Pope Francis speaks up for our common home

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, from Manila in the Philippines, is President of CAFOD partner Caritas Internationalis. He reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical and the devastating typhoon that hit his country in 2013.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle - Caritas - CAFODI do not need to tell the people in my country that we are living in a time of crisis. When Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation across the Philippines in November 2013, it was immaterial as to whether it was caused by climate change or not; people suffered and the poorest were hit hardest. In such times of crisis what should our response be?

Climate change affects the dignity of the most vulnerable

In the Encyclical Laudato Si’ released this week, Pope Francis acknowledges the seriousness of climate change and how it is affecting the dignity of the most vulnerable, as well as the harmony between humans and nature. In the light of the Gospel of Creation, he calls us all to urgently respond to protect the gift of creation and the richness of life. He challenges us all, governments, businesses and citizens, to look deep within ourselves and find a common answer reflecting all peoples’ voices, for the appropriate response is not an easy or simple issue to be solved. This is a deeply rooted problem, which goes to the heart of who we are and our values.

Find prayers inspired by Laudato Si’

In line with his predecessors, Pope Francis is looking at the signs of the times that confront us. Laudato Si’ is a powerful and inspiring document calling us to a greater solidarity with the environment, a solidarity that binds the caring for people and caring for the environment. We must recalibrate our relationship with nature, the garden God has created for us, which we have looked upon as a subordinate to our desires and extracted from mercilessly without fear of the consequences.

The environmental crisis is affecting our brothers and sisters worldwide

I hear more and more from my brothers and sisters across the world about how the environmental crisis is already affecting them. CAFOD has reported that more than 400 million of the world’s poorest people – more than the total population of the USA and the UK put together – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the leading scientific authority on the issue whose findings are backed by governments worldwide – has said with 95 percent certainty in its 2013 report that humans are the main cause of climate change. Pope Francis writes that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity” where the “huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world.” Continue reading “Pope Francis speaks up for our common home”

One Climate, One World: No power over rain or sun

U Than Win and his family
U Than Win and his wife Daur San Mhwe holding their children Elizabeth (left) and Kissnow (right).

CAFOD writer Mark Chamberlain talks about meeting a village leader in Myanmar and how changes in climate are affecting his community.

Speak Up for communities affected by a changing climate. Join CAFOD at Westminster on Wednesday 17 June

There is a calmness about U Than Win that can’t be learned. I sat on the floor in his small home – even the jungle around us seemed to wait in silence – waiting for the rains, waiting for him to speak.

“The village is here – in my heart”

The slightly built 51-year-old was thinking – deliberating an answer before delivering a typically succinct, quiet truth. “I do things first for my community” – a pause to make sure I understood every word – “then my family. The village is here” he pointed gently to his chest, “in my heart.”

His wife was quick to tell me that her husband is always working – always tending to people’s needs. “When he does relax” she said, looking at me directly, “it’s for five minutes at the most, then someone will come to our home asking for his help.”

She smiled before continuing. “Last year I was in hospital. I knew he was worried about the village – he wanted to be with me, but his duty is to help them. I held his hand and told him to stay with me.” Continue reading “One Climate, One World: No power over rain or sun”

Nepal Earthquake: A first-hand account

Lilian Chan, who works for our partner Caritas Australia, reports from Nepal.

The earthquake struck without any warning. One minute I was filming an interview with a villager. The next, I was running to an open field as the ground shook violently and debris from houses flew overhead. It was a truly terrifying situation. As I watched the clouds of dust rising above collapsed houses, I knew that Caritas’ presence in this community would be more important than ever.

Collapsed buildings in Kathmandu
Collapsed buildings in Kathmandu

Surveying the damage

After the ground settled, I walked around the village to survey the damage. Having lived through smaller earthquakes before, most people knew to take refuge in the open fields. I saw one young girl, probably no older than four, sitting with her family, her eyes wide with fright. People her age have never experienced anything like this.

Please donate to our Nepal Earthquake Appeal

It has been more than 80 years since Nepal has seen an earthquake cause this kind of devastation. Reaching a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake has killed thousands of people and the United Nations say that more than eight million people have been affected – more than a quarter of Nepal’s total population. Many homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed, and water and sanitation services have been cut off in remote areas.

As I travelled back into Kathmandu, the scene was heartbreaking. Buildings I had only seen for the first time days earlier were reduced to heaps of debris. People were evacuating their homes, with nowhere to take shelter. And we saw patients evacuated from the hospital. With nowhere to go, they had to be treated on the ground, out in the streets.

£35 provides tents to shelter 15 families

I have never experienced an earthquake before. The initial tremor is terrifying. But the continued threat of destructive aftershocks causes further damage and trauma to people who are already vulnerable. A few days on from the earthquake, fearful of the aftershocks, many people in Kathmandu were still sleeping out on the street or in open public spaces. Continue reading “Nepal Earthquake: A first-hand account”

New Year in Myanmar

Myanmar - woman prayingPaula Nyunt from our Humanitarian team, who is originally from Myanmar, reflects on the country’s New Year festivities.

Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent

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.

Temporary water-spraying stations are set up, and double as dance floors, many of them are sponsored by wealthy families and businesses. Street performances and traditional floats by puppeteers, orchestras, dance troupes, comedians, actors and singers singing and chanting slogans are commonplace. Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent  Continue reading “New Year in Myanmar”

Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster

By Mark Chamberlain, Communications Officer

Martin - emergency drill - Myanmar - DRR CAFOD (2)
Martin, Myanmar

Martin was six when his small bamboo home in Myanmar’s southwestern jungle was blown away by a terrifying 145mph tropical storm.

I ask him what he remembers most from that night and the small, talkative boy is quiet for a few seconds, then smiles nervously: “I couldn’t hear other people calling out or crying, I could just hear the screaming voice of the wind.”

In minutes, houses where generations of people had lived were snatched from the ground and splintered across the land. Essentials like food, money and clothes were thrown into the nearby river and for miles across the land. Countless people were killed. In one village down the river, one out of every two were taken by the wind.

“It was dark and the wind was all around,” Martin says of that Friday in 2008. “My dad picked me up from our home and ran and ran. We didn’t know where to go or where to hide, but we went to the school.”

Donate to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

Myanmar – the country formerly known as ‘Burma’ – faces small, localised cyclones every year. But nothing on the scale of Cyclone Nargis. Martin’s family, like many others in the village, ran in that May darkness, but they didn’t know where to or what to do when they arrived at their destination. Rebecca Murphy, CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction expert says: “This is the key moment when the initial effects of a disaster can be managed. So many lives can be saved just by ensuring a community has access to an early warning system, knows where to go and what to do when a cyclone hits.” Continue reading “Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster”

Lent 2015: Why I’m doubling my baking

Cupcakes to raise money for CAFOD's Lent Appeal
Strawverry cupcakes to raise money for CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

Laura works in CAFOD’s communications team in London. She tells us why she has decided to do double the baking this Lent to fundraise for CAFOD

I’ve always loved baking. But I’ve been doing a lot more since I became a mum. That’s why I’ve decided to double my baking this Lent to raise money for CAFOD’s Lent Appeal.

Since I had my son Alfie, who is now two years old, I’m at home in the evenings more anyway and I find baking a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day. Not to mention the treat of a home-baked cake that you get to share with your family at the end. And I like the thought of Alfie having a treat where I know exactly what’s gone into it, with no nasties.

Give to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

There’s something so calming about baking that I don’t find with other cooking. Maybe it’s the precise measurements and instructions that give me a sense of control in a chaotic world. Or that every time you take a freshly-baked cake out of the oven, you can’t help thinking that a little bit of magic’s happened. The sloppy mess that went into the tin transforms into a spongy, golden, morsel that smells deliciously of warm, sugary sweetness.

Fundraise in your parish or school with our Fast Day resources

Continue reading “Lent 2015: Why I’m doubling my baking”

Lent 2015: How to prepare for a disaster

By Nick Harrop, World News Officer

“The wind was circulating fast and glass was flying everywhere,” says Flora Badanoy, 39. “The roof was blown off by the gale. It felt like there was an earthquake. We were terrified. Then the hwater started coming in, with a strong current. We opened the front door and more water came gushing in. I thought it was the end of our lives.”

The Guiuan peninsula in the Philippines was the very first place to be hit by Typhoon Haiyan, shortly after midnight on 8 November 2013. Winds of up to 170 mph struck the coast and huge waves swept in from the sea, flooding coastal villages like Flora’s.

Palo, Leyte Island, Philippines - devastation after Typhoon Haiyan
Devastation in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

“We were not expecting it to be a special typhoon,” says Flora. “The local officials told us we had to evacuate, but they didn’t say it would be so powerful. We were not warned that there would be floods. We’d heard there would be a ‘storm surge’, but we didn’t understand what the phrase meant. It wasn’t a phrase we used in our language.”

Help people like Flora whose lives are being affected by storms, droughts and floods.

Flora remembers the roar of the wind – so loud that she couldn’t hear herself shout – and the terror her children felt as water came flooding in under the door. Continue reading “Lent 2015: How to prepare for a disaster”

Lent 2015 Myanmar: Eleven things I learned about life in the jungle

Villagers in Myanmar
Villagers in a jungle village in Myanmar

Our Fundraising Writer Mark Chamberlain visited Myanmar in 2014 to learn about the effects of storms and extreme weather. Myanmar is the focus for this year’s CAFOD Lent appeal which is being match funded by the UK government.

In June last year, I was lucky enough to spend some time with U Than Win, Martin, Kyin Nu, Zin Thu Thu and U Win Myi the fisherman in Myanmar. While staying in their communities, I kept a diary and made a list of points about surviving the jungle. Here are eleven things I learned:

1. Footwear is essential. No matter how hot it is and how liberating the sensation of the jungle floor on your bare feet is, don’t be tempted to walk around without protection. The jungle is alive with spiders, snakes and the intimidating ‘scorpion king’. Bites can be lethal because both communities were are a long way from a hospital.

2. The ‘scorpion king’ is a giant centipede. It won’t kill if it bites, but it will hurt. A lot. Make sure you move your bed away from a wall if you are near one – this is so it doesn’t creep into bed with you for a snooze.

Continue reading “Lent 2015 Myanmar: Eleven things I learned about life in the jungle”

“Don’t use your hairdryers!” ‒ Our young climate bloggers’ training weekend

St James young climate bloggers
St James young climate bloggers

Young climate bloggers from St James’ Catholic High School tell the story of their CAFOD training weekend ‒ the fun, the challenges and the inspiration.

“Don’t use your hairdryers …” was one of the first pieces of advice we were given on arrival at the Othona Community in Bradwell on Sea “Hairdryers use more electricity than all the ovens, lights, fridges and freezers in our community joined together. If you use a hairdryer it could overload the system.” As the Orthona Community was off the main grid, frizzy hair it was to be.  This was the first of many lessons learnt whilst experiencing sustainable living. The hard work and fun was about to begin.

Keep up with the CAFOD young climate bloggers during 2015.

Continue reading ““Don’t use your hairdryers!” ‒ Our young climate bloggers’ training weekend”

A people of hope

This blog is written by Rachel McCarthy who works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. It is the first of a series inviting you to share your joys and hopes, and to pray for people living in poverty at Lent

Rwanda- writing in a journal
Keep a hope journal this Lent

As we journey through Lent, take time to reflect on your joys, hopes, concerns and inspirations by keeping a hope journal. In a spirit of solidarity, we hold in our prayers the joys and hopes of our global family.

Follow our daily reflections with the CAFOD Lent calendar

2015 is the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes. We are called to share the “joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of our global neighbours, especially those who are living in poverty.

Continue reading “A people of hope”