President attends Christian Aid AGM
It has been my privilege to represent the members of the Connexion at the last two Christian Aid Annual Meetings and I have been impressed by the work that it is doing. Christian Aid was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War by Churches in Britain and Ireland to assist in the reconstruction of Europe following six years of devastation. Since that time it has grown to be a highly respected aid agency, a pathfinder in finding ways to eradicate poverty. Christian Aid still acts in situations where warfare or natural disasters have devastated communities but now a major part of its work is in finding ways to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and to find sustainable solutions.
At this year’s Annual Meeting the reports of the work undertaken in the last year were inspiring, despite it being a difficult year financially. The Chair of Christian Aid is Dame Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who provided a review of the year. Reductions in the value of sterling against other currencies has led to a decrease in the work that can be supported overseas and the global economic crisis has led to falling income. Great efforts have been made to ensure that the work continues to be as effective as possible. On a positive note, Christian Aid has attracted more funding for projects from government because it has demonstrated its effectiveness in changing situations.
It was sobering to hear that the economic crisis has resulted in an additional 64 million people dropping below the level of earning two dollars a day, one of the international measures of poverty. Sometimes this poverty is exacerbated by international companies deliberately undervaluing goods and materials from poorer nations to avoid paying tax in those countries. Some of the countries which are richest in natural resources are amongst the poorest because of these practices, resulting in their people living in poverty. Christian Aid is leading the fight to highlight and stop this practice through a campaign entitled, "Trace the Tax”. It hopes that it will be able to emulate its success of the ‘Fair Trade’ campaign in bringing this issue to a wider audience.
One innovation that was reported at the meeting this year was a partnership between Christian Aid and the Congregational Federation. Christian Aid highlighted projects in the Dominican Republic, providing publicity and support for the churches of the Congregational Federation which in turn pledged to raise an agreed amount for those projects.
Christian Aid is keen to listen to the members of its sponsoring churches, of which we as Independent Methodists are one, so each Annual Meeting concludes with a consultation to check that it is in touch with our views. I believe that Christian Aid is a fine example of churches working together, we can be proud of what has been achieved; millions had benefited and still do from our combined efforts.