06 September 2013

A Church Call to Action: Justice For Bangladeshi Garment Workers

The Church of Bangladesh Group gathered at the Methodist Central Hall Westminster yesterday to launch a campaign and advocacy resource pack that calls for global justice, wage justice and living justice for Bangladeshi garment workers. 

A harrowing account of the Rana Plaza building collapse was shared by Bangladeshi garment worker, Monika Hambrom via Skype. Monika was working on the 6th floor of the Rana Plaza in Savar on the day the building collapsed. She described how the workers had told the manager about the cracks in the building the day before the tragedy and that they had been told to go home that day but to come in the following day when they would also be able to collect their wages. This was the day the factory collapsed and Monika was left seriously injured. Over 1000 others were left dead. Monika Hambrom, said: "I cannot sleep since the collapse of the building-it still comes to me in my dreams. I want to continue my work but in a safe place and for a just wage."

Speakers at the launch event included Very Revd John Christie, Church of Scotland; Dr Daleep Mukarji OBE, Methodist Church in Britain; Bishop Paul Sarker, Church of Bangladesh; Monika Hambrom, Bangladeshi Garment Worker, as well as Nick Debois MP.

The Very Revd John Christie, said: "It was not until the dreadful tragedy at Savar that it became clear to me, that for the Church, silence is no longer an option." In reference to Bishop Sarker's letter following the tragedy he added: "the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted unanimously to instruct its World Mission Council to undertake an ecumenical consultation with the Church of Bangladesh and other member churches of the Bangladesh Group to raise awareness and campaign for significantly improved workplace safety, conditions and pay for garment workers." 

Since 2005 an estimated 1,800 Bangladesh garment workers have been killed in factory fires and collapses. Dr Daleep Mukarji, said: "we as a Church need to take sides and be prophetic, this is about justice." He further highlighted that the garment industry in Bangladesh consists mainly of female garment workers; adding: "education, money and power in the hands of women will always make a change."

Dr Daleep Mukarji, Very Revd John Christie and Nick Debois MP reminded listeners that the launch is not about boycotting but about safety improvement and social justice. As Advent approaches the Church of Bangladesh Group is calling for action. They ask consumers when they shop to send a letter and ask the necessary questions to high street stores about where clothes are manufactured and what the conditions are like for people working in those factories.

1,131 people died and 2,500 were injured when the eight story Rana Plaza collapsed at Savar, Bangladesh. Bishop Paul Sarker, said: "we should thank God for those who survived the Savar tragedy, but remember those who were injured and deceased." 

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