Sarah Burrows from CAFOD’s Youth team describes how young people have been writing messages of love and hope for refugees .
CAFOD ambassadors from retreat and outreach teams have spent the past few months reflecting on the refugee crisis, responding by raising awareness and gathering messages of hope and love for refugees from the young people they work with. At the beginning of March the group came down to London to bring their messages to Parliament, and speak to their MPs about the refugee crisis. The day before, we had the chance to gather together, halfway through Lent, to reflect on the fact that refugees are such a huge part of the Year of Mercy, they are “brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” (Pope Francis, 2014)
Jo Kitterick is Head of Development Education at CAFOD. In this blog she describes meeting Fr Paul, Director of Caritas Lebanon and hearing a powerful story of mercy, love and hope.
‘How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!’ (Misericordia Vultus April 2015)
Across schools, parishes and cathedrals, momentum has been gathering to mark the Year of Mercy. I hear talk of holy doors, children writing poems and prayers on mercy, people making time to reflect on how we really open our hearts to God and to others.
CAFOD partner, Fr Paul, Director of Caritas Lebanon, passed through the door of CAFOD’s London office just two weeks ago. I had the privilege of speaking with him before he left to return home to Beirut.
The civil war in Lebanon was a regular news item on the television when I was a child. Lebanon continues to be in the news because this small country of just over four million is hosting over a million refugees affected by the war in Syria. The door to these refugees’ homes are the flaps of tents, openings to disused buildings. Some are doors shared with local families. The bed for a family can be a towel or a cloth on a cold concrete floor.
Hannah Remm is a youth worker at The Briars, the residential youth centre for the Diocese of Nottingham. Over the past year Hannah has been involved with CAFOD’s ambassador scheme, and recently she gathered with other youth leaders to spend time reflecting on the current refugee crisis and CAFOD’s response in Syria and Europe.
As a part of our CAFOD Ambassadors scheme, we a day at the CAFOD office at Romero House discussing the topic of refugees. We looked at the language we associate with refugees, the stories that we had heard in the news and on social media along with other information about the European refugee crisis. Some of the things discussed did shock me a little, especially when we looked at how often the media portrays refugees in in a dehumanising way, such as the refugees in Calais living in ‘The Jungle’ camp, or politicians referring to them arriving in ‘swarms’. As a group we realised that the language we use is so important. Refugees are still people – people with families, emotions, hope and dreams just like us. Continue reading “Youth leaders: Hannah reflects on the European refugee crisis”
Laura Ouseley, CAFOD’s World News Officer, recently traveled to Greece to meet refugees attempting to continue their journey through Europe, and the Caritas partners working with them.
As we drove up out of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and headed north towards the border with Macedonia, snow-capped mountains gradually came into view, the temperature dropped, and the landscape became increasingly barren.
I was in northern Greece to meet refugees who had already risked their lives crossing the Aegean Sea in overloaded boats and were now attempting to continue their journey through Europe. They had all saved up, borrowed money or sold their possessions so that they could make this dangerous journey in search of a better, safer life. They had already traveled at least 20 days to get there. For some it had taken much longer.
Every day at the border, coaches arrived with hopeful refugees. Hassan, a Syrian teenager I met there told me that this part had been the most difficult. “I have been waiting for so long. It is boring and so cold”, he said.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the second of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first blog.
I want to tell you about 35-year-old Kamala. A mother of three whose husband died in the earthquake, Kamala’s story will stay with me for a very long time.
Kamala is a Dalit woman, from the most socially excluded of more than 125 castes that exist in Nepal – one that we in the West may have heard of as ‘untouchables’. As such, Kamala and her children live outside a village on a patch of land, low down on the edge of the mountain. An unenviable location when the rain washes waste and rubbish from the village down to her door.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. Whilst there she saw how CAFOD’s local partners were providing life-saving aid to some of the remotest. In the first of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience.
The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April killed nearly 9,000 people, brought over 600,000 houses tumbling to the ground and tore apart the lives of millions. As if that wasn’t enough, just over two weeks later, on Tuesday 12 May, a second earthquake hit – adding to the destruction and suffering of the Nepalese people.
Before travelling to Nepal with CAFOD, I had very little knowledge of the country. I’d seen images in the months leading up to my trip of a devastated land, but despite this, I had no idea what to expect
We were staying in Nepal’s busy capital city – Kathmandu. A mixture of three and four storey buildings that have evolved over time, been extended and added to with more bricks than mortar! There are a lot of crazy wires and power cables – that I’m glad I don’t have to make sense of – which the monkeys use as their highway.
Traffic weaves between the locals who are completely unfazed. Everyone is keen to make their journey worthwhile – carrying as many cattle, goats or people in their cars or on their bikes as possible. All for one, and all for a lift!
Kathmandu was badly damaged by the earthquakes, but I was struck by the resilience of the people who live there. Cities are cities the world over and like London after the bombings or New York after 9/11, the only choice for a city at the heart of its country’s economy is to soldier on and keep business open. Just as the threat of a terrorist attack doesn’t keep Londoners off the tube, the threat of an earthquake cannot keep the Nepalese from going about their daily lives in their capital city. If huge devastation and destruction was what I was expecting to see, I was – gladly – disappointed.
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.
I 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.