BARONESS THATCHER'S GREAT MISCALCULATION
Baroness Thatcher’s recent death last month generated a huge amount of discussion in the press. All the old arguments over her policies, outlook and record have been rerun many times. There is little need to add anything new to what you will have already read or heard.
However, there is one thing that is worthy of our reflection as we evaluate her record from a Christian point of view. Some time after losing power, Baroness Thatcher let slip an interesting comment to the Labour MP Frank Field. This is what she is reported to have said: “I cut taxes as I thought it would generate a giving society. It didn’t.” This is quite a confession from such a strong-minded and assured politician!
Baroness Thatcher’s economic strategy is well known. Her monetarist policies were designed to restructure and rebuild the economy and transfer much power into the hands of the people. Tax cutting was part of this strategy. She wanted to reduce the power of the State and generate more individual and corporate economic motivation and initiative.
However, Baroness Thatcher was also a great believer in philanthropy. She practised it herself – giving away significant sums of her personal wealth to worthy causes. She wanted others to do the same and was surprised when it didn’t really happen.
Why didn’t it happen?
Baroness Thatcher was brought up in a staunch Methodist home and imbibed the social values of Methodism, which combined a firm self-help ethos with a strong social conscience. She believed that British people generally shared this combination of values. However, she underestimated the advance of secularism and individualistic materialism. The philanthropy and generosity she desired to see did not significantly materialise. Instead, the opportunities afforded by the Thatcherite economic revolution tended to produce ever bigger economic divides with an increased indifference of the rich towards the poor.
This was Baroness Thatcher’s unintended legacy.
So what was her miscalculation? Put simply, she put too much trust in individuals and did not see the full significance of the ‘social capital’ of institutions such as the Church. Her encouragement of rugged individualism did not produce a giving society.
Politicians of today have realised that social capital is vital and that the voluntary sector is a key part of a healthy society. This is the reason why the concept of the ‘Big Society’ has been promoted.
Whatever we may think of some aspects of the outworking of this idea, it is a great opportunity for the Church. We need to use the opportunity for good. Jubilee+ is fully engaged in this process.
Martin Charlesworth, 21/05/2013
FAITH + JUSTICE: ADDRESSING THE ISSUES
My previous post focused on the main speakers at last week’s Faith + Justice conference, but the seminars were a key part of the programme too. I attended the ‘Issues track’, starting with a seminar on human trafficking in the morning. Gareth Davies of CARE
did a fantastic job of giving us an overview of the history of human trafficking and jolting us into modern-day reality with some sobering facts, such as: trafficking is the second largest form of international crime – unlike drugs, people hold their value as they can be bought and sold many times.
After watching a superbly arresting video called, ‘Some things cost more than you realise’,
he went on to look at some countries that have made paying for sex illegal and the results that has had, as well as some of the things we as churches can do.
Our compassion can sometimes cause us Christians to jump in with real naivety as we are desperate to help, but Gareth (and representatives from OXCAT
and Justice & Care
) pointed out where we can go for more information and training.
The second Issues seminar was on marriage, and Chris Le Marquand from Nexus
took us through the biblical context, the development of marriage within society and also showed how, less than 20 years ago, marriage was still the golden standard for society generally. How much that view has changed in our country’s recent history! The question time touched on the issue of same-sex marriage, and Jubilee+’s Martin Charlesworth pointed out that we must make sure we get our tone as well as our content right.
It was great to be challenged by some brilliant speakers, but I was also extremely impressed to see representatives of so many amazing organisations at the conference too, such as Tearfund
, Justice and Care, Jubilee Centre
, the Evangelical Alliance
and Christian politicians from each of the major parties.
Book in now for the next Jubilee+ conference, Not Business As Usual
Claire Musters, 07/05/2013
FAITH + JUSTICE: A CHALLENGING CONFERENCE
“As a Christian politician I have felt unwelcome in churches during difficult votes.” That was the first statement of the day that really challenged me – but it certainly wasn’t the last. It was spoken by Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Nicola Blackwood, who addressed us first.
She spoke about how we don’t seem to have worked out how our faith influences the way we make decisions in politics and, generally, we respond in a rather secular way. We need to be more mature and sophisticated. How many of us, for example, engage with our local politicians on all the issues – not just the ones that we have strong opinions about, the ones that we may disagree with them on? Giving examples of how her colleagues get endless angry mail on issues such as the same-sex marriage debate, she challenged us to stop and think about what impression we are giving them of Christians. “How about inviting your local MP to your church to be interviewed?” she asked. Nicola said she felt that there is a gap of authority for the Church at the moment – while we may have regained some ground we need to stand and lead.
Next, Martin Charlesworth spoke of his own experiences of interacting with his local politicians saying, “They’re all my friends. They’ve had tea in my house.” What an example! He then talked to us about the biblical paradigm for relating to the public square, using the following four aspects of Christian life: 1. Particular Intercession; 2. Practical Activism; 3. Political Engagement; and 4. Prophetic Intervention. It was an extremely helpful basis from which to springboard into the rest of the day.
After lunch our keynote speaker was Labour’s Shadow Minister for Employment, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms. He told us that “Christians are uniquely placed to bring hope into politics”. Having been in politics for around 20 years, he was able to share stories about a real recognition among politicians of the role of churches in society. He cited John Harris of The Guardian
, who has found that when you see churches such as Frontline, based in Liverpool, responding to social emergencies so enthusiastically, it is hard to be sceptical.
Stephen challenged us, saying: “Far too often Christians have vacated the political playing field and then complained about the result” and adding, “In every community we need people of faith worshipping but also being active.”
This was a fantastic first conference of its type, and I hope there will be many more, attended by increasing numbers of people that can be equipped to make a difference in their local society.
Book in now for the next Jubilee+ conference, Not Business As Usual.
Claire Musters, 03/05/2013
40 MILLION VICTIMS
Human trafficking – part 4
So far in this series we have been building up a general picture of trafficking. Now we are going to try to put some numbers into the story to reinforce the sheer scale of the issue.
The numbers are hard to grasp. It is estimated that there are about 40 million victims of human trafficking in the world today: 27 million adults and 13 million children. That means that there are more people trafficked today than there were black slaves at the height of the European imperial slave trade. Forty million is a staggering number – it’s the equivalent to about two thirds of the population of the UK today.
Now let’s consider the sexual aspect of trafficking. It is estimated that at least 75% of those trafficked are victims of the sex trade – and almost all of them are women and children. The sheer dehumanisation and suffering involved in this process is hard to describe or calculate. Sex trafficking is endemic in the UK. It is to be found in virtually all major towns and cities throughout the country. There are often stories in our newspapers of the breakup of trafficking networks that have been hidden or embedded in our urban social landscapes. However serious the issue is in the UK, it must still be seen as primarily a global issue with major trafficking networks operating across the world. One leading researcher has estimated that sex trafficking is actively taking place in at least 175 countries.
We should be under no illusions about the scale of trafficking. It’s a major issue of social justice. And this is where the Church comes in. We need to be involved in every stage of opposition to modern slavery. The Church needs to be educated about the issue and it needs to get involved in keeping the pressure on governments to address trafficking in whatever way possible. Alongside this comes the vital task of caring for the victims of trafficking wherever we get the opportunity to do so.
There are many great initiatives already established in the UK. Here are a few: Stop the Traffik
, Justice and Care
, and Hope for Justice
Is it time for you to get directly engaged with the fight against human trafficking?
Martin Charlesworth, 30/04/2013
THE SCALE OF MODERN SLAVERY
Human trafficking – part 3
One of the hardest things to grasp about modern slavery (also known as human trafficking) is the sheer scale of what is going in around the world. Let’s take a hard look at a few of the key facts.
One of the first things to work out is how many forms of trafficking there are. Most people seem to think it is mostly about the sex trade and the exploitation of women who are forced to become sex workers. This is undoubtedly a huge part of the problem and is a major feature of trafficking in the West. However, it is not the whole problem. As we discussed in the previous posts, trafficking is a form of enslavement – and there are a number of other forms of modern enslavement that are part of the broader picture of trafficking.
So what are the other forms of modern enslavement? We can identity at least five.
Firstly, there is bonded labour linked to forced indebtedness. In many developing countries, such as India, there are tens of thousands of workers who are legally contracted to work for particular employers without any option to leave and minimal employment rights. This is commonly linked to their personal indebtedness which has led them into making lifetime contracts to particular employers. This opens the way for terrible exploitation.
Secondly, there is forced labour. This has no legal basis at all. Workers are made to work without contracts or any legal protection. Such situations are commonplace in a variety of Asian countries and specifically go against the laws of those nations. This is purely illegal forced labour and is often not so different from black slavery of past eras.
Thirdly, there is forced and early marriage. Many traditional cultures in the Islamic world, for example, do not give freedom to girls and young women to decide who to marry. Marriage is arranged by families and often involves committing older children to marriages they cannot possibly be said to have decided upon freely.
Fourthly, there is child labour. It is a terrible thing to force adults to work illegally and without rights – but it is even more terrible to inflict the same fate upon children. Yet this is a widespread form of modern slavery. Impoverished families are easy to exploit with offers to ‘employ’ their children. Orphans and street children are ruthlessly targeted in some cultures to provide dirt cheap labour.
Finally, there is slavery by descent. Many developing countries still have a clearly defined ‘underclass’ such as the ‘Dalits’ of India. Birth into such an ‘underclass’ is often a pathway into forced employment with limited rights and benefits. This is exploitation by birth.
In my next post we’ll look at a few more hard facts about trafficking and related types of modern slavery, focusing on the UK.
If you are concerned about modern slavery in our nation, book into our Faith + Justice conference
this Saturday and sign up for the seminar on this subject.
Martin Charlesworth, 23/04/2013
COMPARING SLAVERY THEN AND NOW
Human trafficking – part 2
In the first post in the series
, I began to unpack the complex and important subject of human trafficking. I commented briefly on the recent Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report on human trafficking in the UK, It Happens Here
. I also looked briefly at the historical context of slavery to try to set this ‘modern slavery’ in context.
In this post I am going to compare modern trafficking with the enslavement of black Africans during the time of European imperialism in the Americas. The reason for making this comparison is that it will help us to understand the significance of today’s trafficking and the seriousness of it.
There are some obvious differences between modern trafficking and black slavery. Here are a few:
• Trafficking is widely dispersed across the globe; black slavery was concentrated in certain countries (for example, the West Indies).
• Trafficking is mostly illegal and underground; black slavery was part of Government policy.
• Trafficking is disapproved of in Western culture; slavery had a long period of being socially acceptable and economically justified.
• Trafficking victims are from a wide number of races; black slavery was restricted to certain African tribal groups
All this might suggest that the history of black slavery can tell us very little about modern trafficking. However, this is not the case. Consider these similarities:
• Both trafficking and black slavery have been largely ‘invisible’ to ordinary people. Just as we don’t see signs of trafficking at work in our cities, so black slavery was invisible because it was taking place in a different country and was not often visible in Britain.
• Both trafficking and black slavery have been controlled by powerful economic elites with tacit support from governments. Just as slavery involved shipping companies and plantation owners, so trafficking involves mafia groups, drug barons and others who often bribe governments to turn a blind eye to their activities.
• Both trafficking and black slavery reinforce racial stereotypes. In the past it was black Africans; now it is a variety of races from developing countries who are subject to stereotypes.
• Both trafficking and black slavery involve the utter dehumanisation of ordinary, innocent people. Their freedoms are taken away and their dignity crushed.
• Both trafficking and black slavery involve vast numbers of victims. It is estimated that there are more victims of trafficking today than there were black slaves at the height of European-imposed slavery in the Americas.
My hope in this post is to underline the seriousness and urgency of the problem of trafficking. It is as significant and deadly as black slavery in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
If you are concerned about modern slavery in our nation, book into our Faith + Justice conference
later this month and sign up for the seminar on this subject.
Martin Charlesworth, 16/04/2013