Political and social activism, rooted in faith, has a vital role to play in shaping modern Britain, says Stephen Timms, the Labour Party's vice-chair with special responsibility for faith communities.
“There is positive impact when people of faith are involved in the lives of their community, because these people bring valuable qualities in their service which are rare elsewhere and they are qualities modern Britain urgently needs,” he said.
His comments came during his keynote speech at the national conference of Traidcraft, the Christian-based fair trade organisation, in St Chad’s College, Durham.
He told the 250 delegates, guests and staff that the history of Traidcraft provided an outstanding example of how effective and influential faith-based organisations can be.
“You have a vision of a world freed from the scandal of poverty, where trade is just and people and communities can flourish.
“Like all visions, it looks to a world not as it is, but how it could and should be, and you can point to changes on a big scale which have happened because of what you have done as supporters of Traidcraft, the organisation which has made fair trade a reality in Britain.”
Mr Timms, Minister for Competitiveness in the newly formed Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, also paid tribute to Traidcraft’s pioneering work on social accounting and corporate responsibility, and its influence on Government policy, most recently in the shaping of the Companies Act 2007.
Encouraging Traidcraft supporters to “deepen and widen the fair trade revolution,” he added: “In Government we recognise, increasingly, that faith communities are sustaining families, building cohesion, reaching the disadvantaged, communicating positive values the length and breadth of Britain. And we need much more of that, not less.
“If our aim is a new world freed from the injustice and poverty, we need active input in our communities from people whose starting point is faith, and Traidcraft is a very good example of what can happen when we get it.
“Because vision and values alone are not going to achieve a revolution. It requires ideas, it requires people and it requires very hard work. That is why what you have done is revolutionary, changing the way business is done and changing it for the better.”