In a change from a standard political hustings, European candidates for the North West have this week been grilled at a 'question time' with a difference - a film night on social justice and corporate responsibility at the AMC Cinema on Deansgate, Manchester, attended by local people.
Campaigning group SPEAK, a network of students working on peace and justice issues from a Christian perspective, teamed up with Oxfam and Christian Aid to invite prospective MEPs and people from across North West England to come together to quiz the candidates on international development and climate change concerns ahead of the forthcoming European elections on 4 June.
Attendees, including MEP hopefuls from all the main parties, watched the award-winning film ‘Total Denial’, which follows the story of a ground-breaking lawsuit in which fifteen Burmese villagers take on two corporate giants for human rights abuses in a courageous struggle for justice.
“This film is a stark illustration of the impact that international business, including British and European companies, can have on people's lives the world over, all too often with devastating effects.” said local group member Greg Butera.
He continued: “We want to see the introduction of new Europe-wide laws that require business organisations to respect the rights of people and the environment”.
The film night event was particularly aimed at engaging younger voters. It posed the question, 'should company profits continue to come before people and the environment?'
The Manchester SPEAK group have been campaigning on this issue and want future representatives in the European Parliament to speak up for the victims of corporate crimes around the world.
After the film, people from all around Manchester and the North West had a chance to see who could be representing them and ask them stand up for the issues they care about.
“The evidence first brought to light by the BBC that TNS Knitwear Ltd (supplier to Primark and others), based in Ardwick, have employed illegal immigrants in sweatshop conditions, brings into sharp focus the relevance of corporate accountability to us, here and now in the UK”, commented Mr Butera.
He added: “Many consumers feel strongly that the businesses that they buy from should act ethically, but they often feel unable to have any meaningful influence on this. A new piece of European legislation, if well enforced, could be the start of a transformation in the way our businesses operate.”
SPEAK (http://www.speak.org.uk/) is part of the Root and Branch network of organisations influenced by an Anabaptist-style commitment to radical, practical Christianity. Among others it includes Christian Peacemaker Teams, the London Mennonite Centre, Urban Expression and the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about/partners).
For more details about the film 'Total Denial', go to: http://www.totaldenialfilm.com