Thirst for Life is a positive campaign designed to promote discussion and thought on how we use alcohol as individuals and within the communities we are involved with. The campaign has been triggered by issues such as the detrimental effects arising from binge drinking; the growth of alcohol related diseases and the governmental statistics on the effects of alcohol abuse on family life.
Alcohol has become such a significant part of British culture and the main thrust of the thirst for life campaign is challenging 1000’s of people of all ages and backgrounds, to stop drinking for 40 days from 1st March 2006. We believe that this will spark healthy debate and discussion. We hope thirst for life will get people talking and thinking about alcohol without being judgemental. The campaign is open to people from all backgrounds and faiths and is being spearheaded by the Church in the UK.
1. What real impact will 40 days of 1000’s of people being alcohol-free actually have?
We want thirst for life to have a huge impact in terms of showing just how many people are concerned about alcohol-related harm in the UK. We want to encourage individuals to think about their own alcohol use and how their example affects others. We want to get people to ask themselves these three questions.
a) Am I in control of my drinking? We believe that forty days of living without alcohol should give people an indicator as to how big a part it plays in their daily lives.
b) Can I still have fun without alcohol? We believe that the answer is absolutely ‘yes’, but that alcohol has become a key aspect of many people’s social lives. thirst for life is an opportunity to challenge people to have fun without drinking.
c) What do we want our nation to look like in ten years’ time? There is so much publicity about alcohol-related problems that there is a consensus that ‘something has to be done’. We want people to ask the question ‘what needs to be done to change drinking patterns and thereby improve the health of the nation?’. For a long time, all people have been able to say is that they are worried about all the problems related to drinking. thirst for life is a practical and positive opportunity for people to express their concern and explore helpful ways forward.
2. Is thirst for life just trying to tackle the issue of binge drinking?
No, but binge drinking is a current ‘high profile’ issue relating to alcohol. Yet there are a whole host of other alcohol-related issues. For example, up to 1.3 million children are suffering because of parental drinking (Government Alcohol Strategy for England). thirst for life is not going to solve the issue of alcohol abuse in the UK. It is going to highlight it and encourage people to think about how to bring about solutions. Its emphasis on personal action and example will mean that people will have a chance to see their friends taking a small stand and, over time, we want that to start everybody thinking.
3. Will thirst for life be just another example of the Church condemning the world?
No. In fact, our approach is going to be significantly different from those like the media, judges and others who have spoken out negatively about the issue of alcohol abuse without providing long-term solutions. thirst for life is an opportunity for the Church to speak out prophetically about things that need changing in the world. It is true that we will need to highlight the problem but, historically, prophets also pointed the way forward to a better life. People still had to exercise their own decision-making about whether to heed the message. thirst for life will accentuate the positive by its emphasis on doing things for others and offering positive role models and peer influence. For example:
– We want to encourage people to replace their drinking with something else perhaps using the money they save on a holiday or item of equipment or, even, giving it away to benefit someone else. ‘Life in all its fullness’ will be a theme within thirst for life.
– Our Christian faith gives us the desire to do something positive and we hope that people will see both the ‘good works’ and also what lies behind them. We recognise that everyone makes their own choices about faith, but we hope that our involvement in this important social issue will demonstrate the relevance of Jesus’ message and that He wants each one of us to experience life in all its fullness.
4. How will we make sure that thirst for life is not just another Christian campaign that fails to impact the world around?
Our ambition is for the nation and not just the Church. This issue affects us all and the opportunity to make a statement by remaining alcohol-free for forty days is something that everybody could identify with.
Initially, we have approached people we know, mainly Christians and their organisations, but we will be taking thirst for life to schools, student groups and people at work as best we can.
To do this, we need people, partner organisations and finance. We need individuals who can identify with the project and hope to enlist the support of celebrities to endorse it.
thirst for life is intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. Everyone who commits will have the opportunity to wear a tag or badge to show others and be able to start conversations about alcohol in the context of life in all its fullness.
However, thirst for life will not fulfil its potential unless we can get the backing we require.
5. How much emphasis will thirst for life put on the Christian faith?
Thirst for Life does not want to shy away from the fact that it is a Christian based project. At the same time we do not want to alienate people who do not hold the same belief systems. The web site will clearly explain that Christians have established thirst for life and that our spirituality calls us to care for social issues. As Jesus brought about revolution and reform, our Church history is littered with others such as Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Booth. We hope that thirst for life will impact people’s spirituality as well as health and social issues.
6. What if I don’t drink, can I still be involved?
Yes! thirst for life is for everybody and people who are already alcohol-free can show their concern by wearing the tag or badge and using the resources with people they know.
7. I want to start discussions in my church, community or youth group. How can I go about it?
We will make available information and discussion ideas for use with a wide variety of groups. The thirst for life project is being managed by Share Jesus International and Hope UK both organisations have a wide experience of encouraging people to think for themselves using excellent resources and participative activities.
8. Can young people who can not legally buy alcohol participate in ‘thirst for life’?
It is essential that young people participate in thirst for life. Although they cannot legally buy alcohol in most circumstances until they reach the age of 18, more and more young people have started drinking at an earlier age. Those aged under 16 are drinking twice as much as they did ten years ago.
Of course, we don’t want to encourage young people to commit for forty days and then say that it’s OK to start drinking. We do want large numbers of them to use their influence on their peers to encourage others to stop drinking or drink much less. The truth is that so many younger teens (and younger children) are drinking today that anything we can do to make them consider drinking less or to go ‘alcohol-free’ can only benefit them.
9. What about those with a drinking problem or a dependency and also those that cannot stay dry for 40 days?
thirst for life is about making a statement which will encourage people to bring about improvements over the long term in our nation’s drink problems. In that sense it is seeking to give prevention a high priority. However, for those who find it difficult to control their drinking (and their families and friends) we will be able to point them in the direction of help. By its nature, thirst for life is a positive project and we want it used with a spirit of encouragement for all those who try it out. For those who start out with good intentions (but do not last the course), we will want them to consider, in a positive way, why this might be. thirst for life is about offering freedom and health not guilt and failure.
10. How will thirst for life make sure that it reaches a diverse range of ethnic groups and both men and women?
UK culture is multi-ethnic and multi-faith. thirst for life is applicable for all groups, whatever their age, sex, race or religion. Our advertising will represent this.
11. Why is thirst for life happening in Lent?
For centuries, Lent has been a time where individuals ‘give something up’ as an exercise in self control and, for Christians, to help them look towards Easter. However, it also lasts for around six weeks and this is a reasonable time span for a project like thirst for life. It is long enough for a commitment to be noticed and be worthwhile but short enough for individuals to feel they can make such a commitment.