As Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh celebrate New Year this week, I was reminded of my childhood when we celebrated the water festival in the city that was then Rangoon.
Myanmar has 12 festivals, one each month around the full moon day. But Myanmar’s New Year water festival, Thin-gyan, is the most famous, often with street celebrations as well as various religious activities. It usually falls around mid-April and it is celebrated over a period of four to five days ending in the New Year.
There is a great deal of friendliness and goodwill among people during the festival. The sprinkling of water is intended to symbolically “wash away” one’s iniquities. In major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, garden hoses or locally made water shooters and other devices from which water can be sprayed are used, in addition to simple bowls and cups. Sometimes water balloons and even fire hoses have been used. It is the hottest time of the year and a good dousing is welcomed by most.
During the Water Festival, the Myanmar government relaxes the restrictions on gatherings. However, the lack of water in recent years has restricted the use of large quantities of water in some parts of the country.
Zakho, northern Iraq. Against a green backdrop surrounded by peaks still capped with snow, the town’s small colourful houses – blue, green and pink – are ranged in bright sunlight under a deep blue sky. Yet who knows what kind of scenes are being played out today in these mountains, whose tranquillity is only a facade, and which now protect what has become a refuge for thousands of Iraqis who fled the violence and massacres that took place in Iraq last summer.
I’m on the road with the Caritas Iraq team, which is being supported by donations to CAFOD and other Catholic agencies around the world.
We stop in a no man’s land in front of a building of which only the ground level and foundations have been completed. This is where around 100 Yazidi families – from the community persecuted and massacred by the extremist group known as Islamic State – live, or rather are crammed together. The majority of these families live in what might one day be the garage of this building. Hidden underground. Pieces of wood, cloth, plexiglass and cardboard provide makeshift partitions to separate the families; a few square metres that disappear from view to give a semblance of privacy. A few light bulbs hang along the immense corridor trying in vain to illuminate the prevailing darkness. Indeed, this marks progress, as a few months ago there was no electricity at all. Total darkness confined within icy concrete walls.
Caritas heard about these families that are in a state of absolute destitution a few weeks ago and has come to meet them. When the Caritas Iraq team arrived in this makeshift camp, no-one took any notice of them. Several organisations had previously come to see these families, asked them questions and promised to bring them aid. But since then they have never returned. So these abandoned families have no reason to believe in any possible support, and in part rely only on themselves. Continue reading “Harsh life for Iraqis in Kurdistan”
Liam Finn is CAFOD’s Regional Media Officer. He tells us how young people are supporting our sisters and brothers as they face extreme weather.
Hundreds of young people from across the country are joining our One Climate, One World campaign – in schools, in churches, and even in Parliament.
10,000 calls by supporters have been made to party leaders to secure an ambitious global deal to cut polluting fossil fuels and to move towards sustainable energy for everyone. Climate change, which scientists believe with 95 per cent certainty is being driven by human activity, is the biggest threat to tackling poverty worldwide – and is already affecting communities both overseas and in the UK.
Father Augusto Zampini Davies is a RC priest, Moral Theologian and theological advisor to CAFOD. In the second of a series of blogs, Father Augusto explains how caring for creation is at the heart of the Easter message.
The environmental question brings together two central elements of Church teaching: promoting human development and caring for creation. This may sound overwhelming; some may feel it is too broad, or that it is exclusively related to scientists and experts. And including these concerns into our already busy and moving activities of the Easter season can be exasperating. Yet as Christians we have important reasons to consider the environmental question.
First, many of our brothers and sisters across the world experience the disastrous effects of climate change on a daily basis. For example in Nicaragua, crops are failing due to the extreme drought.
Lázaro Gutierrez is a teacher in the community of Santa Ana in the dry corridor of Nicaragua. Lázaro has seen the struggles which the families of his students have faced over the last few years due to the changing climate. With the support of our partner Caritas Jinotega, he has been working with the children to learn how to care for the environment and live sustainably.
Lázaro has a dream for the school. With our partner Caritas Jinotega he has been working to create a school garden, with fruit trees and vegetable plots, so the children can learn about nutrition and growing food and share what they learn with their families. He looks forward to the day when the trees they are planting now grow tall and throw shade where the children can sit and play at break times.
The fantastic CAFOD young climate bloggers and Step into the Gap volunteer from Ss John Fisher and Thomas More Roman Catholic High School arranged to meet their local MP, Andrew Stephenson, to lobby him on climate issues. As a result, he raised climate change with the Prime Minister! Watch their video to find out what they asked.
We’re the Fisher More CAFOD young climate bloggers. We invited our local MP, Andrew Stephenson, to our school to discuss the issue of climate change. We had a great afternoon speaking to him and it was fantastic to hear all the things he’s been doing to help tackle climate change and engaging him with our work.
Watch the young climate bloggers’ vlog of Andrew Stephenson’s visit:
Ellie is CAFOD’s PR Officer. This Lent, she has doubled her cycling to work and will give what she saves on travel to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal. Today, her personal Lent journal focuses on her Lent journey.
Lent is one of my favourite times of year. It’s a time for reflection and living simply, and marks the ever-welcome transition between winter and spring. Ash Wednesday is often cold and wet, but by the time Easter Sunday arrives, the nights are getting longer, the daffodils are in full bloom and my winter clothes have been packed away.
Lent is also one of the most important periods in the CAFOD calendar. Our fantastic supporters – school and youth groups, parishes and individuals – pull out all the stops to come up with unique fundraising ideas to raise as much money as possible for our Lent Appeal. Romero House – CAFOD’s London office – is a hive of activity and updates on how the appeal is going are bound to put you in high spirits.
Many of my colleagues have embarked on Lent challenges this year – either doubling something up or cutting something out: Ffion and Laura have doubled their baking, keeping me stocked in sweet treats and raising funds in the process; Mariacristina’s delicious Neapolitan dishes have been the talk of the town during lunchtimes; and Mark has cut out eggs, dairy, and honey (he’s a vegetarian so it’s no mean feat!). Continue reading “Lent Hope Journal: Reflecting on my Lent journey”
Bernie Healy is Chaplaincy Coordinator for All Saints Catholic High School. She is accompanying a group of CAFOD young climate bloggers. Here she talks about the joys and challenges of enabling her group of young people to campaign on climate and explains why the young climate bloggers training week end was like stepping back to her childhood!
My name is Bernie and I am a Chaplaincy Coordinator for a secondary school ‘up North’! I’ve been in this role for the last seven or eight years, time goes so fast it could be even longer.
In September of last year I introduced CAFOD’s One Climate, One World campaign to the school. I asked every form to think of something that would be affected by the climate if we don’t act now. The results were fantastic and we created a heart to display of all the things we love and don’t want to lose.
Three weeks after Flame 2, CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteers, Leila, Chris and Mary reflect on what it meant to speak on stage in front of 8,000 people at the SSE Arena, Wembley.
Chris says: “I don’t often lie. But when asked ‘Are you ok Chris?’ Before going on stage I told a big fat whopper. I said ‘Yeah, fine’, as coolly as possible. Inside I was secretly in turmoil with questions like ‘What if you burp into the microphone in front of 8,000 people?’ popping into my head. (In my defence, I thought saying I was nervous would have only made us all more nervous.) But once on stage, I relaxed and, surprisingly, enjoyed it.
Nathaniel and Remi are CAFOD young leaders and students at St Joseph’s College, Reading. They tell us about their experience at Flame2.
As we progress through the season of Lent, it is important that as Catholics we take the time to reflect on how we can contribute to our community.
The CYMFed Flame2 event at Wembley Arena earlier this month was an opportunity to reflect along with thousands of other young Catholics. You could feel the presence of God in the hearts and minds of everyone as we gathered to kindle the flame of Christ.
As we took to our seats, the event roared into life with uplifting and exciting music by liturgical dancers and double-Grammy award winning songwriter Matt Redman. Thousands of pinpoints of light from the mobile phones of the audience shone around the arena, as everyone joined together in musical worship.
Lighting the flames of our faith
CAFOD had prepared a series of lunchtime activities for us as young leaders to use to engage and inform people. During the balloon challenge, participants were asked to race each other to inflate the balloons the fastest, not knowing that one of the balloons had a hole pierced through it. The balloon with the hole symbolised how not all of us have equal opportunities in life, because many people are born into areas which are disadvantaged by the climate, resources or political systems. CAFOD young leaders also contributed to getting #Flame2 trending on Twitter, by sharing photos of activities and of friends wearing the One Climate, One World heart costume. Continue reading “Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent”
It’s five weeks now since I cut out drinking tea for Lent, in order to raise money for CAFOD’s Lent appeal and generate support for our One Climate, One World campaign to tackle climate change.
Progress so far:
Money raised: £496.10 (doubled by match funding from the UK government, to make £992.20)
Cups of tea not drunk: About 185
One Climate, One World petition signatures: At least 20
Days to go: 9
My fundraising has been going better, much better, than expected, which almost makes up for the caffeine withdrawal. I just need £3.90 more to raise a total of £1,000 towards CAFOD’s work. Sponsor me now