by Meredith Wright
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Every Easter since my childhood, I’ve been pondering the tenuous link between the death and resurrection of Jesus and chocolate eggs. It’s a strange one when I think about it out of context for too long. But chocolate plays a sweet role in most celebrations and there is something particularly iconic about the Easter egg.
With my own children, we’ve formed our family’s holiday traditions. At Easter we retreat to a house out of mobile phone range and spend the weekend with two other families. It’s a happy, chaotic time and the Easter Egg hunt is a key element in our celebration. Even surrounded by chocolate, we want to point our kids to the sacrifice and loving gift of Jesus. Year by year, I believe our children are gaining an ever-maturing sense of what these holidays mean for us.
Several years ago, in the lead up to our annual retreat, the three mums got together to plan meals, craft activities and the hunt. We also talked about how to continue to bring the focus around Jesus.
That year, thanks to a public conversation that was gaining more of our attention, the three of us shared a growing discomfort around the issue of child labour in chocolate. We wanted to make sure our chocolate was ethical. The idea of celebrating Easter (or any chocolatey holiday), with a product that could have been harvested by trafficked children or exploited workers felt deeply wrong.
The bible speaks clearly to this. From the Old Testament to the New, we learn that the worker is deserving of their wages (1 Timothy 5:18). Withholding payment for a person’s service is described as sin, and antithetical to the principles of God’s Kingdom.
As Deuteronomy 24:14-15 says, “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.”
At the outset of his ministry, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus made it known that he was anointed to deliver justice to the poor, the oppressed, and the prisoner. The book of James echoes the exhortations of the Old Testament, describing ‘true religion’ as caring for those on the margins (James 1:27). In other words, a community founded on God’s good design seeks to pay a fair price and speak up against exploitation.
So the hunt for ethical chocolate began. It was harder than we thought. The industry seemed opaque, and the only way to ensure our chocolate was sourced from a transparent supply chain, was to spend a fortune on eggs that year! It took some research but we found a boutique chocolate supplier who was vocal about their ethics. On our budget, this meant fewer eggs; but they were ethical and delicious. It was hard to be sure the kids would grasp what was at stake but we had made a commitment and we weren’t going back.
Since then, we’ve learned more and more about the global cocoa industry. This knowledge has made us even more determined to have an ethical approach to chocolate for every holiday. We know now that most of the world’s cocoa comes regions notorious for the use of child labour. Children as young as eight are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans in extremely dangerous conditions, some working up to 12 hours a day. As a mum, it breaks my heart to imagine children being exploited in this way.
As the years have passed, a considerable amount of public pressure has been building. With a growing awareness of the issues, we’re seeing chocolate companies respond to the pressure. Multiple certification mechanisms such as Fair Trade, Rainbow Alliance, and Utz are in place to help consumers make ethical choices.
The global development and relief organisation where I work encourages church communities to send postcards to chocolate companies, urging them to ensure farmers are paid a living wage and workers are treated justly. The goal is to eradicate child labour from the cocoa industry altogether. This Christian advocacy work reminds me we’re part of God’s greater call: to care for those who cannot speak out for themselves.
Last year, for the first time in thirteen years, the three eldest children in our entourage took charge of the chocolate egg hunt. It was fun watching them continue the tradition but sobering to know children their age, in different parts of the world, were struggling just to survive.
With each holiday we are hoping to hand on traditions that bring the focus to Jesus. And when we enjoy some chocolate, we do it mindful of this ongoing issue of injustice. Perhaps playing our small part in addressing a colossal wrong in the chocolate industry could even make the link between eggs and Jesus a lot less tenuous.
Meredith Wright is a writer for Baptist World Aid Australia. She is passionate about justice and igniting this passion in others, particularly Australian Christians. She’s the mother of three tenacious daughters who are helping daily to shape her vision for a better world for all. www.baptistworldaid.org.au