31 October, 2007

The Prostitution Agenda

A MUST WATCH VIDEO for clear reasons (by prostitutes and experts) on why legalizing brothels is NOT THE ANSWER!

Teenage affluenza is spreading fast.

Why Fair Trade?

International trade has been a historical link between peoples of the world. It can be used to increase corporate profits without benefit to the wider community and to promote intercultural understanding, grassroots development and economic justice.

The advantages of current international trade practices are not visible to all people in the world.

For small farmers, access to market or price information is difficult and as a result, many become increasingly dependent on middlemen and receive smaller and smaller returns for their work. In bad times, many lose their only property - their land - and thus, their livelihoods.

Similarly many plantation workers endure low pay, unsafe working environments and poor living conditions. Too often they lack the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives on the plantation. The way that many products are produced, traded and consumed is simply unjust; this is a major cause of continuing world poverty.

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade. It is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing rights of, marginalised producers and workers - especially in low-income regions.

Fair Trade is about giving disadvantaged people power: by paying producers and workers fair prices for their work, by helping them gain the skills and knowledge they need to develop their businesses and to operate in the global economy, and by challenging unfair trading practices. It is about providing fair go, not charity. Together we can create more awareness of international consumer power and offer Australians and New Zealanders an opportunity to make real change through supporting fair trade activities and buying fairly traded products.

29 October, 2007

Litany on Sexual Explotation

My friend Michelle Miller (a legend in the anti-trafficking efforts in Vancouver) provides this as a prayer tool for victims of human trafficking. I use it all the time.
For those of you who are part of Freedom Friday (this is a great way to start the lunchtime prayer). If you'd like to join the prayer and fasting on Fridays email justsalvos@aus.salvationarmy.org and write freedom fridays in the subject line.
We'll make sure you get updates.

Litany on Sexual Exploitation

For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:14-16

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

Setting the Stage
The dominant culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.

…the church has no business more pressing than the reappropriation of its memory in its full power and authenticity.

Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Prayers of the People
God of all Mercy,
Forgive us for the ways in which we remain silent about systemic oppression and reinforce the dominant culture that tolerates the buying and selling of women’s bodies.

Response: Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God of all Freedom
Hear the cries of your children who are sexually exploited and dehumanized. Bring them into the light. We remember the women and children in our city, nation and world who are living in pain and shame.

Response: Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God of all Compassion,
We are grieved over the pain that causes men to use vulnerable women and girls for selfish gratification. We ask that you release them from the bondage of sexual addiction, meet their emotional needs, and restore them to wholeness. Thank you for men who treat women with integrity, and may you spur both men and women to speak out against exploitative behavior.

Response: Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God of all Grace,
We stand before you in the knowledge that we ourselves are wounded and in need of deep healing. Forgive us for the ways in which we dismiss our selfishness and locate evil as outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that we are complicit with oppression both through our actions and apathy.

Response: Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God of all Hope,
We affirm that you are the source of life and are making all things new. Give us the strength to resist! Foster a biblically-infused critique of dominant culture! Give us wily ideas on how to stand against sexual exploitation! Empower us to live into the biblical vision of peace….

Response: Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

28 October, 2007

Hitting the liquor industry hard during Connections 2007

A series of hard-hitting media statements on a range of social justice issues are being prepared to go out during Connections 07, and the liquor industry is just one of the targets that are in the Salvos' sights.

The liquor industry is already "rattled" by TSA's outspoken stance on their behaviour, such as flouting the advertising code, and marketing to young people. They are so rattled that (according to one academic in the public health field) they are circulating rumours that The Salvation Army is behind all the recent adverse publicity surrounding binge drinking. (We're not, but we're happy to take credit!)

The news release is still being developed, but these are some of the things that are in the draft, and on which we have campaigned in the past . . .

The Liquor industry is not taking responsibility for warning of the hazards associated with it’s product. All the statements issued by the industry since The Salvation Army began its campaign for warnings labels in 2005 have been along the lines: “We operate within the law” as if that’s the beginning and end of their duty of care as responsible corporate citizens.

The Salvation Army encourages shareholders of liquor industry shares to write to their directors and get them to take responsibility. Otherwise shareholders may end up bearing the cost of major litigation cases and the subsequent fall in share price.

Professor Ian Webster, Chair of AERF, attributes the lack of responsibility on the part of the liquor industry to its “powerful political connections”. (The Age 5th May 2007)

According to Christopher Pyne, the Minster for Ageing, a total of $77.2 million is spent on alcohol awareness, treatment and education each year. This compares to $200 million the alcohol industry spends on advertising each year, the $7 million it donates to political parties, and the $50 billion turnover it enjoys.

Tax-payers are paying the price of the irresponsibility of governments and the liquor industry; over 3,000 deaths per year, over 50,000 hospitalisations, and up to 70% of police time – a staggering $7.6 billion! (The Australian – 2 September 2006)

As if this wasn’t an enough of an imbalance, last year the federal government gave the liquor industry $5 million to fund an education project, Drinkwise. (The Australian – 24 July 2007)

According to the Rand Corporation, every dollar spent on alcohol treatment saves seven dollars in costs to the community, but Australian governments are ignoring this (The Australian – 4 December 2006). The Salvation Army believes that treatment facilities in Victoria are 50% under-capacity, and some other states are comparable.


26 October, 2007

A passionate woman of God...

Ok, so since most of you won’t know much about me it may be an idea to start with some background info of me, my passions and the framework for most of my filtered thoughts.
I came into the Salvos at 18 and began my very quick journey to faith. I went to Surrey Hills Corps at the time and loved the whole idea of church and Christianity. I was at a complete loss to know why I was so slow to find out about this amazing faith and as a result wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I remember going door to door handing out flyers for youth group and having a bit of a meltdown as I couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t just ‘tell’ them about salvation straight away. I just couldn’t see the connection between mini-golf and Christ!
Over the years I guess I have mellowed, though I still have a fiery passion for allowing people to have the opportunity to know the absolute joy and freedom that comes from knowing and loving Jesus. I now minister in the suburb of East Reservoir, a fairly poor suburb of Melbourne struggling with all the usual trappings of the destitute; drugs, alcohol, violence, poor education, single-parents, general boredom, very little aspiration and of course, barracking for Collingwood.
This ministry reflects my second passion: a passion for the last, least and lost. Now let’s not water it down and call it poor in faith. Let’s be real and call it a passion for children who had to have their teeth removed because they never got a prescription for an abscess. A passion for teens who can’t read and write because their primary school and parent didn’t teach them. A passion for kids who think it is normal to have their Christmas presents pawned before the cops could cart their parent away for theft. For teens whose sole job it is to defend their grandmother from another beating from a son who wants money. A passion for children who care for their younger siblings while mum is passed out on the couch. A passion for those who know no genuine love or care and who in turn carry this on to their children and their children’s children.
My passion is delivered through a framework. This framework is the transformation of both life and spirit. I minister so that my people would know freedom for eternity. That by grace they would come to be in relationship with God. However I also minister so that my people would know emancipation on earth. I fight for social justice not just for the day-to-day betterment of their lives, but also that they would be free from the structures that ‘keep’ them poor, ignorant and powerless. I will blog a lot about social exclusion and the effect that middle class values and economic systems have on holding the poor in place, all the while receiving most of the blame for their own plight. I endeavour to be fair, but know that I have a deliberate bias to the poor, so don’t take offense…just get informed!
I look forward to ranting,
Gen :-)

25 October, 2007

Costly or Cheap Grace

I'm John Farquharson and I've been re-reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 'Cost of Discipleship'. Why? Because I am convinced that a just world demands authentic disciples.

Bonhoeffer said, 'Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church'. It is grace without price;without cost. Many believe the essence of grace is that the account has been paid in full in advance and therefore everything can be had for nothing. In contrast, real grace is costly grace as it challenges us to follow Jesus completely.

The Sermon on the Mount is there to be done, says Bonhoeffer. It is the concrete expression of discipleship.

In a justice sense, a disciple is blessed because they are poor in spirit, mourn for the world, meek in depending on God, hunger for right relationships, merciful in their love for the downtrodden, pure in heart in surrender to Jesus, peacemakers in enduring suffering rather than inflicting it on others, and persecuted.

Justice demands genuine disciples prepared for costly grace. In all times that has required both courage and surrender to Christ. I am challenged! Am I a genuine disciple? What about you?

24 October, 2007

Chocolate - it makes you sick.

Hands up all the chocolate lovers out there! I bet there are few fingers on keyboards at the moment.

A few months back I became aware of the extent of slavery in the Cocoa Industry! It's massive!

43% of the worlds cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

And a 2000 US State Department report showed that there were 12,000 slaves working on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast!

The figures could be much bigger too - the full extent of this, as with the rest of slavery, is probably unknown.

We have started a campaign in Australia, based on the UK Stop the Traffik Chcoolate Campaign to ask our chocolate companies in Australia to sign a pledge to ensure that the chocolate in Australia is traffik free.

It's been an interesting journey so far. We started writing to the companies asking them to tell us where they get their cocoa from - of course none of them will admit getting it from the Ivory Coast (they will mention Ghana and other countries but always avoid the IC). When I spoke to one company a few weeks ago I was told blatantly that they were not going to tell me if they got cocoa from the IC or not - and then the lady proceeded to go on with the comments - 'You will be like any other campaign - you will go away after a while!!!' Talk about waving a red flag at a bull!

So last week we launched the Australian Good Chocolate Guide - http://www.stopthetraffik.org/chocolatecampaign/guide.aspx - which lists chocolate that you can buy in Australia that is guaranteed traffik free. I'd encourage you to get on there, check it out, and change your buying habits so we put pressure on the big companies to make their cholate traffik free and fair trade!

Over the next few weeks I'll engage in this fight more with you - sharing ways forward to make a difference in the world that we live in!

Paul Mergard

22 October, 2007


There are many JUSTSalvos in Australia. We've collected some of the best and asked them to share their thoughts on the social justice front every day - I can't wait to hear what they have to say!
let me introduce them to you:

Mike Coleman: Major Coleman isn't new to the blogging world - his own blog is a great resource for other JUSTthoughts.. but he comes to us as a prophetic voice within the Addictions field - leading the Bridge programme and overseeing addiction services for the Salvos in Victoria. His voice is an important one to hear - his heart is close to the front lines of our Army.

Paul Moulds: Paul is a legend officer who brings heaven to earth in the streets of Sydney. Full of life and energy, Paul is connected to extremes of society bringing life to both. An expert in social work and a heart full of practical love - he is sure to warm us to the front!

Heather Saunders: Having spent a few years with the International team for HIV/AIDS response over the asia pacific region - Heather is full of social justice from a community capacity perspective. Heather has a background in economics and IT and is passionate about International justice issues. Her thoughts will be sure to challenge us in broad terms and critical thinking!

Paul Mergard: Paul is an practical, world travelling Kingdom bearer and bringer. Full of life, Paul heads up Mission Team Project 1:8 and leads Brisbane Unlimited. Paul is practically engaged in Stop The Traffik - getting ready to launch a full out attack on chocolate - stay tuned for details!

John Farquharson: John is currently the Cross-Culture director for The Southern Territory - with a large heart for social justice. He has been all over the world and back again - John offers a great Kingdom perspective on Indigenous issues and other cultures within Australia and in the developing world. Look forward to widening your outlook with his blog posts.

Gen Peterson: Gen is at Shop 16 - a local social justice expression of The Salvation Army for youngsters. Gen is studying social policy and is passionate about justice issues. She is sure to bring us some good food for thought!

Sonya Evans: Sonya is the social justice director for the Australian Eastern Territory. Her local expression of community is found at Auborn among many different cultures and needs. Along with studying and local Kingdom work, Sonya seeks to bring the Kingdom of God through social justice within the Army and without. Stay tuned for her updates and thoughts from the front!