Social justice

The Mayor Saga Continues

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“He has arrived; he is in office.”

Excellent. Against all odds, we have everybody in the same space. Media present? Tick. Religious leaders? Tick. Mayor in his office with no known escape routes? Tick. Ready for ambush.

Since the Mayor intervened and ruined the last sachet alcohol-impounding operation, he had affectively blocked all enforcement by refusing to let his enforcement officers take part in operations. Theres a lot riding on this ambush.

Our District’s former Anglican Bishop (still an influential figure) and Muslim Sheik lead the way with a gaggle of media swarming behind them. At first, I tactically remain outside. The last time I saw the Mayor, we both lost our tempers. I waited. Then my phone rang and I was summoned inside to join the discussion. Things weren’t going well. The Mayor dodged everything, weaving in lies and half truths. His attack was threefold-

He claimed enforcement was unfairly targeting certain businessmen in the town area, and that we should be going out to the villages. This is true but justified- the main suppliers of illegal alcohol are in town! He claimed that business owners had not been properly ‘sensitized’ to the ordinance, and there should be multiple meetings hosted for business owners to have ‘input’ into implementation of the ordinance. Firstly, the news about the ordinance had already saturated the media since its launch the previous year, and business owners had already had illegal product confiscated! The time for ‘sensitization’ had clearly passed. ‘Sensitization of business owners’ is at best a delay tactic to make sure nothing happens, and at worst, an opportunity for business owners to rebel and swing things to benefit their profit focus. Most bizarrely, he claimed that the first round of impounded sachets were never actually burned, and that the big public bonfire was ‘faked.’ How on earth he thought this ridiculous claim would even help his position, I’m still not sure. Afterwards I provided the video footage and photographs to the media of the sachets being burnt.

The Mayor completely dominated the discussion. The religious leaders (who I clearly had not prepped strongly enough), folded under his pompous display of authority and importance. Too gentle, too polite, their message demanding the Mayor release his enforcement officers for operations was lost. My own attempts to ‘up the anti’ were shushed. We left, I felt deflated.

Outside, we reshaped things with the media, and managed to rework the message to make it stronger!

Despite having essentially failed in our main mission of influencing the Mayor, our ambush had an unexpected positive result. Perhaps frustrated by failed ambush, the Muslim Sheik called the District Chairman and they went on radio and thoroughly dressed down the Mayor. The District Chairman then resolved to go above the Mayor’s head, and ensure enforcement would go on, with or without the town enforcement officers. Boom.

Most of the media coverage was on local radio, but a local reporter also wrote it up on their news blog. 

Children-at-risk as Co-agents

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By Michelle Sheba Tolentino and Susan Hayes Greener.

After the worship service ended on a recent Sunday, Erika spontaneously came up to me (Susan) and asked with a smile, ‘Can I pray for you?’

I replied, ‘Yes, you can.’ I told her about the Second Lausanne Forum on Children-at-risk and mentioned that all the people coming would be working on issues important to children-at-risk.

She said, ‘Let’s pray,’ and then proceeded to pray for me and for all of the participants. She asked for God’s blessings upon us and that we would do good work for children.

Mission with children like Erika

Erika is not one of the adult women from our congregation. Erika is nine years old. She is slim and olive-skinned, with long dark wavy hair that reveals her Middle Eastern heritage. I have watched her pray aloud through every room as a group of us gathered for the blessing of a church family’s home. I have witnessed her rush to the front of the church to lay hands on and pray for people we are sending out for ministry. I have warmed to her smile as she greets me at the door to the sanctuary, offering a bulletin and a cheerful ‘good morning!’ I have rejoiced in her concentration as she passes the offering basket, taking her role as an usher seriously and fulfilling it with dedication and child-like grace. I have also watched with joy as she plays outside, while keeping a watchful eye on the younger children, gently correcting their misbehavior and herding them away from danger.

As a pastoral couple, my spouse and I have received blessing from her prayers. Our church family does mission ‘with’ Erika, as much as we advocate ‘for’ her and ensure that she is ministered ‘to’ through children’s education and discipleship opportunities. Our church family wholeheartedly embraces and listens to Erika.

She is a fortunate child. She is healthy; she goes to school; she lives in a community that has clean water, transportation, medical care, a public library, low crime, and many other systemic supports. She has two stable parents and a loving Christian home. Although her family is experiencing financial stress while her father is in seminary, entering into that place of hardship is an intentional decision and a temporary situation. Erika offers us an image of a thriving child, fully welcomed into the family of faith, co-laboring with all generations in the mission of God.

Children-at-Risk and their place in the Kingdom of God

Yet, not all children are so blessed. Children face great risk in every region of the world:

children live in extreme poverty; children are affected by conflict, violence, and abuse; children are swept up in the refugee crisis; children are trafficked and prostituted; and others face combinations of these and other daunting risks.

Although hundreds of millions of children face risks, each one is much more than a victim or a tragic label. Each child in our broken and messy world is a multi-faceted human being, created in God’s image, endowed with spiritual gifts—a child who can meaningfully participate as a co-laborer in church and mission. The global church is taking notice and rising up to address seriously the importance of children, particularly children-at-risk.

Lausanne Forum

Risks that negatively impact children and their place in the kingdom of God were among the issues addressed at the Second Lausanne Forum on Children-at-risk (CAR) held at Lancaster Bible Institute in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May 14-17, 2017. The CAR Issue Group gathered 74 specially invited academics, church leaders, theologians, missiologists, practitioners, and representatives from child-focused non-governmental organizations to craft action plans for mobilizing the global church to address issues facing children-at-risk around the world.

We recognize that the move toward action is challenging. It is much easier to talk and write about issues than to mobilize the global church; yet, the CAR Issue Group is dedicated to fulfilment of two of the mandates of the 2010 Lausanne Cape Town Commitment regarding children:[1]

to train people and provide resources to meet the needs of children worldwide; and to expose, resist and take action against all abuse of children.

To prepare for the gathering in Lancaster and to ensure that our work was theologically grounded, participants responded to two major documents: The Quito Call to Action for Children-at-Risk,[2] and Lausanne Occasional Paper 66: Mission with Children-at-Risk.[3] Both documents, produced out of the 2014 Lausanne Consultation on Children-at-Risk, call for the global church to develop collaborative plans emphasizing and acting on mission to, for, and with children-at-risk.

In keeping with the CAR Issue Group’s commitment to child participation in discourse that impacts their lives, we wanted to hear from children-at-risk about what it means for children-at-risk to thrive. Because we could not bring children into our midst during the forum due to ethical constraints, each participant was asked to conduct a listening exercise with children in their ministry contexts so that we could hear their reflections and view their artwork depicting what human flourishing looks like for them. This was a deeply significant and moving experience for those who eagerly shared children’s drawings and writings for analysis and display at the conference venue. Participants were constantly reminded of children’s capabilities and insights, as well as the importance of including their perspectives in action planning.

Each day a time of heartfelt worship and intentional prayer for children-at-risk was followed by meaningful biblical engagement with particular focus on mission with children-at-risk, an area where participants believe the global church to be less proficient. Plenary presentations during the first day reflected upon the Lausanne Occasional Paper from the perspectives of practitioners, theologians, and organizations. Several speakers, who were former children-at-risk, recounted powerful stories of transformed lives as families, churches, and ministries gave greater attention to mission to, for, and with children-at-risk.

The second and third days of the forum focused on working together in the five designated action groups, where each participant committed to taking on personally the tasks necessary for enacting plans. Children-at-risk were at the forefront of all discussions, as groups demonstrated a high value for their input and acknowledged their God-given creativity and wisdom as they developed concrete action steps to address the pressing issues that affect children.


Group 1—Advocacy to the church for children in refugee communities (children on the move): The group plans strategically to educate the church about the perspectives of refugee children by collecting the first-person stories of children through art and interviews. They intend to focus particularly on children with refugee status, and include others ‘on the move’ as well, producing a prayer guide and book for church use.

 Group 2—Amplifying children’s voices: The group is developing a toolkit to be used to help adults in any local church setting to learn to listen to children’s input more effectively. The kit will be coupled with a plan for enhanced intergenerational models for being the church.

Group 3 – Multiplying training programs: The team proposed three important initiatives—creating a platform to share resources between schools and other training organizations; improving communication between seminaries and practitioners; and, finding fruitful materials to translate into local languages.

Group 4 – Regional Lausanne forums: The group will convene conversations regarding best practices for mission with children-at-risk with the goals of educating and inspiring churches in every part of the world for mobilization and collaborative action, starting in the Philippines and East Africa.

Group 5 – Reimagining the children-at-risk paradigm: The group started by sharing life and ministry experiences that caused them to question whether thriving should better be conceived as helping children discover meaning and purpose in their lives. They also recognized the importance of further theological reflection on mission limitations, humility, and failure as ways to better acknowledge how sometimes even our best efforts do not result in the transformation of children’s lives. The group plans to publish theological reflections about these concerns as one part of their action plan.

The forum has achieved an important milestone for the Lausanne Children-at-risk Issue Network in moving from talk to action. Las Newman, Lausanne Global Associate Director for Regions, noted the unusually high level of camaraderie, collaborative spirit, and passion of the forum attendees. We are blessed to gather some of the most influential and committed servant leaders in God’s kingdom working in collaborative partnership with one another, from different parts of the world and across generations, to see God’s heart and purpose unfold in the lives of his precious children in difficult circumstances. We look forward to seeing what each action group accomplishes in the coming year.

The call to minister to, for and with children-at-risk

The church is uniquely positioned to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk because it is present almost everywhere in the world. What changes would need to take place for the church to take seriously the call to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk?

Leadership, from the local church level up through institutional structures, can embrace a high view of children and Scripture so that policies and documents reflect the whole of Scripture, regarding children as fully included in the church. Pastors and church leaders can be offered tools that value children-at-risk, not simply as recipients of service, but as co-agents of mission. Formal and non-formal education are necessary to train pastors to transform thinking about children-at-risk in churches. Churches can examine ways in which they value or de-value children within their own church practices. For example, are children participating in worship, or are they sent away to a separate space for the entire service? Are children participating only in the pews, or are they helping to lead singing, take offerings, say prayers, share testimonies, or in other ways? We can examine how the church intentionally engages in ministry to, for, and with children-at-risk within its community, city, and beyond. How might we be a prophetic voice speaking out on behalf of these children and their families? Are there ways that they might participate with us in ministry? Ministry budgets can be analyzed to determine how much money is allotted to ministry with children and youth, and specifically, children-at-risk. What does your budget say about what you value? Theologies that have sustained and justified violence against children or an attitude that they are somehow ‘lesser than’ adults must be reconsidered. How might church-sanctioned harsh punishment, extreme shaming for ‘sinful’ behaviors, or unrealistic expectations for maturity or perfection perpetuate violence and injustice toward children? We must learn how to identify ‘appropriate participation’ of children, especially in evangelism and social action ministries. We must avoid anything that manipulates, exploits, or coerces children to participate based on adult agendas. Clear child protection and participation policies will help the church minimize risks of exploitation or spiritual abuse.

Now is the time to act! We call the global church to pray for us as we continue to seek God’s wisdom in our work together on behalf of the children-at-risk among us. In addition, we ask others to join us on mission to, for, and with children-at-risk, empowering them to flourish and express their God-given gifts and co-participation in the Missio Dei.


Michelle Sheba Tolentino is Catalyst for the Lausanne Children-at-Risk Issue Network. In 2011, she co-founded Made In Hope, a non-profit organization that provides educational and work opportunities to women who have been exploited in modern slavery (human trafficking and prostitution) and prevention of child sex-trafficking in the Philippines. Michelle also serves as Broadcaster and Producer for ‘Okiddo: The 4/14 Kids Show,’ a weekly radio broadcast for children and youth (Far Eastern Broadcasting Company, Philippines) that reaches 500,000 listeners. It was awarded a Golden Dove Award in 2015 by the Broadcasters Association of the Philippines. She also travels internationally to speak as an advocate for women and children-at-risk.

Susan Hayes Greener, PhD, is Catalyst for the Lausanne Children-at-Risk Issue Network and currently serves as Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School. She has worked in human development for over two decades in universities and NGOs, including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, One Child Matters, Compassion International, Early Head Start, and Yale University. Susan has trained Christian workers from over 50 countries and authored works on children-at-risk and global human development topics, including co-authoring Effective Intercultural Communication: A Christian Perspective (Baker Academic, 2014) and co-editing a special issue on children-at-risk for Transformation (Summer, 2016).


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at



[1] The Cape Town Commitment, Lausanne Movement (2011), II.D.5,

[2] Quito Call to Action on Children at Risk, Lausanne Movement (2014),

[3] Mission with Children at Risk (LOP 66), Lausanne Movement (2014),


“Can I talk about rubbish?”

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We’ve been busy, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Our sewing enterprise continues to take shape. We’re hoping sales in New Zealand and Australia can help us keep the prices affordable for the local market, thereby contributing, even in a small way, to reduced rubbish and carbon footprint. We’re approaching food banks in NZ about whether they’d accept our re-usable cloth sanitary pads if donated for those unable to afford disposable pads (apparently topical there right now). Let us know if making such a donation interests you or a group you know. Email if you want to hear more.

Hearing about our products, our girl’s teacher invited one of us to be the “creative parent teacher” on the theme of “women’s empowerment” to celebrate the birthday of a famous campaigner for girls’ education. “Can I talk about rubbish?” she asked. “Of course,” he replied, “the main thing is that you’re a woman.”

So began our series of presentations: “Living with rubbish”. Where does rubbish go? What animals are affected? What happens when you burn it? All novel questions, it seems, around here. Promoting the three “R” (reduce, reuse, recycle), we discussed alternatives to buying heavily packaged takeaways, which left parents and teachers in the audience challenged to change their consumption habits. “This is really important,” said one parent, “everyone should hear this”. After three years of living with the overwhelming reality of the rubbish around us, it is deeply satisfying to share meaningfully about this.

We’ve done the presentation five times now, including in our neighbourhood. As well as a platform to promote the products, it feels good to celebrate our rubbish-picking neighbours as eco-heroes. Without them, our city would have 30% more rubbish to deal with! Unfortunately, they are often regarded as dirty, impolite, unhealthy bottom-feeders. “They’re actually richer than many of the legitimate citizens of this area,” the local government official tried to tell me, “squatting for free, paying no tax. They can just go home to their houses in the village.”

Such discussions have been informed by my part-time study. This semester’s topic was “climate change, justice and sustainability.” One of my first assignments was to write a letter to people back home about my convictions about climate change. You can ask for a copy by emailing I’ve also written an essay regarding “Rich Christians in an Age of Climate Change” with some thoughts for the church here, and another essay on climate change risks for our rubbish-picking neighbours and local perceptions and priorities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future.

The enforcement begins

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I woke up, wired, my head buzzing with questions. Would the police go ahead with the plan? Will the District send a big truck like they promised? Will we find the sachets of alcohol or have retailers hidden them too well? How will the shopkeepers react? If we do find sachets, will the District come through on their promise to give us somewhere to put them? In Gulu, no matter how much you try, a ‘plan’ is never really more than a series of vague uncoordinated questions. Fred, a key ally is already waiting at the police station at 7am, coolly sipping a mug of millet porridge. We are soon joined by Anthony, Boniface and Cristo, all revving to go.

After an hour and a half of milling around we spot the District Police Commander. “There’s an emergency, the operation will be delayed until its dealt with.” We watch as officers are loaded into an open-topped vehicle and speed off. The Police Commander, standing near us, demands updates on his cell phone “Is he dead? Where are the suspects?” A mob were lynching two suspected motorcycle thieves. By the time the police arrived (an hour late), they had been burnt to death. Officers returned and joined our circle, cheerfully one-upping one another on the most horrific lynchings they had seen, the details of which I shall spare you. I politely declined viewing a cell phone snap of this mornings victims. More time passed. 10am came and went. With plenty of phone calls from our team, we managed to get the District truck sent with a driver to wait on standby, and made sure the police vehicles had fuel.

Then suddenly, my mouth still full of chapatti, we were all go. Officers piled into police vans, last second confusion and changes of targets. My convoy hit up the wholesale street in the centre of town. While I’m used to seeing police operations on my teenage favourite “The Bill’ or more recently the infinitely superior “The Wire,” this operation resembled toddlers playing tag in the dark. The District Police Commander soon became completely redundant as operation commander when he got into what turned out to be an hour long dispute with a shopkeeper.

Most of the police considered themselves above lifting boxes and loading them into the truck. They had no plan for how the loading should take place. We lifted boxes ourselves, and hired some young guys on the spot.

While most of the shop keepers responded calmly, one retailer was furious. He had 30 boxes of sachets confiscated, worth millions of Ugandan shillings. He leapt on the truck and tried to throw his boxes back. The drama attracted a crowd.

By 2:30pm, the mission was complete. Between the two sites targeted, 307 boxes of sachets were impounded. That’s around 44000 sachets. Despite our hassling, a storeroom had still not been identified. I had to check several major hotels to find the District Chairperson at one of two meetings he was supposedly attending, accompany him back to the District Headquarters, find the storekeeper, accompany the storekeeper to find an appropriate store, and ring the truck to come. An hour of lifting heavy smelly boxes in the sun later.

Boom. First operation, done.

It was reported in the national papers…even if they got the numbers wrong:

Daily monitor report “police confiscate 150 cartons of sachet waragi”

Gulu’s alcohol law. Launched!

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Last Tuesday was a milestone in our ‘Wakonye Kenwa’ group’s long struggle to bring alcohol regulation to Gulu town, and ban sachet alcohol. Over a year ago we coordinated a march to deliver over 10000 signatures to the local District Government to ensure they completed the law: we marched from a church to the District. This time, the march started at the District where our law was passed, and ended at Gulu Main Market, the District’s commercial hub where enforcement will start.

Check out our highlights video, including some of my favourite moments:

“Don’t drink sachets, drink…. porridge!” (Confused? Here you definitely ‘drink’ porridge, not eat it. Preferably with added peanut butter and lemon juice, mmmm). One of Gulu’s beloved ‘street personalities’ dancing to two 11 year-old gangsta’s Acholi rap about the harms of alcohol consumption. Our Resident District Commissioner (a top position in the District) drilling the crowd on the enforcement start date, 6th December, 2016. And of course, everybody’s highlight, Wakonye Kenwa Group’s drama featuring Otim Isaac as ‘Okech,’ the drunkard. I should probably add a preface that there is a somewhat black sense of humor here in Gulu. Perhaps decades of war and trauma have resulted in turning dark things into melodrama and comedy in order to cope. So to warn you, yes, there is a suicide scene, and I’m afraid yes, the crowd is in hysterics. Remember many things included in western plays/films/songs seem inappropriate to people here! Feeling the unity and ownership. There weren’t any half-hearted speeches from disinterested politicians or other leaders. There is a shared feeling in Gulu that the time is ripe for this. Throughout this whole process we are yet to encounter much serious resistance. Maybe it will come when enforcement begins.

Let me let you in on a little secret (shhhhh…) I’m not really that into big events, and definitely not into organizing them. To pull this event off, we coordinated multiple NGOs to join the effort…think tents, chairs, brass bands, radio announcements, police escorts, banners, water bottle distribution, sound system, organizing the VIP speakers, getting tons of people to the same place at the same time…. So whats the point of all this faffing? After all, the law is already passed, right? Isn’t it a waste of time and money?

The reality is that in Uganda, laws often don’t mean all that much. Even if a law is officially passed by council, approved by the Attorney General, published in the national gazette, it can still result in absolutely no practical change. A whole lot of people have to know about the law, understand the law, and feel like it is their law. They have to believe their leaders think its important, and believe authorities are serious enough to make arrests, press charges, burn big piles of confiscated sachets. They have to feel like its worth it to kick up a massive fuss if they don’t see police enforcing the new law.

So that’s why we did the launch. And… it worked! There is big buzz about the new alcohol law and the sachet ban on the streets in Gulu and almost constantly on the radio. We are all holding our breath to see what will happen on the 6th December. Enforcement day.

Global food waste

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Image: No it’s not a family’s groceries. It’s 50kg of food removed from rubbish bins in Auckland and Te Awamutu. The average Kiwi household throws out twice this amount every year. The following are some highlights from a recent article about global food waste. We encourage you to read the full article here.

The more scientists study the issue of food waste – and its worrying implications for both the environment and global food security – the clearer it becomes how much of a problem it is.

Now, new research is giving us a few more reasons to clean our plates.

A study just out in the journal Environmental Science and Technology concludes that we’re already producing way more food than the world actually needs – but a lot of it is being wasted, instead of used to feed people who need it.

That’s a big problem for global food security as well as for the climate, given the huge amounts of greenhouse gases that go into producing the extra food – and the study suggests that the problem will only get worse in the future.

Scientists are already aware of how bad food waste is for the environment. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that, in 2007, the emissions required to produce all the food that went to waste in the world amounted to at least 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, more than most countries emitted.



The researchers used UN data to calculate the difference between the amount of food available in each country and the amount its citizens require in order to be healthy. For each country, there was either more food available than was needed to supply the nation’s requirements – a food surplus – or not enough.

The researchers considered food surplus to be equivalent to food waste, as it represents food that was not needed but produced anyway. Presumably, the majority of a food surplus is wasted, although the researchers noted in the paper that some of it is likely used for animal feed or is consumed by humans through overeating.


The study found that the global food surplus increased overall between 1965 and 2010 from 310 extra kilocalories per person per day to 510 extra kilocalories, with the greatest surplus growth rates generally observed in developed nations. As of 2010, 20 per cent more food was being produced worldwide than was actually needed to feed the world’s population, and overall the researchers estimated that the global surplus could be used to feed an extra 1.4 billion people.

The UN estimates that about 800 million people worldwide suffer from undernourishment, meaning there’s currently enough wasted food in the world to solve the world’s hunger problem nearly twice over – it just isn’t reaching the people who need it.


The study highlights several important problems in the current global food system. First, the finding that there’s more food than necessary in the world, while undernourishment still remains a global problem, implies that there are serious failings in the distribution of food worldwide.

“So much of poverty and famine aren’t about a lack of resources overall – they’re just distributional [problems],” said Emily Broad Leib, an assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. “It’s not surprising to see that, and both across countries and within countries this challenge of the food markets really being attainable for certain segments of the population and not for others.”


Read the full article here.

How Now Should We Shop? An Action Plan (Issue 26)

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“Now that I’ve seen, I am responsible” – Brooke Fraser

Knowing what we now know, we have a choice: forget about it and do nothing, get overwhelmed and do nothing, or take steps towards change. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful to counter our culture’s consumerism while becoming more of a ‘Kingdom-shopper.’

Admit we’re wrong, admit we’re learning. The first step is always admitting we have a problem, but we also need to acknowledge that becoming a Kingdom-shopper is a journey that takes time. Let’s not beat ourselves up if this is new, and let’s not look down on others who aren’t as far along either.

Make small steps. It’s difficult to jump straight into shopping 100% ethically, and rushed change doesn’t always last. Slow but consistent is better than fast but short-lived.

Celebrate the ‘wins’ along the way. Do a ‘whoop-whoop’ or hi-five when you find a new ethical product or a brand making positive changes.

Buy second-hand. Buying used stuff challenges our materialistic tendencies and doesn’t contribute to the demand of ethically questionable products.

Buy local. Locally produced products are less likely to have ethical issues as they’re produced under NZ law.

Stall before buying. Pause before buying anything and ask whether it’s really needed. The higher the cost, the longer the stall (like 30 days for expensive items).

Buy quality. If you need to buy something with questionable origins, buy something that will last so it won’t need replacing.

Research expands options. If we don’t research in advance, we can be caught-out, needing to buy something less ethical or very pricey.Giving ourselves time makes Kingdom-shopping an opportunity, not an inconvenience.

Wear it out. Do I really need the latest iPhone or that new pair of shoes? Let’s be counter cultural by actually using what we buy until it needs to be replaced.

Fair-trade isn’t the only option. Buying exclusively Fair Trade (or equivalent) brands isn’t always possible or viable, but many other brands are making positive steps. I choose to consider a company’s trajectory – are they actively trying to improve? Plus companies are more likely to listen and make changes if I’m actually a customer.

Expect to be frustrated, misunderstood and disappointed. You’ll find many favourite brands fail to meet fair ethical standards. It’s meant no more Hallensteins jeans for me (but thankfully Cotton On is heading in the right direction). And friends won’t always understand why you’ve become picky about where you shop.

Make a tough decision. When Jacob was born I made the conscious decision that my child wasn’t going to grow up at the expense of someone else’s. It’s been surprisingly difficult, but having such a personal (and specific) goal has made compromising much harder.

Make it daily conversation. Don’t keep it to yourself, but journey together with friends or family. Mari and I talk about ‘slavings’ when we see suspiciously cheap products or are tempted to buy something we probably shouldn’t. It may sound crass, but it’s made us conscious of product origins and has made it easy and natural to constantly remember something deeply serious.

Don’t just talk. 90% of Kiwis say we want to shop ethically – let’s actually act!

The remarkable thing is, if you start living and thinking this way, you’ll discover the way you view the world changes. It’s becoming easier to value other people’s freedom than my own convenience, and increasingly difficult for me to enter the temple of the local shopping-mall… and I think that’s a good thing.

Learning to Shop Ethically (Issue 26)

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By Robin Raymond

I’ve struggled for a long time to write this. As someone who’s paid to write, and writing about something important to me, this article should be easy. Yet I can’t shake the feeling this is all a load of sanctimonious nonsense from someone who doesn’t walk the talk.

Confused? Earlier last year I set out to change my world and rock yours (or at least, the readers of the Salvation Army magazine I write for). I’ve been interested for a long time in fair trade and ethical buying. As a Christian, I believe God’s desire for us to show his love everywhere includes having a deep compassion for the poor, not exploiting them to make ourselves more comfortable.

And I believe the market forces of unethical shopping create a huge amount of the preventable suffering in the world today. It genuinely isn’t an exaggeration to say that with our shopping we fund wars, sickness, slavery and the destruction of God’s creation.

In one of his more famous sermons, American pastor Tony Campolo described the Kingdom of God as “transformed people, living in a transformed world. People who radiate love – a society marked by justice.” I want to be part of that Kingdom, and if unethical shopping is getting in the way, I want to change it.

However, doing things the right way doesn’t always seem easy in New Zealand. So, I set out to find out how I could transform my shopping to be fully ethical and write a guide to help other people do the same.

Predictably, I dug up some great info, made a cool looking list of ways other people could change their spending … and barely changed my own. I stopped eating Vegemite, changed the brands of some grocery items, bought a couple of ethically made t-shirts. Still it all amounted to a pretty small part of my spending.

Everywhere I looked I found something more I could or should do, till it became overwhelming and felt like it would never be sufficient. It began to feel like the scene at the end of Schindler’s List where Oscar Schindler breaks down, feeling like he didn’t do enough and pointing out at all the different things he could have sold to save more Jews from the concentration camps.

Steps forward

While it’s true I could always do more, it’s not all hopeless, and this article is not a massive pity party. The reality is we’ve made huge strides in the area of ethical shopping. Even in New Zealand it’s clear Kiwis care. In 2014 (the most recent figures I can find) we spent $85 million on Fair Trade products. That’s just on stuff with a Fair Trade or Trade Aid label, not including all the other ethically-minded brands, and it’s up 28 per cent on 2013.

Ethical shopping is now a huge market and even the biggest, most cynical brands are paying attention. Fair Trade coffee is in almost every cafe, ethical bananas and chocolate in almost every supermarket. Why? Because people like you and me insist on it. We’ve even forced Nestle and Mars to try and buy us back by adding a tiny run of slightly more ethical chocolate bars. (This practice now known as ‘fair washing’ is frustrating, but also a sign of the power ethical shoppers worldwide now wield.)

It’s true: every dollar you spend (and don’t spend) is a vote for what you believe in. Every dollar we spend adds up to millions of votes for change and changes the world – easy right?

Steps towards change

Well, no, clearly not easy, but fortunately it’s just like being a disciple. As disciples of Jesus, we’re trying constantly to become more like him and in doing so we build God’s Kingdom. However, as frustrating as I find it, that doesn’t happen overnight; it is a slow walk of small changes that are heading towards a bigger goal.

It’s the same with changing the global market place and its ethics. I’ll never change the ethics of the global market and neither will you – but together huge numbers have and will. Our job is to join those numbers: to commit to small, practical steps that change our world.

I started with only buying ethical coffee and chocolate. Then I got an ethical shopping app to get informed and make changes in my supermarket shop. This year I hope to make more use of the Internet, where there’s an ethical company for anything you want, doing cool stuff at decent prices. I’m also aiming to fight our obsession for new and commit to buying more second hand or not at all. And hopefully, slowly, I’ll move from being a hypocritical religious person to a humble disciple, maybe even a person who radiates love and leaves a mark of justice.

Robin works as a writer for the Salvation Army in New Zealand. His research into ethical shopping can be read at

For discussion

If every dollar you spend is a vote, what sort of vote have you been casting?

What can you do to become more informed about the products you purchase?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.


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#NZCMS is going to be a little different this year. The biggest change: we’re stepping down to a post each fortnight, aiming for quality over quantity. That means we should be able to provide fresh content each time without relying on ‘re-blogs’ (though we’ll  include occasional articles from our Intermission magazine when the topic is particularly important.)

As it turns out, the latest issue of Intermission was on a very important issue, one I think future generations will look back and judge us on: Slavery. Human trafficking. The fact that there’s more slaves in the world today than at any point in history, despite 200 years of explicitly challenging the whole thing. And Intermission looked at how modern day slavery and the way I shop are woven together like some sort of disturbing tapestry. I made a perhaps obscure comment at the back of the issue so thought I’d tease it out a little further here.

This morning I had the privilege of sitting down over a cup of chai with Peter Mihaere. He runs an organisation called Stand Against Slavery, and we got talking about whether New Zealand could eventually become truly slavery free. That’d mean no slaves or exploited workers here nor anyone trafficked to or from here. It’d also mean no products could be bought here that have in any way been produced by slaves or exploited workers. New Zealand would effectively be a fairtrade country.

The Pope’s goal is to do this globally by 2020… It’s a good goal, but without a huge miracle, it ain’t happening. But what if we started with a small country, an isolated island where borders are pretty easy to control, with a population the size of an ‘average’ city in other parts of the world… I think that’d actually be attainable in our generation if we learn to really work together on this.

The first step? Becoming conscious of the issue at a grass roots level. It needs to become part of regular conversation.

Peter’s challenge to me was to ask, when buying something, whether any slaves were involved in making it. We already know what the answer will be, and I know it’ll make the conversation awkward. “Um… I have no idea… Surely not, right…?” Or perhaps they’ll just look at us funny. But the thing is, how else will people become aware of this problem unless we make this part of daily conversation? If that shop attendant gets asked once, they’ll forget about it. But if it becomes a daily occurrence they’ll start thinking about it. They’ll start asking their manager, who’ll start asking others higher on the food chain. Eventually someone will take notice.

Not alone.

Another side of the equation is making it regular conversation among ourselves. If you’ve tried being a ‘Kingdom shopper’ for a while you’ll know how I often feel. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging. It’s sometimes isolating and disorientating! Many times I’ve wondered whether I can keep it up or whether I should give up trying (which is a crazy thought – should I keep on bothering to care, because of some inconvenience to me, about people who are literally in chains because of what I buy?!).

My life-saver has been the fact that I can talk openly about it with my wife – and slowly but surely there’s others who have joined the conversation. And it’s not just about having people to talk with, but having a shared language. As a rabid Simpsons fan, a line from Krusty has enabled Mari and I to make this all-too-serious topic part of daily conversation. He’s up on a stage promoting his new line of t-shirts (watch the video from 30seconds – it’s a terrible quality video, but it’s much better hearing the quote than reading it.)

“Slavings.” It’s not even a word, and I’m not quite sure how it happened, but it’s now part of our daily vocabulary. When we’re out shopping and one of us is interested in something that almost certianly has dubious origins: “Have you considered the slavings?” When we’re watching TV ads and a too-good-to-be-true deal comes on: “There’s some amazing slavings.” Mari’s been after a nutra-bullet for a while, but whenever a special came up the word “slavings” kept us from acting. (She’s found one on trademe, so all is well with our smoothies).

I’m not sure what these conversations sound like to other ears, but this one simple word has kept at the forefront of our minds the reality of exploited workers across the world. It’s changing how we shop. It’s changing how we view advertising. It’s changing how we talk. It’s changing our family’s priorities. It’s changing our plans and dreams for the future. One word that isn’t even a word!



What can you do to make the harsh realities of human trafficking and worker exploitation part of daily conversation?



Challenge yourself: the next time your shopping ask someone whether the product has been in any way made by slaves.


#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 


Image by Charles Rodstrom on Flickr.

Slave Wars (Issue 26)

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By Peter J. Mihaere

This summer the world was treated to the long awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s the story of the age-old battle of good versus evil, where evil is conquered once and for all – or so we thought – and the search for the last Jedi knight enchants a whole new generation into its spellbinding story. The movie included the rise of the First Order from the remnant of the Galactic Empire as well as the Republic backed Resistance, who help an unlikely bunch of ragtag heroes.

As I watched the movie it brought to mind another Order that’s thriving in our midst across the world today, even here in Aotearoa New Zealand, an order that we thought was conquered and extinguished over two hundred years ago. It’s an order that forces people into an activity, held against their will, by some form of control for the gain or profit of those in control of that person. What I’m referring to here is modern-day slavery, human trafficking and severe worker exploitation. This new order has bewitched governments, corrupted business, and enslaved men, women, and children in every country in the world. Worse, it has seduced you and I to be involved in ways we’re not even aware.

Thankfully this order has an enemy – the Abolition Resistance. The resistance has been fighting the Slave Wars for decades. However, the resistance is unsophisticated, poorly coordinated and under resourced. Where there is sophistication it’s very specific and only has the ability to help a few of the 36 million people trapped in slavery around the world. Where there is coordination, it’s often short-lived because of well-meaning but stubborn people and individualistic organisations choosing to go at it alone, diminishing the power of collective impact. Where there are resources, they’re either feverishly protected, or they’re given unrealistic return-on-investment criteria, without understanding and supporting the long and arduous task it is to successfully fight for a slave free world.

Those in the Abolition Resistance hang on to one belief: that it’s an inalienable right of every man, woman and child to be free. To achieve that right it searches to awaken the Abolition Force within each of us. Unlike Star Wars, this force is not confined to a special few; rather it sits deep within every single one of us and it needs to be awakened.

The fight for freedom is losing ground; the new order is growing and is predicted to become the most lucrative criminal activity in the world over the next few years. The International Labour Organisation estimates that slavery and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, so we’re up against an incredibly well resourced order.

The driving force

So what drives modern-day slavery? Simply put, it’s the need for self-gratification and a relentless pursuit for more.

Sadly today there’s an unquenchable appetite for sex, and this is fuelled by our moral depravity as a species. There’s an unlimited supply of human beings – particularly women and children – to satisfy the demand of every imaginable sexual sin. Nothing is too saucy for the menu for predominantly men – but not solely – who think it’s their right to do whatever they want to another human being for a few moments of self-gratification. Even here in New Zealand, if you look in the right places, you can get exactly what you want, when you want it, if you’re willing to pay the price.

The pursuit of more is subtler. There are of course those who will do anything to make millions for themselves, but something is happening in the general populace that’s equally concerning. Much of the world seems to insist we all have a right to ‘get more for less.’ We demand higher quality while expecting to pay less for the products we buy and consume.

As an example, when we see a sign in a shop – 2 T-shirt’s for $10 – we immediately think of it as a bargain, or worse, think it’s about time. I’m a Director of a freedom business in India, and I know that to make a T-shirt ensuring everyone, including the factory worker, gets a fair deal costs around $6 to make. To import that T-shirt into NZ brings the cost up to around $12 and a retailer will put on their normal mark-up, selling the product to the consumer for around $20 to $25. So if you can buy two T-shirts for $10 something is wrong, isn’t it? Sure, you could say that volume causes the price per unit to go down, and you could say that the sale was a clearance or end of line, and there’s an element of truth in this, but often these types of products are always ‘2 for 10 bucks.’ This means that some of the cost variables have changed. The easiest variable to change in manufacturing is the labour cost, compared to the costs of plant and machinery or the raw materials to make the product. Therefore, if you buy 2 T-shirts for $10 it is highly possible you are contributing to exploitation because that garment was made by a slave. I know you don’t really want me to say this, but you and I perpetuate slavery by demanding more for less.

A God of justice

While we get more, someone somewhere is getting less. As the people of God this becomes an issue of justice. In his book, Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking, Eddie Byun states clearly that “God commands his people to do justice and to hold onto it with all their might.” When we read well known passages like Micah 6:8 (“and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?”) it’s not a mix and match as you might fancy. It’s a collective statement that requires all three elements to happen at the same time. Buying 2 T’s for $10 is not doing justice; therefore it’s not walking humbly with God. Now that’s a sobering thought.

The most disturbing verses I’ve read recently are found in a passage in Revelation 18. The passage has sometimes been controversial, but regardless of how you read it there’s something we can all agree on. It describes merchants who have become rich because of the excesses of ‘Babylon’ (sound familiar?), and then offers a long list of products these merchants were selling. And what’s the last item these merchants are trading: “slaves, that is, human souls” (v13 ESV)! This verse is the closest description to modern-day slavery I’ve found in the whole Bible, and what’s abundantly clear from the passage is that God absolutely detests it. Human beings are not a commodity to be traded or exploited for profit!

Peter Mihaere is the CEO of Stand Against Slavery, a New Zealand Baptist Justice Initiative providing advocacy and consulting services on the issue of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation here in New Zealand and around the world. For more information email or phone (09) 526 6361.


For discussion

Open the Bible and discuss what God says about the plight of the marginalised and how we’re called to respond. Notice how consistent the themes are throughout the whole Bible.

Some passages to get your started: Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 58:6-11; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:8-10; Psalm 12:5; Luke 4:16-19; Luke 6:20-26; 1 John 3:17; Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 25:31-46; Deuteronomy 15:4-5, 7-8, 10-11; Amos 5:21-24; Leviticus 19:15; James 2:14-17; Galatians 2:10.

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.