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Friday, November 30, 2012

Supporting (eco-friendly) artisans in the Holy Land

Photo: Flicker/pldrtbrennan

News about the approaching Christmas shopping season—of strikes at Walmart, economic projections, and angry consumers—calls my attention to a group of artisans in the Holy Land that are seeking economic stability and peace—and who seek to do so in ecologically mindful ways.

The Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans is a coalition of craftspeople that make a wide range of religious and artistic goods. They seek to use their God-given talents to feed their families and bring order to local economies. Moreover, they desire to sell their wares in a time challenged by growing hostilities, bombings, and political turmoil. They are a people of various faiths but they seek to communally abide by fair-trade practices, which means that they have shared economic, societal, and environmental ends.

The attention to justice, social cohesion, and care for natural resources makes the fair-trade approach a model for life in general. In the Middle East—where deadly rocket fire and human despair is growing—the fair-trade practices employed by dedicated artisans speaks volumes and can do significant good.

At a recent gathering in Newport of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, spoke bluntly and passionately about growing hostilities in the Holy Land and the resulting threats to its citizens and the holy places of Christianity. He urged his listeners to pray for peace in cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem and to support the families that call these cities home.

You and I can certainly do both. We can pray for peace and we can encourage the people living in the Holy Land by supporting the small businesses that are bundled together in the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans. In doing so, we also support the well being of the holy sites of Christianity.

Providentially, on the day that Cardinal Egan spoke, I received that morning an email from one of the organizers of the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans. In response to the increasing hostilities occurring around her, she wrote this:

“I want to provide a good future for my two daughters and I wish that all mothers in Palestine and Israel would have that same opportunity. ... Palestinians and Israelis live together in the same piece of land but increasing fear between us separates us and the hope of peace is becoming more distant. Please, do not let the fanatics win: Help us find a way to the path of peace for the sake of everyone in the region, today and for the future.”

For the purpose of this column on ecology, it is fitting to note the words of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote in his 2009 letter to the Church, Caritas in Veritate, these related words:

“[H]ow many natural resources are squandered by wars! Peace in and among peoples would also provide greater protection for nature. ... Peaceful agreement about the use of resources can protect nature and, at the same time, the well-being of the societies concerned.”

These shared sentiments—by a mother and a pontiff—should compel us to seek peace and order in the lands that Our Lord was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. One way to achieve these great ends is to explore the offerings of the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans. In doing so, you and I can not only seek to give unique goods that are made in the Holy Land. We can also foster economic stability and peace in the places that the Prince of Peace called home.

For more information on the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, visit Note that ordering, cost, and shipping information requires email confirmation due to the nature of working with local artisans and product availability. It is suggested that orders be pooled with others or be bulk quantities as payment is made through direct bank wiring. In time, the artisans are hopeful for an easier payment method.

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