Tag Archives: Changing the World

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

 

 

 

2013 in Books: Non-fiction (part one)

Due to my need to categorise this is part one in the non-fiction books. On a side-note I’m finding Goodreads a great way of keeping track of my reading.

Biography

OneWildLifeFrontCoverART-sm1. One Wild Life – Claire Mulvaney

This qualifies as biography (in my mind!) in that the author Claire Mulvaney tells the stories (and interviews) people around the globe who are working for social change. From Ireland to India she introduces over 30 people working to make the world  better place. With a few pages per person its a great book to dip into every day and come away inspired and motivated to make a difference. Find out more on her site here.

51eaYJmEwfL._AA160_2. Adventures of a Waterboy – Mike Scott

No matter if you’re a fan of the Waterboys or not this is a great read and wonderful insight into life as a musician. I read Peter Carlin’s ‘Bruce’ at a similar time and Mike Scott’s writing is vastly superior – unsurprisingly.

51q1qdKksBL._AA160_

3. Where Are You Really From? – Tim Brannigan

I think everyone from Northern Ireland should read this – especially if you come from a Protestant background. Fascinating and incredible story of growing up black in West Belfast in the 70s and spending time in the H blocks.

Honourable mention for ‘Stillness and Speed: My Story’ by Dennis Bergkamp which isn’t really by him but more a series of interviews. Bergkamp was undoubtedly one of the best footballers to grace the Premiership. His insights and story of a playing career spanning Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal are a must read for the football geek. and it was only 59p on Kindle. Bargain.

Theology/Christian

Interestingly I found myself reading much less Christian books in 2013 although maybe I was just being more selective!

JTMEE1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes – Kenneth Bailey

Kenneth Bailey is a Middle-Eastern scholar (and lived there for 40 years) who has written some brilliant books unpacking the context of the Middle East at the time of Jesus helping bring deeper understanding of many of Jesus’ encounters and parables. The section of Jesus and women was particularly helpful with some of the material on the parables similar to his earlier works Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes.

WMF2. The Word Made Flesh – Eugene Peterson

I feel I’m starting to turn into Jaybercrow as my love for Eugene Peterson’s writing reaches adulation. Maybe its about stage of life or experiences but I find Peterson incredibly insightful, earthy and inspiring.This is the fourth in Peterson’s wonderful ‘Spiritual Theology’ series. Continuing the parables theme – I really enjoyed getting stuck into them this past year, also dipping into Ched Myers ‘Binding the Strong Man’.

STPOTC3. Seek the Good of the City – Doug Banister

A free ebook (get it here) this is a wonderfully short, holistic and practical guide to what it looks like to seek to bless the city.

Honourable mention to Multiplying Missional Leaders by Mike Breen – another practical and provocative read.

What were your best biographies and theology/Christian reads of 2013?

Next up is leadership and productivity.

Coming up – 10km of obstacles and muck

runamuckThis time next week, with 7 others I’m taking on the mud and obstacles of Runamuck. Will you help get me over the finish line by sponsoring me? (click here if you’re a UK taxpayer as we can reclaim tax through Justgiving)

We’re running/jumping/wading and whatever else is involved to raise money for RISE.

RISE is an Innovista leadership programme which equips teenagers (particularly from tough inner city environments)  to be sources of hope in their community. As part of RISE they will come up with and carry out a project that will create positive change in their local community.

RISE is currently running with an inner city girls school’s transition year class and a church youth group in Dublin 8. In the next few weeks, two more groups will be starting with community youth groups in Ballymun and Inchicore. We’re really excited by the potential of RISE to inspire and equip teenagers. You can read about the first school pilot of RISE here.

runamuck sponsor.ie pageWe’re working with schools and inner city community groups who are doing incredible work on a shoestring. It costs us €50 for each teenager to participate in RISE. I’d love to raise €500 by completing Runamuck.

If you would like to help me reach that target click here to go to my sponsor.ie page.

(If you are in the UK you can give tax-efficiently through my Justgiving page.

Thanks!

International Women’s Day 2013

What I said last year still holds true. We shouldn’t need a day to celebrate women or to remind ourselves that discrimination based on gender is not how things should be.

jan carson_0A few months ago I asked where are the modern day prophets? Well, I’ve found a few and they are women.

The first is Jan Carson, speaking at AskWhatNow’s stimulus event on Faith and Arts in Belfast – a well spent 10 minutes watching this. (Click here or on the picture)

The second is Rev. Heather Morris. A lawyer friend told me about this talk that she delivered at the Annual New Law Term service in Dublin. Speaking to a congregation that included visiting judges from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales, as well as political leaders, members of the Irish judiciary, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Diplomatic Corps she was a prophetic voice:

Faithful Christian living in whatever our sphere of work and influence demands that we address the hard questions, there are so many we could choose–

what do we do when our national character has become defined by aggressively defensive self interest? Faithful Christian living demands struggling, asking questions of a culture dominated by consumerism and asking the deeper questions of what has led to this? Demands that we listen to voices often disregarded and unheard. I remember very well listening to a young woman one evening as she courageously spoke in church about her life. She was a single Mum, living on benefits. And to good church people who from time to time asked “how can those Mums afford to give their kids those trainers, when I can’t”; she said “my kids do have designer trainers; we do have a Play Station and lots of games”, and then she talked about why. Because she said I want a stable life for my kids, I want them to have a Mum and Dad and a garden, but I can’t give them that, and I feel bad about that; but I can get then trainers– even if that means I have to move frequently to avoid debt collectors, and I will do whatever I have to in order to give them that. Commitment to the disturbing uncomfortable Son of God means prayerfully asking “What have we done which has built a society where self esteem is effected by the shoes we wear and the bags we carry?”

Allegiance to Jesus demands listening, demands holding back from the easy answer or the glib response that points a finger. Listening to Jesus may mean humbly being willing to name falleness, humbly naming where we have gone wrong. It demands a wholehearted commitment to Jesus who is the Lord in every sphere – for Jesus is not part of a collapsible morality that we can put into our pocket and pull out when we want it and ignore when we don’t. Remember Jesus is the Son of God, who simply speaks Peace and it comes to pass.

Sheryl WuDunn’s TED talk on our century’s greatest injustice is well worth watching.

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?

Will you help me make it over the finish line of the 2012 Innovista challenge?

In just over 8 days my feet and tyres will be pounding the Glens of Antrim in Innovista’s annual fundraising adventure race.

There are 35km to be conquered including an assault course at the end. Why you ask?

Last year Becca, one of the young people from the youth group I’ve been helping out with said  “what’s the point – nothing’s ever going to change around here”.

I believe that change is possible and that teenagers can become sources of hope in their communities.
For that reason I’m taking on an intern (who has more experience working with teenagers than I do!) to develop a leadership programme that will equip teenager with  leadership skills and get them involved in a community project.
Most of all my hope is that in seeing something small change we can begin to break the cycle of hopelessness.
To help raise the funding I’m competing in Glenathlon – running,cycling and assault course on 8th September.
Would you help us to raise the funds we need to inject hope into the lives of teenagers like Becca?
To sponsor me go to:
or if you are a taxpayer in the UK:
Thanks!

Pussy Riot’s closing statement in their trial

This has been a crazy story as the Russian authorities clamp down on protest in the form of the punk band Pussy riot.

You can read the full text of Yekaterina Samutsavich’s closing statement here. Powerful stuff.  A couple of excerpts:

In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia…

…In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Changing the trajectory of teenagers’ lives – the 2011 Innovista Challenge

In less than 48 hours time myself and two friends will be hitting the hills and waterways of West Cork for the 2011 Innovista Challenge.

We’ll be:

cycling 25km
running 8km and
kayaking 1.5km
(on what is looking like being a cold October morning)

The time for training has passed. The emergency whistle has been purchased and bike serviced.  Now time to start praying we make it to the finish line in one piece. And of course one other vital way you can help us make it across the finish line in Skibbereen is to sponsor us!

But first why, on a cold October morning are we putting our bodies through such pain?

Robbie* is a teenager from inner city Dublin. He lives in a community where drug and alcohol abuse is rife and the best paying job prospect for young males is as a drug dealer.

Alcoholism and a parent in prison have devastated Robbie’s family life. It is no surprise that he has dropped out of school early and has a police record for violent behaviour. Today his future has ‘prison’ written all over it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Robbie is intelligent, talented and influential. He has incredible potential. Imagine if he used that potential to influence his peers for good, to bring change in his community. Robbie could be a future leader.

To do that he needs people around him who will invest deeply in him; who will show him that another way is possible; who will encourage him and cheer him on; who will do what most of us would consider normal.

Future Leaders is an initiative created for young people like Robbie. We want to break the cycle of hopelessness and despair and help him experience that change is possible. We want to equip Robbie and his peers with the skills, courage and character to be leaders who change their own lives and transform their communities.

Robbie is part of the Future Leaders pilot programme that’s being delivered by Innovista Ireland and a local church.

There are hundreds of teenagers like Robbie who can become future leaders. Your support will enable us to expand the programme, giving more young people their much needed opportunity to see that there is a better way and become part of the change that’s needed where they are.

That’s why we’re doing the challenge. Please give whatever you can …here’s how:

If you live in Ireland  (or anywhere else, and are not a UK taxpayer) click here to give via sponsor.ie

If you are a taxpayer in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK  click here to give via JustGiving (which enables us to claim tax relief on your gift)

You can also support us in the challenge by sharing this page and encouraging your friends to get on board.

Thanks!

*Name changed for privacy reasons

Urban Nation

What is God’s (and your) vision for the city? This question perhaps sums up the Urban Nation conference (hosted by Tearfund, IBI and iMAP)a couple of weeks ago. Over the course of the day various speakers explored what this looks like in different contexts – from creating community by developing a theology of hope based on children, justice, community and beauty (Joe Donnelly) to making the most of our relational networks to influence the influencers.

It was inspiring and encouraging to be united with people from churches across the city, coming together to wrestle with how we can ‘seek the good of the city’. Keynote speaker Joel Edwards of the Micah Network left us with plenty of questions to ponder such as:

How do our church budgets reflect the social needs of our area?
What is the difference between a church coexisting with a community and a church penetrating and transforming a community?
Do we have a theology of well-being that goes beyond Jesus sorting out your problems?

For me the lasting challenge was his comment that

“inner city mission can only happen through partnership.”

My experience of church has always been that of tending to go it alone but if we truly want to seek the good of the community God has placed us in – who do we need to partner with to make an impact? Is there any point starting something new when another voluntary organisation is doing the same thing?

2 days to the challenge…

Tomorrow I’m heading off to the wilds of Staffordshire to compete in the 2010 Innovista Challenge. Compete is perhaps the wrong word – struggle to cross the finish line is perhaps a more accurate representation.

Training – if that’s what you could call it is almost complete – as evidenced by Mark and I’s beautiful sweaty faces. Next stop:

25km of mountain biking – which after heading off road last week I’ve discovered is much harder work than cycling around Dublin.
10km running forest trails
1.6 km kayaking

Lots of people do this sort of thing for fun – not me. I’m in it for the money. More specifically to raise money.

I work with Innovista where we are passionate about seeing the lives of young people and communities transformed. We do this through training and supporting young leaders who are working to make a difference in the lives of young people who often don’t have much in the way of hope or dreams.

We need your help to resource and equip these young leaders. The challenge is raising money for Innovista projects in Ireland and in Barton (Oxford) – click on the links to read more.

Please help us bring hope to young people in the UK and Ireland by sponsoring us

The Irish team is made up of myself, Mark Gorman and Kyle Kophamel – you can sponsor them by clicking the links on their names or sponsor me here.