Celebrating Human Rights Defenders in Brazil

Today is International Human Rights Day. Esther Gillingham, CAFOD’S Brazil Programme Officer explains how CAFOD’s partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks is empowering human rights defenders and changing lives in Brazil.

CAFOD are very proud to share the news that our Brazilian partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks was presented with the first ever  Human Rights and Business Foundation Award presented at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva on 27th November 2018.

They received the award for their work defending poor communities from the impacts of human rights and environmental abuses by mining companies in the Amazonian state of Maranhao in north-eastern Brazil.

This work included a 13-year long legal struggle which resulted in the landmark resettlement of the Piquia de Baixo community who have been adversely affected by a huge steel plant built right next to their community in the 1980s.

Support our human rights work in Brazil

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Our newest saints: St Oscar Romero and St Pope Paul VI

Francis Stewart works in our theology team. In this blog he looks at the links between the two new saints whose lives have such prophetic meaning for CAFOD.

By canonising Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI together, Pope Francis is surely pointing out to us the connections between two humble yet courageous men. So what links these two great advocates of “a Church of the poor and for the poor”?

“Patron saints” of CAFOD’s work

Both men have been inspirational for CAFOD’s mission. This is because of what the teachings of one and the life of the other show us about a true encounter with people who are poor.

Find out more about Romero’s life, with our timeline.

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Saint Romero: My inspiration

Blessed Oscar Romero is being officially recognised as a saint on 14 October 2018
Tania Dalton frequently travelled to El Salvador with CAFOD.

Tania Dalton was a member of CAFOD’s Latin America team for nearly 13 years. In this blog she explains how Archbishop Oscar Romero has inspired her to begin a new chapter in her life.

Two big things are happening in my life right now:

  1. I have started to train as a primary school teacher
  2. Blessed Oscar Romero is being officially recognised as a saint on 14 October

It might seem conceited to say the two things are related, but in my mind, they are.

Inspired by Oscar Romero

I first heard about Archbishop Oscar Romero when I started working in CAFOD in 1999. I am inspired daily by Romero’s unwavering option for the poor, although I was a small child when he was killed for his defence of basic human rights and social justice.

Read more about Oscar Romero’s life

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Why are young people at the heart of what we do?

Chris Knowles works in our education team. In this blog he explains why young leadership is essential to CAFOD’s work.

Our new Hands On project in Colombia has young leadership at its heart because young people are not just the future of our world, but as Rosana, involved in the project in Colombia says;

“We have a responsibility towards our country, we are the present”. Rosana

Read about our latest Hands On project

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Disappearance: Torture without end

Sunset over San Salvador, capital of El Salvador
Sunset over San Salvador, capital of El Salvador

On International Day of the Disappeared, CAFOD’s Clare Dixon shares the story of people who worked at the height of the conflict in El Salvador to make sure people killed by death squads did not just disappear without a trace. Sadly, some of the details of this story are distressing.

The first time I visited El Salvador in 1981 the country was plunged in a brutal civil war. Thousands of ordinary men and women were being targeted by the army and death squads, just for demanding their basic human rights, a decent wage, and freedom of speech. Nobody ventured out after dark for fear of being arrested or just snatched off the streets and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.

Archbishop Romero, the “voice of the voiceless” who had espoused and defended the cause of the poor and oppressed, had been shot dead as he said Mass in 1980. A year later I was visiting El Salvador to meet with members of his Archdiocese who, with the support of CAFOD, had set up a human rights office. Its task was to provide legal aid to help and comfort the countless victims of violence who had nowhere else to turn when their loved ones had “disappeared” after being captured by the death squads.

Please pray for those struggling in El Salvador

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Step into the Gap: Inspired by education

Isabel Marsh, who is currently on placement at St Cassian’s Centre, reflects on her time in El Salvador before she embarks on her fundraising journey 0 the Colchester half marathon.

Less than 12 hours after arriving in El Salvador, our group set off for the University of Central America (UCA) to meet with one of CAFOD’s partners. The UCA is a private university, meaning they are able to charge fees for students (but there are several scholarships and bursaries available) and are not reliant on government funding. This has meant the University has more autonomy and does not need to follow the views of the government, providing it with an independent and non-biased voice.

There is still time to apply to Step into the Gap 

We were led to the Social Outreach Vice-Rectorate, for our meeting with Omar Serrano, the Vice-Rector. We spent the morning with Omar and his colleague Eduardo. Omar shared with us about El Salvador – its history; politics; society and social norms and economy.

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Step into the Gap: Protection for children, young people and women

CAFOD volunteer, Aleks Adamczyk, shares about the time she spent with the Mary Barreda Association in Nicaragua. Aleks is currently completing the Step into the Gap programme at St Mary’s Academy Blackpool. 

How did the torture and killing of a married couple lead to eight thousand Nicaraguan children, teenagers and women being helped every year to stay safe, free from violence and exploitation?

Find out more about step into the gap 

Inspired by Mary Barreda and her husband Felipe, who during their lives responded to God’s call to serve the most vulnerable people in their community, the Mary Barreda Association was founded almost 30 years ago by three women who have carried on this legacy.

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Step into the Gap: What struck me most on my Step into the Gap visit

CAFOD gap year volunteer, Aleks Adamczyk, who is currently on placement at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool, reflects on meeting CAFOD’s partners in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Find out more about Step into the gap

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Step into the Gap: Occupational therapy in San Salvador

Step into the Gap volunteer, Sophie Aulton, who is currently completing her placement at Leeds Trinity University, shares her experience of spending time at a project in El Salvador.

Find out more about Step into the Gap

One project that I really enjoyed seeing, and perhaps which spoke to me the most was the Occupational Therapy for senior community residents that took place in an area just outside of San Salvador.

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Step into the Gap: Planting, Harvesting and Saving in Sierra Leone

Kayleigh Margetts, one of the Step into the Gap volunteers, who is currently on placement at The Briars retreat centre, shares her experience of seeing CAFOD’s partner work in Sierra Leone.

Find out more about Step into the Gap

In our second week, we travelled to Modia in Gbinleh Dixon chiefdom to visit the cassava farm and the vegetable garden that belonged to the community.

After having a wonderful experience meeting the community of Maforay the day before, all of us were excited to meet this new group of people with inspiring experiences and an incredible culture.

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