Category Archives: Justice

Around the web this week

A few things that have got me thinking and musing this week.

Justice and phones
What’s your phone got to do with a war?

Via Robin Peake

One of a few helpful pieces from Tearfund Rhythms on phones and conflict minerals. One of the reasons why I bought a Fairphone – topic of a future blog!

 

Football
Breaking news: Fifa say Hell will host 2026 World Cup

Via Gary Lineker

Great piece from the Telegraph on the farce that is FIFA.

 

Politics
Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?

Via Tom Baker

From the US – What is the most effective form of political campaigning and why is it not used as it should be? I resonated with this in terms of my likelihood to vote for candidates I have the opportunity to engage with on the doorstep.

Thank heavens for Justin Welby

Via Pete Greig

How Lambeth Palace is worth listening to again and Justin Welby’s taking on of Wonga and payday loan companies by providing an alternative.

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

How the Swedes have tackled traficking with incredible results.

 

Young people, riots and character
The New Politics of Character

Via Robin Peake

The results of a study into young people participating in riots in London revealed that the key factor was not lack of money or lack of morality but lack of character. What follows is an interesting discussion on defining and developing character in young people.

Cities
For the sake of our cities, it’s time to make town planning cool again

On the need for visionary planner more passionate about flourishing than bowing to the whims of developers.

Leadership, change and church
“The Top Ten Reasons This will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church

Via David Fitch

Despite my not being a fan of numbered lists there is some helpful stuff in here on  leading change in churches and some of the many objections…

A quote

And finally a couple of tunes for the weekend…

Leonard Cohen – Did I Ever Love You?

And Springsteen from Dublin back in 2006 – When the Saints Go Marching In

 

 

Rediscovering my justice mojo part one: visible clothing

Those who have known me a long time can relate many stories of Sam’s justice crusades and rants. From that life-changing four weeks in Tanzania with Tearfund back in 1998, being chained to the QUB railings as part of Jubilee 2000, to countless campaigns and rants over injustice.

I’ve always held a strong sense of justice and realised a few years ago unsurprisingly that it is one of my values. I’m not sure what happened but it feels like it dulled (or changed) over the last few years. I guess life happens. Moving city, country. Stress. Conflict. Changing jobs. Starting something. Death and grief. Marriage. Living. Maybe losing a community of people also passionate about those things…

IMG_20140121_222027

Fear not. The justice mojo is returning. Timed perfectly with the advent of parenthood. Inspired by some friends who in the face of tragedy and the reality of sweatshops decided not to sit still but do something constructive. Andy and Andy decided to give away their wardrobe and replace it with clothes they knew were made by people who were treated fairly. Documenting their journey and reviewing their clothes at Who Made My Wardrobe (with a great website too) inspired me again that taking small actions adds up and I can make a difference. As a result my next t-shirt purchases were from Rapanui (right). they make some great t-shirts – the bamboo ones being amazingly soft.

At the end of their journey Andy and Andy realised that the ethical clothing market was still very small. Some ethical clothing is,  let’s be honest not exactly cool, and some almost prohibitively expensive.

And so they decided to set up their own label. Visible clothing was born off the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Taking part in that and sharing parts of their journey on social media was a significant step in helping remind me that I could make a difference.

Watch their story here

Andy and Andy inspired me and reminded me of a few things

  • it is possible to do something – we don’t have to feel overwhelmed
  • my buying choices make a difference
  • the importance of community – sharing their story reminded me i’m not alone in wanting to engage on these issues, and without their example and inspiration I’d still be living in conflict with my values. (I’m thankful too for Robin who has also been blogging and acting on this stuff).
  • you never know what will happen when you take a risk and start small

I’m thankful to Andy and Andy for helping reignite my passion to act and live more justly. I want to do my best to make sure the people who make what I wear/eat/consume are paid fairly and treated justly. I’m excited to see where the Visible journey will go and am committed to making more ethical decisions when it comes to purchasing clothes.

And maybe little Colm will become a justice crusader too… Best get him started young. Now ethical baby/children’s clothing – there is another discussion/blog post…2014-08-11 17.53.12

 

 

 

On language, and Vinoth Ramachandra on the use of ‘terrorist’

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties from conservatives to anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. (George Orwell)

I read Vinoth Ramachandra’s wonderful and provocative book ‘Subverting Global Myths’ a few years ago. Some of what he has written on terrorism I have found profoundly challenging.  It’s certainly relevant at the moment although this may not be the best time to post this!

For most of the nineteenth century, however the word terrorist came to refer to all revolutionaries who threatened the monarchies of Europe…

..it was after World War 2, when the British and French empires found themselves vulnerable to nationalist agitation in their colonies that terrorism came to be used exclusively of acts of political violence committed by nonstate actors. The newly independent states of Asia and Africa took over this definition of terrorism and applied it in subsequent years to all those militant guerrilla organisations that challenged state authority. The use of force for political ends, whether in the context of declared war or otherwise, is inextricably bound up with terror… [he goes on to cite examples in Algeria and his homeland of Sri Lanka]

Unless we proscribe to the naive belief that governments do not engage in acts of terror against their own citizens, let alone the civilian populations of other nations, the one-sided use of terrorism by the world’s media is baffling. Violent actions by the Israeli army or Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians are never described as ‘terrorist’ but the term is routinely used in large sections of the Western media for violent acts undertaken against Israelis. Surely journalistic integrity requires that the term terrorism should either be dropped for its vagueness or used even-handedly to embrace all organised acts of terror, including those by governments. The terms militant, guerrilla or insurgent do not carry the same connotations of evil that terrorist does; and hence the hijacking of that term by governments who want to scapegoat those who challenge their legitimacy. ‘Terrorism’ is always what our enemies do….

Many of us who live in societies that have been traumatised by decades of terrorist and counter-terrorist violence slowly become desensitised to it. We are tempted  to justify brutal retaliation by the police and military whenever their our own security is shattered by a bomb attack. We have seen how ‘terrorist’ suspects in most countries are treated neither as prisoners of war nor as criminals. In either case they would come under protective judicial procedures. The category to which they are reduced is that of the subhuman, and so they can be tortured and executed without qualm. This is an affront to the inherent human dignity tat they share with us.

The language that we use is powerful in making those who are different from us into the ‘other’. I know this only too well from my upbringing in Northern Ireland. Even a comment today made in a Facebook debate on Gaza (referring to Hamas) reinforces this:

they don’t value human life we do

They.

Subtext – ‘we’ are better than ‘them’ or in personal cases ‘I’ am better than ‘you’.

In conflict it is only too easy to demonise the other ‘other side’ and forget they too are people of dignity created in the image of God. Vinoth’s words remind me of the importance of trying to pause and be careful about my language, whether it be conflict on an interpersonal level or an international one.

Who are the prophets of our day?

I’m reading a little book at the moment called Four Modern Prophets. Written in the 80s it looks at Walter Rauschenbusch, Martin Luther King Jr, Gustavo Gutierrez and Rosemary Radford Ruether. All were prophets who spoke into the society of the time and who stood up for the rights of the oppressed – whether those were people who were poor, black or female (or all three). Many might have some issues with elements of their theology but it cannot be argued that their concern is not rooted in the Old Testament prophets and the teaching of Jesus.

I’m wondering who the prophets of today are?

A few year years back Stocki penned ‘The Rock Cries Out‘ in response to a sense that  musicians were speaking out on issues that the church was too silent on.

Currently the media only seem to hear Christian voices in debates on marriage,sexuality and abortion.

Too often at the moment it seems like the Christian voices we hear are about ‘our rights’ and less so about standing up for the rights of the marginalised and the oppressed, for justice and for the dignity of people created in the image of God.

Where are the modern-day prophets who are able and willing to speak out on healthcare, on education reform, on housing, on behalf of  the marginalised. In 2012 Ireland who is prepared to speak out on behalf of the urban poor, the rural poor, the asylum seeker, the traveller?

And what is my role?  Is it time for me to look for and encourage the Gutierrezes and MLKs of our day and our time? Is it time for me to agitate in my church that we need to be serving and speaking up on behalf of the oppressed in our little part of Dublin? Is it time for me to step up?

Who are the prophets of our day? Can you help me find some?

International Women’s Day – Let Freedom Ring!

I have a dream that one day our little children will not be judged by their bodily appendages but by the content of their character.

Let freedom ring!

Not just because today is International Women’s Day but every day. Let strong men stand up and allow there to be strong women. Only when women are liberated to be the people God has called them to be – given full expression of their gifts and abilities, with male and female working not in subjugation but partnership can we see the image of God in humans fully realised and made flesh.

In too many places women are still not being given their God-given dignity and respect. Even in the church…

We shouldn’t need a day to celebrate women, to fight for the rights of girls to be educated, or to remind ourselves that discrimination against women is not how things should be. Every day should be a day when we celebrate the dignity, gifts and abilities of each other across the globe and where each of us has the strength and courage to empower others to flourish, to be confident, to be strong, and to be all that they can be.

I am grateful for the influence of many strong talented and gifted women in my life. It also grieves me that many of those women were denied the opportunity to demonstrate some of those gifts and talents by men who were too weak and afraid to allow them to flourish. If women are to flourish then as men, we need to stand up and play our part. This is one small step in that direction…

I leave you with the words of 2 women:

Sheryl Sandberg on TED – Why we have too few women leaders

Claire  – Burning heart opens can of worms

Get involved practically in different ways with Tearfund, Oxfam or the Sophia Network.

Is prison the answer? Time for a more creative justice system?

“Picture by picture, the criminals are being identified and arrested”

So said David Cameron today of the rioters and looters. They will be arrested and charged and then jailed? Alan Sugar is leading a campaign from his twitter account to name, shame and identify all those involved. Fair enough. The reasons why this has happened are complex, and we need a justice system, people need to be punished. But is the answer simply to send people to prison? Does a prison sentence prevent someone from re-offending?

A study by the British Ministry of Justice seemed to suggest that short sentences aren’t particularly effective in reducing re-offending rates. Admittedly the difference in this study between community sevice and jail terms isn’t that significant, but surely it is a start.

Britain and Ireland’s jails are bursting at the seams. Is it time to rethink how we punish criminals? It seems to me especially with the current riots that throwing rioters in jail although retributive isn’t going to be effective in reforming their characters. I guess only God can ultimately do that. Do we need more of a restorative justice system? With the rioters and looters should they be put to work in repairing what they have destroyed, or put to work in serving communities, in restoring vandalised and damaged parks, playgrounds, gardens and estates?

I realise there is no simple answer and even to change the justice system slowly is difficult but surely it is time to think carefully about how much it is possible to reform and punish people without simply resorting to jail.

Fidel where does all the money go?

For any cigar fan the ultimate cigar is a Cuban. The Dominican ones just aren’t quite the same and don’t quite have the same kudos. So when on honymoon in cuba a few weeks ago we made sure to visit the Partagas Cigar Factory in Havana. For a geek like me it was fascinating – learning how cigars are made, the leaves are selected and watching a couple of hundred people in a room all rolling cigars. The quality control was impressive, with all the cigars made by new employees checked, and even around 70% of those made by longer term employees checked. The Partagas factory makes most types – Partagas (obviously), Romeo & Juliet, Montecristo, Cohiba and lots of others. We saw some new Cohibas been made that sell at around €50 each.

Now that’s where the experience started to turn a little sour. The workers in the factory get paid around €30 a month. Most of them make 100-200 cigars a day. If they don’t meet their quota or produce too many rejects they have to work longer to make it up. It transpired from conversations with a few locals that the factory workers aren’t so happy that what they get paid a pittance for gets sold for such large sums. Say each cigar you make sells for €5 each and you make 150 a day, 5 days a week that’s a retail value of €3750. And the person who makes it gets less than 1%.

When you remember that Cohiba, Romeo & Juliet, Montecristo etc are all state owned, that means the profits go to the state. Yet so many people in Cube live in such poverty. People are earning very little across the board – doctors included – as this great article in the Irish times highlights. We saw so many families living in cramped conditions in Havana in buildings that were literally crumbling. Back at the time of the revolution Fidel said:

“we are fighting to do away with dictatorship in Cuba and to establish the foundations of genuine representative government”

Fidel what happened to your ideals? Where is all the money going?

Probably the biggest thing tourists are warned about in Havana isn’t safety. For a city with little street lighting Emily and I felt pretty safe walking around at night. The thing tourists are warned about is buying ‘fake cigars’. I assumed this meant you had people making them at home – which in some cases is true – people who have worked in cigar factories and know how to make them. It turns out that everyone who works in a cigar factory gets an allowance of a couple of cigars a day – often ones that aren’t quite perfect. so many of the ‘fakes’ are simply these ones that people sell on. However I also realised in a factory making tens of thousands of cigars a day it must be pretty easy for a few to be slipped into a bag. It made me think maybe the reason the government is so worried about ‘fake’ cigars sold on the streets is that the money is going t the workers and not to them…