Here is an amazing post about sharing joy through bringing justice, hope and freedom to people around us. Greg has done incredible work in Fair Trade Gold one of the places in which there has been brokenness and where we can celebrate glimpses of God’s healing and wholeness during this Advent season. What he has accomplished is fantastic. This post is by Greg Valerio.
Yes, folks its true – prayers really do get answered. I unashamedly attribute the success in securing Fairtrade Gold Uganda to prayer. Not the prayers of an overly infantile Sunday school narrative, or the prayers of hands together eyes closed, the meek and mild deference of ‘you in your small corner and I in mine’.
I am speaking about the true prayer of faith, belief, courage, vision, fortitude, patience and resilience. The prayers of men and women who in their poverty, their exploitation, their weakness and the marginalisation of the post colonial African economic settlement, cried out for help, recognising that on their own they will not overcome the immensity of the unjust scales that are weighted against them.
The prayers that overcome a history, rooted in the darkest aspects of human horror, genocide, slavery, intentional cultural obliteration and the destruction of the human soul. Prayers that overcome the intentional endeavour of an economic system that seeks to forward the greed and avarice of luxury elites and militaristic empires. The nature of false power is to control, and slavery is the ultimate expression of a perverted human spirit.
Jesus of Nazareth talked about prayer as a mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree and yeast in the dough that causes the whole loaf to rise. Prayer is the active ingredient that generates hope, growth and ultimately gives life. The securing of certified Fairtrade Gold Uganda is an answer to a prayer that was breathed out in a simple conversation in 2004 in the rainforests of the Chocó Region of Colombia.
As I stood in the rivers of this lush rainforest with my friends at Oró Verde, Aristarco and Ameriko told me their Afro-Colombian story. Generations of slavery, forced labour in gold mining, the fight to regain their cultural identity in the face of Colombian racial discrimination. The destruction of their rainforests by illegal gold miners and large scale corporate mining companies. The systemic polluting of their rivers with toxic mercury and rampant deforestation and soil erosion. They dreamed, nay prayed, for a sensitive, ecologically reverent, culturally appropriate way to extract gold and for an economic justice that would mean the money they earned stayed in their communities and put their children through school. This was the prayer of their voices, their sweat, their lived out daily lives. I recall, as if it was yesterday, Ameriko saying;
‘Do you think the way we are gold mining will ever travel back to Africa and bless the land we first came from?’
Let me be clear – this is a prayer, a simple, clear, innocent, pure prayer from the heart of man whose love and intention demanded a response not just from me, but from the very Creator from whom we all proceed. God hears our prayers, but not necessarily the way we would choose to see them answered. The gold I purchased on that trip became the small seed from which the tree of Fairtrade Gold would grow. This was a prayer of redemption.
Today in November 2017 I stand on the red earth of Africa, in Busia District of Uganda, watching as a man emerges from a timbered shaft that has recently been dug some 70 feet into the earth. He emerges covered in the earth mud of the land from which he belongs. The gold that he and the Syanyonja Miners Alliance (SAMA) are mining, is certified Fairtrade Gold. This is the first indepentantly certified gold from Africa and represents an African first. A gold that in every way is an answer to the prayers of Ameriko and his Afro-Colombian community.
On its journey, this prayer has touched marginalised communities in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. In Africa it has taken root in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. It has inspired a Peace Gold response in the war torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3). It’s catalysed hundreds of progressive ethical jewellers large and small across all the continents of the world and redefined the narrative of an entire industry (beware green washing in the jewellery profession masquerading behind the word ethical). Designers have travelled to holes in the ground, reporters have reported on the challenges of child labour, gender exploitation and unfair terms of trade in gold, politicians have avoided and embraced and countless friends and enemies have been made. Arguments have been had, fights have been fought, NGO’s have clashed and coalesced, corporations have ignored, patronised, applauded and sought to co-opt. Fairtrade Gold has often been immersed in politically correct processes, ideological development theory, political structures and sought to be owned as an intellectual property right, and overcharged by mining consultants. It has inspired students, campaigners, activists, creatives to fashion and forge a better way in this most exploited of professions. As well as called out prejudices, racism and bigotry in those who have been so ardently wedded to the jewellery professions mantra of ‘No change at any cost’.
Fairtrade Gold sits atop Cathedral spires and hangs on the necks of award winners. In every way this simple prayer of redemption has called out the goodness, the greatness and the darkness that is present in us all and in the human structures we naively place our fragile faith in.
The power of a product like Fairtrade Gold Uganda rests not in its financial value, or in its inherent beauty. Nor does it rest in the designs of those who use it, or in the standard that verifies its honesty and integrity. The true power of Fairtrade Gold resides in its story. The best gold story in the world began as a prayer and took a life of its own that no-one, including myself (who was the first jeweller to conceive of the idea), owns the story. This is the power of prayer. It originates in the Creator, it flows from the creator, we are privileged to participate in the life it gives and it will ultimately return to the earth from which it emerged. No one owns it.
So I come to the completion of a thirteen year journey¹ with Fairtrade Gold, what began in a hole in the ground in Colombia has led me to a hole in the ground in Uganda. As I look forward I am beginning to see a the bigger picture.
- A picture that transcends the secular liberal vocabulary of political correctness, process and structure.
- A picture that embraces a simple life affirming narrative of hope, fulfilment and redemption.
- A picture that embraces diversity within a unity of purpose, namely God’s justice for the poor.
This has been a global pilgrimage worth taking and one I will continue to walk, no longer as a jeweller, but as an advocate of peace, justice, reconciliation and redemption.
As I have said on many occasions before – please buy Fairtrade Gold, it is the best gold story in the world.
¹ The first commercial export of Fairtrade Gold Uganda Africa by CRED Trading Company aka CRED Jewellery represents a natural synchronisity with its first commercial export of Oró Verde gold from Colombia. The purchase that started the whole Fairtrade Gold story.
Photo Credits: Ronald de Hommel, Chichester Observer, Greg Valerio