The Diocese of Westminster has just reached the number of parishes needed become a Fairtrade Diocese – and are now calling on others to join up.
Following a campaign to get parishes to switch to Fairtrade products and make a commitment to promote the scheme, 108 out of 214 of Westminster’s parishes have committed to Fairtrade, meaning that the diocese can now be awarded Fairtrade status.
The status – which is only held by a few other dioceses across the country – will mean that each parish will have Fairtrade refreshments, such as tea and coffee, available at parish meetings and will hold at least one activity per year promoting Fairtrade.
The Fairtrade Foundation was founded in 1992, by CAFOD alongside Christian Aid, Oxfam GB, Tradecraft and The WI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes). This year, the group are celebrating 25 years of the Fairtrade mark.
Tony Sheen, CAFOD’s representative in Westminster said: “Congratulations to Our Lady of Lourdes in Acton and St John Fisher in Redbourn, who have both recently attained Fairtrade status.
“With the help of these and other parishes in the diocese, Westminster Diocese is about to attain Fairtrade Diocese Status.
“When we buy products with the Fairtrade Mark, we support farmers and workers in the developing world as they work to improve their lives and their communities.”
The Fairtrade Foundation currently works with over 1.5 million people, who produce Fairtrade products in more than 70 countries. This includes more than 750,000 coffee farmers globally through nearly 600 Fairtrade-certified coffee producer organisations.
Pupils from Finchley Catholic High School recently received a very special visit from a group of land and human rights defenders who travelled from Colombia to speak to the students about the importance of environmental protection.
Known locally as The Guardians of Atrato River, Alba Achito, a female indigenous leader, and Fausto Palacios, a youth coordinator and advisor, and lawyer Vianney Enrique Moya Rua, visited the Totteridge secondary school to spend the day with the pupils.
The Guardians visit coincided with the school’s International Day, and they were invited to attend an international lunch in which students from different nations provided food and refreshments.
The visitors spoke about their experiences of protecting, defending and preserving land – especially the local Atrato River. Alba described how difficult it is for indigenous women in particular to be heard and the stark dangers of speaking out for justice. Vianney highlighted how many human rights that we take for granted in our country are denied in Colombia and how people from different ethnic backgrounds are working in solidarity to make their voices heard.
Gerrard Crosby, Assistant Head Teacher and Director of the Sixth Form at the school, said:
“Human rights is a priority for all of us and in our country and they are an expectation, so to see these people actively defending their rights was inspirational. I felt like it was a renewed call to social responsibility.
“The Guardians enabled me to see charitable work in action and the attachment of people to the land; it empowered me to spread the word, to continue to support and we will do all we can as a school community to support such causes”.
Students at the school listened to their story with great interest and empathy. One student said:
“What really inspired me about their talk, is that after everything they had been through, they are still fighting for their river. The river is their way of life, and a source of joy for them, and they won’t stop fighting for it. It made me appreciate everything that I have, especially all the resources and opportunities given to me at school. Also, the three guardians were from different organisations but they worked together productively in order to save their river. This showed how many people depend on the river, and made me think about the impacts on the locals, if the guardians weren’t fighting for it”.
Chocó, where the Atrato River is located, is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, but as a result of illegal mining activities and the armed conflict, the land is being destroyed.
For many Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities living locally, they face daily dangers in their efforts to try to protect the environment.
Following a landmark 2017 ruling, Colombia’s Constitutional Court recognised the Atrato River, including its communities, as having rights to “protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration” – yet, two years later, many community members still face discrimination and threats of violence.
CAFOD has worked in Colombia for over 50 years and is currently working alongside the community that protects the Atrato River to make sure their voices are heard.