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The Justice & Peace Group, Tring ...
By Michael Demidecki
The very first meeting of the Justice & Peace Group was held in Corpus Christi Parish hall on 16th June 2004 and from the minutes of that meeting I can see that twelve parishioners attended. At the meeting we deliberated among other things about trade justice and Fairtrade and how we might contribute to these noble aims. We had strong aspirations and thought that our church could aim to become a Fairtrade Church and that we could even try to make Tring a Fairtrade Town!
Later in 2004 I spoke at a committee meeting of Churches Together in Tring about trade justice and Fairtrade, and the church representatives seemed interested in joining with us where appropriate in any event that we might plan in the future. Subsequently (in 2006) our Group became affiliated to Churches Together in Tring.
On 25th May 2005, at our eleventh meeting, we were pleased to welcome two members of the parish of St Peter and St Paul, and from then onwards our group became ecumenical, and meetings began to be held in our different churches or church halls in Tring. The Justice & Peace Group soon had among its members parishioners of St Peter and St Paul Church, High Street Baptist Church, New Mill Baptist Church, the Salvation Army, St Martha’s Methodist Church and Corpus Christi Church. One of the aims, to become ecumenical, had now been achieved!
On 1st July 2005, having gained permission from the Town Council, we organised an event in Church Square, Tring to mark international white band day. We stretched out and held for all to see a giant ‘white band’ some 40 metres long which we had borrowed from CAFOD and to which we had pinned a large ‘Make Poverty History’ banner. People sounded their car horns in acknowledgement as they drove by and there was a report and even a full colour photograph later on the front page of the Gazette! By the end of 2005, 31 million people from 84 national coalitions around the world had united in a Global Call to Action against Poverty. We were glad to have been a part of that call.
Early in 2005 one of the parishioners of Corpus Christi Church, who was also a member of Tring Town Council, put down a motion that we had asked for on the agenda for the meeting of the Town Council on 15th February 2005, and the following resolution was passed in consequence at that meeting: ‘That this Council resolves to support Fairtrade and agrees whenever possible to serve Fairtrade coffee and tea in its offices, at its meetings and at its receptions in the Market House.’ We were now on our way to achieving Fairtrade status for Tring. However, other goals needed to be achieved too, namely:
We carried out a campaign in Tring to promote Fairtrade, organising Fairtrade events and stalls, establishing the ‘Margaret Demidecka Fairtrade Award’ for young people (now an annual UK-wide competition for primary and secondary schools managed in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation – see http://schools.fairtrade.org.uk/action/margaret-demidecka-fairtrade-award) and by publishing a Fairtrade Guide to Tring – Where you Can Buy Fairtrade Products in Tring. This guide was subsequently updated and is now a guide to Fairtrade and Locally Produced Food and Drink in Tring and District, available at churches in Tring and from Traidcraft stalls held in the Farmers’ Market from time to time.
Eventually we achieved all the goals we needed to become a Fairtrade Town and we were very proud when the Mayor of Tring, Councillor Nick Hollinghurst, was presented with a Fairtrade Town Certificate for Tring by Hannah Reed of the Fairtrade Foundation on 27th October 2007. The event took place at the special Farmers’ Market held on that day. The Fairtrade Town status of Tring has been regularly monitored and promoted by our Group ever since, and has been successfully renewed over the years with the Fairtrade Foundation. The last renewal was on 22nd March 2013 and the next is due on 20th March 2015.
Fundraising has been a part of our activities too. In 2007 the late Father Geoffrey Eneh, a Catholic priest who had served Corpus Christi Church as an interim priest had reported that in January 2007 in his own village in Enugu State, Nigeria many had died as a result of an outbreak of an epidemic disease causing sickness and diarrhoea. The problem was contaminated water, which was all that many of the local people had to drink, and poor sanitation. Father Geoffrey also served for a while as priest in St Matthew’s Catholic Church in Northwood and the parishioners there determined to help raise money to provide clean water for the village, and set up a charity called gifts4living. Our Group liaised with the parish in Northwood and we held two successful fundraising events here in Tring. The result was that enough money was raised to provide for a borehole to be sunk and freshwater and sanitation to be provided for the village.
The Justice & Peace Group has also raised funds for worthwhile projects at its Christmas Community Concerts, held in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the Victoria Hall. For very many years these concerts were organised by the Salvation Army but when their citadel closed the Justice & Peace Group stepped in to maintain this Christmas tradition in our town. At the concerts we have organised so far musicians and singers from Francis House Preparatory School and Tring School have provided the music and singing (though there has been community singing as well), with homemade refreshments being provided by Francis House Preparatory school. Last year’s concert was a sell-out with standing room only! Our next concert will be on 6th December 2014 so please put this date firmly in your diaries now. Funds were raised at our three concerts for, respectively, a housing project in southern India (the money raised being sufficient for building two houses), the St Francis Hospice in Berkhamsted and a primary school in Uganda (the money raised for this project in 2013 enabling solar panels to be purchased to supply electricity to the school).
The above are just some of the achievements of the Justice & Peace Group to date and we plan to do very much more in the future. The Group is always open to new ideas – there are so many ways in which, as members of the different churches in Tring, we can promote our faith in a practical way and, as my brother-in-law once said, ‘mighty things can be achieved by many which for one person would seem impossible’!
(1) Presentation of Fairtrade Town Renewal Certificate to Mayor of Tring, Councillor Nick Hollinghurst, on 20 April 2013;
(2) Tring School students at Christmas Community Concert on 07 December 2013
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