Meditation: What Would Jesus Buy (WWJB) ?
It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35“
Nothing’s ever free. “ “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.” You get what you pay for. “ “There is no free lunch.” These are all sayings we recognize as everyday wisdom however our actions often reveal that we believe the exact opposite. We have become accustomed to unbelievably good deals from the $10 hand knitted sweater to the $1.25 large can of Columbian coffee. We seldom ask ourselves how the products we buy can be produced so cheaply.
Some have suggested that slavery in America was not ended but just exported overseas. Cocoa and hand knotted carpets are two products directly created by modern day slaves. The trafficking of children from one area to another assures the retail prices of Cocoa will remain low. The selling of children to work in the cocoa fields bleeds over into selling them for sex. A similar condition exists in the carpet industry. There are an estimated 300,000 illegal child weavers in the south Asia. Only a few years ago there was an estimated one million illegal child weavers but activists have greatly reduced this number.
Most Americans are not surprised to find out that other countries use slave labor to produce their products but do not know that United States also commits such atrocities. The Northern Mariana Islands located just south of Guam is a Commonwealth of the United States. The garments made there for J. Jill, Ann Taylor, the Gap, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and many others legally sport the label “Made in the USA” on their products.Many young girls and women from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh pay up as much as $7,000 dollars to move to the islands with the dream of a better life.
Once there they realize they are not protected under US labor laws but instead are considered “guest workers” and are never eligible for citizenship. They are often forced to work 7 days a week and adhere to the requirements of the factory owned housing. Many are forced into prostitution and are required to get abortions if they get pregnant. The US garment industry lobbys to keep this system going. In recent years Jack Abramoff and other politicians have worked to make sure that labor abuses can continue for the benefit of big business. Tom DeLay referred to it as “the perfect petri dish of capitalism. “On September 11, hours after the towers fell, the presidential orders came down to the people. Above all else we were instructed to just keep shopping.
Politicians, economists, and human rights workers will continue discussing and implementing trade policies but as shoppers we have choices. Solving the problem of unfair trade can feel overwhelming but the first step is common sense and awareness. When an intricately hand painted ornament or a hand woven basket retails for a dollar we should suspect that the worker did not receive a fair wage for their work.Perhaps some day Christians will not brag about the bargain they found or shop for the lowest price but will insist that workers be paid a fair wage for their effort. We can begin practicing economic justice by making wise choices. Buying fair trade coffee, cocoa, and cotton and looking for the “rugmark” assurances on carpets is a good way to send a message to industry.
Shopping at Ten Thousand Villages and from individual crafts people assures that the worker is justly rewarded. Other ideas include shopping thrift stores and second hand shops where the money you spend goes to help those in need.Prayer: As we celebrate your birth help us be aware of the meaning of you life. We seek wisdom and desire to be more fully aware of how and what we consume. We pray we will be empowered to influence the world for good.Action: Learn and shop with awareness
Ten Thousand Villages, fair trade goods: http://www.villages.ca/
Other fair trade sites http://www.shop.com/op/aprod-~Fair+Trade+Product-k24-g1