Wednesday, March 19, 2008


With Easter in just a few days time, anticipation in the Grendel household is at a fever pitch.

Junior Grendel Number One has been practising wearing his robes for his role as a jeering bystander in the Passion play at school and Junior Grendel Number Two , while welcoming the coming of the great bunny, is also facing the fact that the bunny is not only coming to deliver chocolate eggs, but also to take away dummies.

Our boys love their chocolate eggs, and we ration their take over a period of some months. I too love chocolate, I love that warm silky sweetness as it melts down your throat and the endorphin rush that hits soon after.

I'm sorry for what follows in this post - we should all be sorry for what follows in this post.

Tim Costello of World Vision has been off in Africa checking out the cocoa farming regions, and the news was not good.

Apparently human trafficking and slavery are alive and well and living in the cocoa plantations. The Rev. Costello visited Ghana and the Ivory Coast and estimate that over half a million children now work in the cocoa fields in conditions that at their best are exploitative and at their worst are outright slavery. 50% don't get formal education and most are involved in hazardous work - it is these children that are providing the majority of the cocoa we will consume this Easter.

70% 0f the world's cocoa comes from West Africa so their is an excellent chance that the egg you bite into on Easter morning will originate from cocoa harvested by a child slave. In the worst cases this child will have been forced to work 80-100 hours a week.

I'm sorry if that puts anyone off their elegant rabbit or giant egg, but the cheaper the chocolate for us to buy, the cheaper the price paid to the farmer and their labourers. International buying cartels force down the prices of cocoa and seek volume supplies. Sound familiar? Just like coffee - volume means poor quality. We need to be encouraging lower production of higher quality cocoa, and pay a fair price for it.

I know that World Vision are supporting the Fair Trade approach to cocoa, and in this case I think it is the best option. Unlike coffee, the production of chocolate is more specialised and the situation of the workers and the farmers even more dire than in the coffee world.

Interestingly World Vision are not calling for a boycott of the big chocolate companies - that would hurt the farmers further. However they are suggesting that when you can vote with your wallet and buy fair trade products when you can.

I'd encourage you to go and read further - this is an issue that won't go away and if you love chocolate then you owe it to yourself to at least KNOW the facts. More than this you owe it to those who labour to bring this treat to you, yet never get to try it themselves.

If you want to buy fair trade chocolate and Easter eggs then look for Scarborough Fair Fairtrade certified Easter Eggs which are available in some Coles and Target stores.

Check out the World Vision site for more information: What is the real cost of chocolate?

And here is a list of ethical chocolate available in Australia - hopefully it is good quality chocolate as well:

Alter Eco – Fairtrade
Dark Velvet (Organic)
Dark Velvet with Peppermint
Milk Moka
Milk Almond

Cacao Power – Organic and *Fairtrade (*certification imminent)
Cacao Powder
Whole Beans
Crushed pure chocolate

Chocolatier Australia – Fairtrade
Chocolate Thins – Dark and Milk

Cocolo - Fairtrade
Dark Orange
Milk Hazelnut
Milk Almond
Mint Crisp

Cocoa Farm Chocolate (Australian Grown Cocoa)

Mango, Lime and Chilli
Dark Orange
Coffee and Hazelnut

Endangered Species - Fairtrade
Peanut Butter

Green & Black’s – Fairtrade

Maya Gold Organic Dark Chocolate Bar
Organic Hot Chocolate

Oxfam - Fairtrade
Milk with nuts

Scarborough Fair - Fairtrade

All varieties

Oh, and this is the ONLY time you'll ever hear me advising you to go to Starbucks!

Starbucks - Fairtrade Chocolate


Monday, March 17, 2008

A Chai Latte and an Exorcism please. . .

There is a story in the Murdoch Press today about the Hillsong Chruch Mercy Ministries program. I read up on this sometime back when I saw the collection boxes in every single Gloria Jeans cafe I walked past.

I was concerned by the lack of information they provided about the governance structures of the program and how they evaluated their touted '90% success rate'.

The story in the press appears to claim that casting out of demons has become a tool in treating mental illness in Mercy Ministries.

If this is true it is very disturbing and reaches back to the dark ages for its inspiration.

Mental illness is real - not the manifestation of evil spirits but an actual and treatable medical condition.

Telling people that the 'voices' they hear are demons does not help. If this is in fact what is occuring at Mercy Ministries then I am appalled.

It is no secret that Gloria Jeans are closely linked with Hillsong Church but I think that tying the franchise to a very narrow focus of charity does not give a good impression. I wonder if franchisees are 'required' to fundraise for Mercy Ministries or even if they are permitted to fundraise for other charities?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Jesus wants you. . .

for a facebook friend.

Have you noticed that some Christians seem to promote Jesus like a facebook buddy?

But what (if like me) you don't really like Facebook? I have an account, but only about 12 friends - people who it is hard to keep in touch with any other way.

A lot of people seem to feel the need to be a member of 'the club' and want all their friends to sign up to. So they spam you with messages - a lot of them not really relevant and some downright scary about what will happen unless you sign on.

Fortunately the Christians I tend to associate with do not advocate this approach - and also are not the kind of people really into Facebook. Go figure!

I'm surpised no fundy group has started 'Faithbook', which to my mind could never be anything more than a lispy version of Facebook anyway.

Free-Association Ramble over

Sunday, March 2, 2008


"If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."

Isaac Asimov