Welsh churches seek to lead the way in choosing fairtrade

Derrick Stephenson at Llandaff

Welsh churches are set to highlight issues of poverty and justice next week, as they encourage congregations to buy fairtrade products at the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight.

Sunday 23 February has been named as the next stage of the Church's attempt to become a Fairtrade Province, which requires 70 per cent of its churches in every diocese to commit to using fairtrade products wherever possible.

So far, 40 per cent of churches have signed up to the initiative, and organisers are hoping that next Sunday will inspire more congregations to get involved.

Ruth Prince has been selling Fairtrade products at her church in Llangybi for eight years, and is backing this new push to encourage more churches to join in and consider the wider consequences of their purchasing power.

"Local churches and parishioners can make a real difference in supporting fair trade," she said.

"Just by using fairtrade tea, coffee or sugar at church events...it lends the Church's moral authority to the movement. But also, by raising awareness in a very practical way, we can show that we are helping people in poorer countries.

"This isn't charity or being patronising; it's giving producers and farmers in developing countries the dignity of a proper reward for their labour.

"By including producers and farmers in the developing world in our worship and intercessions in church, we're supporting them through faith, as well as demonstrating Jesus' teaching to look after one another."

Ruth Prince at Usk Farmer's Market

Derrick Stephenson, of Llandaff Cathedral, agrees. "Churches are influential on what we learn, and how we behave. Through our involvement we all can make an impact and show we care," he said.

Prince hopes that one day, all shops and supermarkets will stock fairtrade products, and believes it's up to consumers to demand that they do.

"It's the customers who have the power. The power of pester! If shops know that's what they want, they'll stock it. So it's up to us to ask for it where we don't see it," she said

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Right Reverend John Davies, is also urging churches to join the fairtrade movement, calling it an opportunity to "help promote equality and justice in food production across the globe".

"These days we are made aware of the high cost many producers have to pay in order for us to enjoy our cuppa. Fortunately, however, thanks to the fairtrade movement, we have the option to choose products that have been produced without people being exploited or made to work in dangerous or unprotected conditions," he said.

Reverend Carol Wardman, the Bishops' Advisor for the Church and Society, added that the Church must "lead the way" in committing to the promotion of fairtrade, in order to "show that we are a church of love in action".

Churches will be using special prayers and themed services to focus on the issues surrounding fairtrade, resources for which can be found at www.churchinwales.org.uk, where a Fairtrade pledge form is also available.