Monthly Archives: March 2017


CRS Ethical Trade: A Broader Vision

March 03, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Act

Nyaamah Abena (32) weaves a straw basket by hand in Awaradoni village, Upper East Region, Ghana. Women in her CRS-supported SILC group (Savings and Internal Lending Communities) have begun weaving straw baskets ever since interrupted weather patterns related to climate change have inhibited their abilities to earn livelihoods through farming. Awaradoni village, Talensi District, Upper East Region, Ghana, West Africa.

Nyaamah Abena (32) weaves a straw basket by hand in Awaradoni village, Upper East Region, Ghana. Women in her CRS-supported SILC group (Savings and Internal Lending Communities) have begun weaving straw baskets ever since interrupted weather patterns related to climate change have inhibited their abilities to earn livelihoods through farming.
Awaradoni village, Talensi District, Upper East Region, Ghana, West Africa.

In January, Catholic Relief Services re-branded what was their fair trade program as CRS Ethical Trade. It now includes a shopping guide, with categories like home decor, desserts, religious items, jewelry, apparel, and coffee and tea. The new expanded CRS Ethical Trade Program builds upon the strong principles of fair trade while also engaging with other business models that have a positive impact on workers, the environment and local communities. Not all of the companies CRS partners with are designated fair trade but rather they fall into a larger category of companies that are doing business responsibly.

The CRS program has grown to ensure that a consumer can purchase goods that have a positive impact both on producers and on the environment. As well, CRS maintains current resources for faith formation in schools, parishes and faith communities to form people in ethical consumption and to advocate for a more ethical world.

CRS was a part of the initial conversations that launched The Human Thread. With this re-branding, CRS provides useful, improved tools for purchasing ethically.

World Water Day

World Water Day 2017

March 03, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Fresh water, the most important resource for humankind, cross-cuts all social, economic and environmental activities. It is a condition for all life on our planet, an enabling or limiting factor for any social and technological development, a possible source of welfare or misery, cooperation or conflict. World Water Day is celebrating water as well as highlighting water related challenges. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. Please take time to learn more and take action.  On Sunday, I learned about a notable effort based here in Milwaukee that is also worth examining: Global Partners: Running Waters.

The Human Right to Water, formally recognized by the United Nations in 2010, clarifies that it is the responsibility of companies to ensure their operations do not infringe upon the right of individuals to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water. This right is further buttressed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for global water quality to be improved by reducing pollution and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals.

Given its scale, the garment industry has a massive impact on global water quality. Our clothing requires enormous amounts of water. A simple t-shirt needs 700 gallons of water to make, and a pair of jeans require 1,000 gallons. Our leather products– those comfortable shoes next to your bed, that favorite purse or coat– have polluted India’s rivers with emissions of chromium and animal feces. Today, I am wearing a shirt manufactured in Indonesia, a land wear 200 textile mills and garment factories contribute to the “Death of the Citarum River.”

As the garment industry went off shore, it went to countries less equipped and less regulated in the proper handling and disposal of the chemicals and by-products of the garment industry. In some places the effects have been devastating. The documentary “The True Cost” vividly depicts the health effects from the cotton industry (in Texas and India) as well as the impact of the dyes and chemicals in the apparel and footwear factories.

Finally, each time we wash our clothes, our synthetic materials put out roughly 700,000 microplastic fibers that eventually make their way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to a study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature released in February. While much remains unknown at this point, consumer products, including synthetic clothing, could contribute up to 30 percent of global ocean pollution and, in many developing countries, are destroying marine life habitats.

While the total environmental effects of the garment industry are difficult to quantify as it has not been subjected to sufficient research, it is patently clear that tackle global water problems undoubtedly also means tackling our fashion problem. Our clothes, as currently made, harm global water supplies. Real engagement in these issues from the fashion industry could make a significant contribution to global water quality. Our health, our future, demands that we try.

St. Patrick: A Saint for Garment Justice

March 03, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Pray

St. Patrick

St. Patrick

For St. Patrick’s Day, as they say, “Everyone is Irish.” We put on our green clothing, great cities have wondrous parades, and some among us may use the opportunity to drink to excess. Perhaps this March 17th we might recall another aspect of St. Patrick’s life.

Of the rough contours that most Catholics might recall of his life, most know that St. Patrick evangelized Ireland. Not through force or deception but through his living witness, Ireland became a deeply Catholic island. Some may even add in that he drove all the snakes from Ireland. Hence, Irish descendants around the globe celebrate kinship with the missionary bishop.

Nonetheless, others also have a special connection with St. Patrick. Like more than 21 million people worldwide today, St. Patrick was a victim of human trafficking and slavery.

Born in Great Britain, at 16 years old, St. Patrick was captured by raiders and brought to what is now considered to be the County of Antrim in Northern Ireland.  Sold into slavery, a chieftain forced Patrick into service as a shepherd. Patrick’s voice, that drew so many to the faith, was the voice of a trafficking victim. In his biography, Confession, we find this evocative phrase:

I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

Eventually, amid an escape and recapture and another escape, St. Patrick returned to his family. In thanksgiving, he studied for the priesthood. Embedded within St. Patrick’s biography is a story of grace, healing, and reconciliation. No longer a slave, he returned to Ireland, the place of his slavery, to evangelize. Based on the success of his evangelization, his return to Ireland was not as an accusation but forgiveness. He did not tell the old story of “goodies” and “baddies” or hero and victim. St. Patrick was a herald to a new story which was good news for his former oppressors.

Similarly, St. Patrick’s hopeful experience suggests not only that it is our task to liberate those enslaved in human trafficking, but that, indeed, those persons who have been trafficked can be a moment of conversion and a gift to us in the dominant culture.

I first encountered “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” in a television show about an inner-city parish, “Nothing Sacred.” No longer “bound” in slavery, St. Patrick freely chooses to “bind” himself to Christ. Watch this video clip and recall that the words come from a former slave.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of
friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

A special thanks to CRS, that recognized St. Patrick as a victim of human trafficking. I also recommend John Richmond’s post: St. Patrick’s Day: A View on Suffering & Slavery.
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