JustLife is an initiative set up by a group of us based around a Tearfund event last Saturday called ‘Invest for Life’. JustLife is a space dedicated to exploring the connections between faith, money, justice and lifestyle.
‘Invest for Life’ was about money – the theology and practice of giving, budgeting, investing and using our money for the good of ourselves and the world around us.
JustLife is designed to help us go deeper on some of the issues that are raised at the event. Every Wednesday until the 25 March, a group of us involved in Invest for Life will be posting short pieces discussing topics like fair-trade, ethical banking, giving and sustainable living. We hope you’ll feel free to join in the conversation.
I’ve just posted my contribution on giving…
The ‘global credit crunch’ is dominating our news stories, economy, spending and even making it into church sermons. People are worried about the drop in value of the property market – which well certainly in parts of East Belfast was artificially inflated by greedy property investors. Economic growth is slowing, the exchange rate with the euro is not good (for my cross border forays, good for those coming to the pound-zone). In this worry and obsession with the good times slowing, I am grateful for papers like the Independant who can remind us of the real crisis in the global economy. I’ve been reading snippets of this over the last months, but few news outlets are prepared to make it front page news. Maybe partly because it puts our issues in perspective and gives the Daily Mail less to be alarmist about – although I’m sure they’ll find a way to blame immigrants.
It seems we have got ourselves (globally) in trouble with environmental alternatives. Biofuels the great answer to rising fossil fuel transportation costs are causing a real crisis among the poorest countries in the world. Crops that are used for biofuels are also used by milions for food. So when the increasing demand for fuel drives prices up, that means the cost of basic staple foods rises too, and who does it affect the most? The poorest. Those with no voice. This isn’t a little problem. There have been protests in Haiti, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Tortilla Riots in Mexico and protests in Italy. Western farmers are enjoying the bumper profits but at what cost? Newspapers have been reporting this and warning that we may be sleepwalking towards a food crisis. Ordinary punters like us can change the minds of the powerful, but with this one its so huge – where do we start – any suggestions?
[I’m off to suggest to Tearfund this may be a badger – who to badger is the question though..]
This article – Vultures leave the developing world hungry (a response to ‘How top London law firms help vulture funds devour their prey‘) made me sit bolt upright when reading my Saturday Guardian this morning. My non-economist understanding seems to be that these ‘vulture’ funds buy debt of Heavily Indebted Poor countries (HIPC’s), countries like Zambia, Congo and Tanzania which are receiving debt relief. These companies or funds then sue the governments of those countries for more than what they paid for the debt. It seems crazy, morally repungent and many other phrases that this should be allowed to happen. Talk about stealing from the poor to make money! Is this the logical conclusion of a capitalist system that is all about profit – the poor always get oppressed? The growing global rich-poor divide seems to be damning evidence. Given Gordon Brown’s commitments to the fight against global poverty I for one will be dropping him a line about this horrific state of affairs of companies making money at the expense of those who have little enough choices and hope as it is.
It reminds me of several conversations about faith and economics and remembering a comment from someone from the States who said “well, i think god would be a capitalist”. I remember the shock and horror that arose – did he just say that? Especially after an articulate explanation from a theology professor on economics and the bible. We cannot and should not equate Christian faith with one economic system but it is undeniable that a capitalist system with its exploitation of the poor is certainly less aligned with the teaching of the bible than a Christian socialist model that wants a more even distribution of wealth. Of course there are lots of caveats there. Believing that the capitalist model of free markets etc is the best way to lift people out of poverty is different that simply believing in capitalism. It worries me that the church seems to have imbibed so much of capitalism and ignored so much of the Bible, of the God who is concerned about poverty, who asks his people to look out for the poor, to live generously, who designed an economic system that would have avoided long term poverty. The example of the early church who shared everything, who gave sacrificially (as God has asked – to give/lend until the person is no longer in need, not just give a bit to ease our conscience) is one to remember. Certainly what stood out to me in Peru this summer was the thankfulness and generosity of people who were less concerned with what they had and more with how others were. Maybe on some of this the church in Europe and the States has become too ‘of the world’ as opposed to ‘in it’., we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the southern church.
soapbox – confusing himself with economics but the red light on his injustice-ometer is flashing brightly
**UPDATE** Tearfund’s Superbadger takes on the vultures here.