Syria crisis: healthcare for refugees

By Tabitha Ross, CAFOD freelancer in Lebanon

In Syria, it’s traditionally a source of great pride to be the mother of sons, and Ghossoun was rightly proud of her five boys. Brought up on a farm in the Homs region of Syria, each one grew up and went into the army when he left home – a stable and respectable career at the time. Ghossoun and her husband were left at home with their youngest, their only girl.

Ghossoun, Syrian refugee in Lebanon - CAFOD and Caritas

Ghossoun

Then Syria descended into war.

Ghossoun’s sons were targeted

“We didn’t want to participate in the war. We were neither with the government nor against it. But unfortunately we were not allowed that option,” said Ghossoun.

Because they were in the army, her sons were targeted as government supporters, although Ghossoun says their choice of career was not a political statement. The threats got worse, and one terrible day, Ghossoun’s husband was murdered as he worked on the farm.

Fearing for her children’s lives, Ghossoun fled to Lebanon with her family.

Donate to CAFOD’s Syria Crisis appeal

This made her sons military deserters, and now they are in trouble with both the Syrian government and its opponents. “We told the authorities that their father was killed and their lives were threatened, but of course they didn’t believe us,” she said.

They have also been pursued to Lebanon by the group that killed her husband, and have had to move around several times. Now they live in hiding, only leaving the house when absolutely necessary. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under CAFOD, Conflict, Lebanon, Syria

CAFOD campaigner? Don’t be shy, reply

clifton heartsSarah works in CAFOD’s Campaigns Team.

Every month, we email CAFOD campaigners – maybe you’re one of them – to share news, feed back on progress and offer new ways in which we need your help.

What do you do when that CAFOD email lands in your inbox? Do you set to and take action? Do you skim through? Do you forward to your friends? Do you delete straightaway? Or do you click reply?

In recent weeks, as our climate change campaign gathers pace, we’ve been receiving lots of replies and emails from you. Some sharing stories of your campaign events, some asking questions, some telling us how we should or shouldn’t communicate.

Fill in our 2 minute campaign survey and tell us what you think 

The big questions

Every one of these emails makes me stop and think. They reconnect me with what we are doing and why. They remind me that, without the support of countless parishes and individuals across England and Wales, our campaigns would make little difference.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under CAFOD, Campaigning, Climate Change

Ebola crisis: we are the foot soldiers

Please pray for all those affected by the Ebola virus

Burial team 1

In her second blog from Sierra Leone, Nana Anto-Awuakye writes about a volunteer burial team on the front line of the fight against Ebola.

We leave behind the bustle of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, where the Ebola prevention posters plastered across all available wall space, and on cars and motorbikes, are now looking tattered and faded.

The landscape changes from precarious half-built houses perched on the hillsides surrounding the city, to lush green savannah grasslands.

We are heading to Kambia in the north-east of the country, a district that became a hotspot as the Ebola epidemic gripped the country last year. Sandwiched between the urban district of Port Loko to the south and the border with Guinea – where the virus started – to the north, the odds seem stacked against this unassuming town.

But an amazing partnership has developed here between the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health, local volunteers – including teachers, students and farmers – and CAFOD, to form the Safe and Dignified Burial team of Kambia. Together they have refused to be overwhelmed by the odds stacked against them.

Burial volunteers

On a piece of land the size of two football pitches is an important part of the operation – the Kambia Ebola Response Fleet site, managed by CAFOD and its local partner Caritas Makeni. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Sierra Leone

Listening to the cry of the earth

Today on International Mother Earth Day, Rachel McCarthy from the CAFOD Theology Programme reflects on listening to creation. This is the third of a series of blogs ahead of Pope Francis’ encyclical on human development and ecology, expected to be published this summer.

Flowers in Nicaragua

A blossom of flowers in Nicaragua

“The cry of the poor and the cry of the earth are one.”

(Canadian Bishops Conference, 2003)

We are called to open our hearts and hear what creation is saying to us.

But what does it mean to truly listen to our sisters and brothers across the world, and to the earth?

Listening to God’s creation 

The call to listen to creation is grounded in our belief that all of the earth reflects God’s glory.

Scripture reveals the inherent goodness of creation as made by God. Jesus talked to his disciples about the natural beauty of

the flowers in the fields, and said, “Not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-30).

All living beings are made by God, and we have a deep connection with the whole of creation. Indeed, God establishes an everlasting covenant with all creatures on earth (Genesis 9:16).

Humankind, as created in the image of God, is simultaneously interconnected with all creatures and is given a special role to care for creation.

Inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron Saint of ecology, we remember that we are all members of the eco-family. We are called to praise the Creator God together with our ‘Brother Sun’ and ‘Sisters moon and stars’.

Contemplate the beauty of creation with our reflections

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under CAFOD, Climate Change, Nicaragua, prayer

Ebola: my return to Sierra Leone

A CAFOD team prepares to carry out safe burials of people who have died because of Ebola.

A CAFOD team prepares to carry out safe burials of people who have died because of Ebola.

Eight years after her last visit, Nana Anto-Awuakye from CAFOD’s Communications team writes about returning to Sierra Leone to meet people on the front line in the struggle against the Ebola virus.

Please pray for all those affected by the Ebola virus

Before I left London, my colleague Amie came up to my desk and gave me a goodbye hug, saying: “We Sierra Leoneans love to hug.”

It has been difficult for people in Sierra Leone to hug over the last few months. Even though the Ebola virus has now been contained in most parts of the country, the “no touch” policy is still in place. When I arrive, I will have to check my automatic instinct to shake people’s hands, or to put a comforting hand on people’s shoulders when listening to their stories.

Recovering from war

I first visited Sierra Leone in 2007, several years after the country’s devastating civil war – a conflict in which tens of thousands of people died, and in which the brutal hacking off of limbs was all too common.

In the capital Freetown, watching the sunset turn the sky auburn over the city’s beautiful golden beaches, I remember finding it hard to imagine that this had once been a place of fear and bloodshed. At the time, everyone I met talked about “not wanting to go back”. They were confident in the peace that had been secured, and spoke only of a future of reconciliation and development.

Travelling to Kenema in the Eastern Province, I remember being greeted by the rolling green hills of Kambui, and in the town centre by whole streets lined with diamond buyers’ shops. I learned that Kenema was an important agricultural market town, as well as the centre for the timber industry and for the production of coffee and palm oil.

Epicentre of the virus

Last year Kenema was one of the areas at the epicentre of the Ebola virus. It was effectively locked down. Blockades on the main road ensured that no one entered or left the district, decimating its once thriving economy.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Sierra Leone