed the lives of over a thousand workers.

Addressing the General Assembly in Edinburgh on Tuesday, the Very Reverend John Christie said the Church of Scotland could offer expertise and resources to partner churches in Bangladesh to develop their advocacy work in this area.

The tragedy has raised serious moral questions about the demand in western countries for cheap clothing manufactured in countries where working conditions and pay are poor.

However Mr Christie urged people to keep buying clothes made in Bangladesh, saying the solution was not to boycott them or pull industry out of the country.

"The best option is for those of us in the West to buy clothing made in Bangladesh and add on 50p to what we are paying," he said.

"Please keep buying your clothes from Bangladesh, it's a matter of life and death."
Convener of the Church of Scotland's World Mission Council, the Reverend Andrew McLellan backed the call, saying questions over work conditions and pay "are not only problems in Bangladesh but problems here".

The call came during a session at the General Assembly looking at the Church of Scotland's world mission work.

Earlier in the morning, the General Assembly was joined by three great grandchildren of missionary and explorer David Livingstone, whose bicentenary is being celebrated in Scotland throughout 2013.

Welcoming them to the General Assembly, Moderator the Right Reverend Lorna Hood praised Livingstone as someone who was "so part of our heritage and faith" and "someone we are very proud of and who has done so much for the church".

Mr McLellan said there was an "enthusiasm" among Africans for their Scottish heritage.

"In the last 50 years, lots of place names have changed but those that bear the name of Livingstone remain," he said, adding that the bicentenary was "terrifically important" for Scotland.
The General Assembly was presented with a report from the World Mission Council asking the Church of Scotland to "throw itself wholeheartedly into all things African and Caribbean".

Churches are being encouraged to use the bicentenary year as an opportunity to look at issues related to slavery - including economic slavery - the growth of Christianity, climate change, and the IF campaign calling for action to end global hunger.

General Assembly also heard the plea from the Reverend Peter Gill, a Church of Scotland minister originally from Pakistan, to speak out against the persecution of Christians in his native country.

He said "very little" was being done by the local government to help Christians whose homes were burnt down in a recent attack in Joseph Colony.

"Persecution is very real and it is very difficult in the West to understand," he said.

"If we are brothers and sisters in Christ and part of one body … if we take that seriously and urge the government of Pakistan to protect minorities, that would be greatly appreciated."

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