Calling for alternatives to enforced free trade, churches and church-related organizations world-wide, along with other religious groups and community partners, are gearing up for a major Trade Week of Action, from 14-21 October 2007.
Planned events range from hunger strikes and pickets to worship and high-profile seminars. Organizers are highlighting current trade practices that are inflicting misery on millions of poor people and advocating for changes in national and international arenas.
The Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), in supporting the week of action, declared yesterday "Trade which does not eradicate poverty, enhance equality and care for the environment is not worth promoting. When trade, as it does today, sends the majority of people into grinding poverty, increasing hunger and loss of livelihoods, while a few enjoy excessive wealth, then as churches we need to intensify our advocacy work."
Events are being added daily at www.tradeweek.org and so far include:
India: "Hunger strike" by the Madras Christian Council of Social Services will demonstrate solidarity with those stricken by poverty and hunger.
Southern Africa: Churches and civil society organizations are organizing prayers, pickets, radio talk shows, a seminar and a statement on debt cancellation and food security.
Philippines: Pickets by indigenous people, environmentalists and other concerned people at government offices are among many activities organized by 13 national groups including the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
Finland: Creating rules for fair trade will be the focus of a seminar in the House of Labour, Helsinki with the participation of academics, politicians, labour, agricultural producers and development workers, organized by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission.
Brazil: A forum on biofuels organized by the Ecumenical Service Coordination (CESE) and the Brazilian Forum for Food and Nutrition Security will be held in Brasilia and video-transmitted over the internet on www.interlegis.gov.br
United States: Churches across the country will "Stand Up and Speak Out" between 9 pm GMT on 16 October and 9 pm on 17 October particularly advocating reform of the US Farm Bill.
Australia: A film screening and discussion in Melbourne, Australia, will focus on sweatshop labour and worker rights, organized by the National Council of Churches in Australia (Christian World Service), the Justice and International Mission Unit of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania and FairWear Victoria.
The Trade Week of Action coincides with World Food Day (16 October), the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), and the Joint Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (19-21 October).
The Global Week of Action Against Debt is also taking place this week, meaning millions will be campaigning against unjust economic policies around the globe.
The Trade Week of Action is organized by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), an international network of churches and church-related organizations cooperating in advocacy on global trade and HIV and AIDS. EAA participants include the World Council of Churches, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, Caritas Internationalis, and over 100 more organizations, reaching a constituency of tens of millions.
Together they are committed to "speak out with one voice against injustice, to confront structures of power, practices and attitudes which deprive human beings of dignity and to offer alternative visions based on the Gospel", as participants in the December 2000 founding meeting of the Alliance have vowed to do.