Got hold this weekend of the new album by thebandwithnoname, “Dying to be There” and have absolutely fallen in love with the first track on the CD – Do or Die. As well as being a kicking NuMetal tune, it reminds me that a Christian faith without action stemming from it is totally dead (as James 2:17 says). The actions that we take can be big or small, but they all have effect in God’s world.
This morning we had a combined churches service to celebrate the abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire 200 years ago. On Wednesday, the Meridian March came through Ware and I walked a few miles down the Lea Valley with the marchers (who were all chained up and two of them yoked) on more more leg of their journey from Hull (where Wilberforce was an MP) to Greenwich. We ended our leg at All Nations College where Paul Davies gave a fascinating insight into the role of Thomas Fowell Buxton, the original owner of the building that the College is now in. He was one of the generation that eliminated slavery and other social ills from our country. He was a man who decided that he could not die before he did something about the evil he saw around him.
Doing or dying is the choice that we all make day by day. I’ve been horrified to learn this past fortnight that none of the main chocolate manufacturers in this country can guarantee me that the chocolate I buy from them (not that I buy a lot of chocolate you understand, but nethertheless…) wasn’t picked or processed by those in bonded labour or slavery. Personally I think that’s shocking, I didn’t know about it, and I am not going to buy a single item of non-fairtrade chocolate from this point forward until the manufacturers can guarantee those who produced the cocoa were free.
We have a perverse understanding of freedom in the West you know. We talk about being free, but in reality our freedom is bought at the price of others’ liberty. Your cheap Kitkat, Mars or Dairy Milk is cheap because those who made it might have been paid nothing and locked up 14 hours a day. Every single bar of Hershey’s that you’re free to buy at a bargain price is at a bargain price because there might be little or no labour charges going into it. As long as you reading this blog piece are prepared to buy chocolate at under 50p or a dollar a bar you are using your economic freedom to oppress someone else. If we in the West weren’t prepared to buy any chocolate unless it could be proved definitely that it hadn’t been produced by slaves, then slave labour for cocoa production would disappear because it would be economically unviable. Instead we close our eyes and ears to the truth and celebrate our freedom to buy what we want.
How can I convince you of this? This is the picture of the back of a child slave in the Ivory Coast who was beaten because he tried to escape. He was a slave because the big cocoa companies were happy to pay the lowest price possible for the cocoa that made your chocolate bar, and they didn’t care why the price was so low. He was beaten because your desire to have a chocolate bar for 30p not 50p produced the economic climate in which it was better to have him as a slave then to pay him a reasonable wage. If, like me, you’ve ever bought a bar of chocolate that wasn’t Fairtrade, that makes it your fault. It’s your fault – he was beaten as a slave because you wanted a cheap bar of chocolate. And yes, the Cocoa companies are making an effort now to do something about it, but they still haven’t done it. And why not? If everybody stopped buying non-Fairtrade chocolate then they would sort it out tomorrow wouldn’t they? Our freedom in the West maintains his slavery in Africa.
I’m not going to buy a single piece of chocolate from now on from any company that cannot guarantee me 100% that slaves weren’t involved in it’s production at some point. How about you?
So back to thebandwithnoname. Press play below to hear the track “Do or Die” and then decide whether you’re going to Do and make your choices mean something for Christ and his Creation, or whether you will Die to righteousness and justice.