I knew she’d say yes. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I know it sounds cocky but come on, does anyone ‘pop the question’ if they’re not 100 per cent sure they’ll get a yes?
We went for an evening walk at a place called Curbar Edge in the Peak District, which is an ancient and very scenic limestone ridge overlooking the Derwent Valley. The weather was pretty dreadful so we wrapped up warm and embraced the sting of the air chill.
On the way back to the car I just deided to go for it. I walked her over to one of the more scenic ledges, got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. I didn’t have a ring, opting instead to fashion one from the tin foil bit of a polo packed I stashed in my pocket, and tied it clumsily around her finger. After numerous exclamations of disbelief she said yes and immediately rang her parents.
Rewind to 2002. I was 18, and stood swaying in the diamond feels of Sierra Leone with sunburnt feet and wearing oversized shorts. I was feeling very lethargic after a night of excessive vomiting – the joys of travel – with a video camera resting on my shoulder, interviewing young boys who were employed as miners.
A few years earlier, in 1998 the NGO, Global Witness, published a report revealing that the illicit trade of diamonds in Sierra Leone had been funding conflict. The natural resources of the country were being used as currency to fund torture, forced labour, sexual assault and murder.
Greed for these shiny stones funded a civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and made refugees of more a million. As one man in Sierra Leone remarked: “This is the curse of natural resources.”
To counter this problem, the United Nations General Assembly established something called The Kimberley Process, set up “to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”
Finally! A monitoring system which informs us – the people in the world with enough money to buy diamonds – whether our latest purchase has come from a conflict zone. No blood on these hands… No siree, Bob!
The bit that’s worrying however is that this Kimberley Process doesn’t really work. Amnesty International stated in 2009 that “until the diamond trade is subject to mandatory, impartial monitoring, there is still no effective guarantee that all conflict diamonds will be identified and removed from the market.” Global Witness, the authors of the original report, publically pulled their support for the initiative too and a documentary in 2005 by Sierra Leonean journalist Sorius Samura blew the lid on how easily a diamond could be smuggled from a conflict zone, bypassing the Kimberley Process to reach international markets.
Sadly, the only way to ensure that a diamond hasn’t come from a conflict zone is to not buy one. And so it was on that day in 2002, as I tried not to faint under the merciless sun, I promised myself I never would.
Back in 2012, a month or so after our engagement in the Peak District, I bought two…
A serious lack of choice on the high street and the rigmarole of an eight-hour shopping trip resulted in the annihilation of a 10-year-old promise. How impatient can a person be? What an idiot.
Now, perhaps I’m being hard on myself. The diamonds were certified and there’s nothing to suggest that they came from a conflict zone. But this experience opens bigger questions for us as Christians.
You see, when we buy things, we’re voting. Our money is a ballot paper and when we spend it we’re saying: “Yes, I endorse this product or service.”
The subject of this blog is not mutually exclusive to diamonds, but to everything we chose to buy and surround ourselves with. I believe that the people called Christians are called to be more and we’re called to justice.
I regret buying those two diamonds but I cherish the challenge that the experience has handed me.
Perhaps I should have stuck with the Polo wrapper?
To read other articles in the ‘Can you be a Christian and…’ series please click here.