28 February 2005

Anthea Cox speaks at the launch of "Prosperity With a Purpose"

"It continues to be a radical concept to create wealth with the purpose of delivering social justice."

Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, spoke today at the launch of the ecumenical report Prosperity With a Purpose. Two books were launched, both aimed at churches seeking to explore ethical and Christian responses to economic issues. Prosperity with a Purpose: Christians and the Ethics of Affluence contains the conclusions and recommendations of the working party that produced the report. Prosperity with a Purpose: Exploring the Ethics of Affluence is a collection of essays offering a range of detailed individual opinions from working party members.

Prosperity with a Purpose is a major ecumenical project produced by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). It draws together all the issues relating to economic life, including trade, environmentalism, poverty, development and equality, and looks at Christian responses to all of these. It aims to spark discussion within and between churches as the best ways to look at prosperity for the entire world from a Christian viewpoint.

Anthea Cox was one of the invited speakers at the launch, held today at the House of Lords. Other speakers were Clifford Longley; the Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark; Bishop Bernard Longley of the Roman Catholic church; and the Rev Alison Elliot, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

An edited version of Anthea's talk is given below. A full version is available on request.

"I am grateful to the working group and authors of Prosperity with a Purpose for working ecumenically to identify that prosperity, social justice and the alleviation of poverty travel hand in hand and envisioning how this journey may continue.

Last week I found myself acting against my principles and standing in a long queue in Nike World in Oxford Circus in order to buy a black and white anti racism wristband for my 11-year-old son. Nike is essentially a marketing and design firm. Like all successful global brands it makes a profit from the world's inequalities. Philip Knight, the chairman of Nike, receives a salary bonuses and other compensation totalling over $4.2 million. The Indonesian workers employed to produce goods for Nike earn $786 a year, just 0.02 of 1% of Chairman's Salary and Bonus

Every encounter we have with each person and product has the story of globalisation behind it. But it is only occasionally that we have this revealed to us. Our daily existence is continually dependent upon unseen injustice elsewhere in the world.

How do we break out of this cycle?

We live in the same pattern the world over, cities that look the same, where the dominant culture is globalised, where you listen to reggae on your iPod, watch westerns, eat MacDonald's, drink Starbucks, wear Paris perfume. We end up with cities that display the extremes of wealth and poverty side by side.

At the end of last year I was able to visit Nanjing in China where you can almost see economic change happening like a speeded up film. Increasing national GDP is clearly lifting many out of poverty, but at the same time there was the sobering realisation that prosperity is being built upon exploitive employment conditions and massive environmental damage. W

There is a danger that we are living in an age where economic integration and development financial global power has outstripped the growth of civil society or international legal protection for the poor and marginalized. Governments need to define the framework to enable globalisation to benefit all. The shaping of global structures needs to balance the motivation of a narrow self-interest with adequate concern for a concept of the common good.

Ultimately we require a partnership across many levels with business and civil society working in partnership to define prosperity in terms that all can understand.

Buying fairly traded coffee is important, but it is not going to change a world where 30,000 die on a daily basis due to poverty. Instead taking personal responsibility for effecting change in corporate and political processes does have the potential to make change.

By mobilising mass concern, MAKE POVERTY HISTORY has the potential to influence and change corporate and political structures in a way that could break the spiral of increasing globalisation. It is right that the churches are a significant voice in the coalition.

The churches can offer a vision of mutuality and responsibility that enables a claiming back of our world. We can continue to question hierarchies and domination and make persistent demand for social equality and justice.

If every encounter has the story of globalisation behind it, there are unlimited possibilities of meeting strangers in our midst. We see the face of the world in our every day lives. Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of the fair trade agenda is enabling the consumer to relate to the producer.

Social Justice cannot be delivered without prosperity and the creation of wealth. But it continues to be a radical concept to create wealth with the purpose of delivering social justice. Social justice cannot be a maybe that comes when wealth has been created as the end result of a process that has been exploitative of people or the environment.

Prosperity with a Purpose shows that the churches have a role in envisioning a better world, as churches we are part of our own global network that has power of influence and thought, we can bring the conscience of the world's poor to the board room and the factory and the debating chamber.

Let us do so."


More information about Prosperity with a Purpose can be found at the CTBI web site: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/index.php?op=modload&name=knowledge&file=kbasepage&LinkID=295
That pages also contains information about ordering copies of the books.

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