Ask an election question: challenging my candidates on poverty

Ask an election question at hustingsSusan works in CAFOD’s Education team. This blog was written just before the 2015 UK general election.

I have a confession to make. Despite years of working for CAFOD and writing to my MP about social justice, I had never attended a hustings meeting of election candidates in my constituency until this month.

Email your candidates  during the 2017 general election campaign with a question on poverty and climate change.

My parish, the Church of the Transfiguration in Kensal Rise, decided to host a hustings for the first time this year. The parish is on the border of two particularly interesting constituencies.

Hampstead and Kilburn is the most marginal seat in the country. Glenda Jackson won in 2010 with a majority of only 42. She is standing down this year, as is Sarah Teather, who has been my constituency MP. She had a slightly higher majority, but this is still the 51st marginal seat. So there’s a lot to play for!

We had a great turn-out, from the candidates – almost all of whom came – and the audience, there were a mix of parishioners and other local community members.  Continue reading “Ask an election question: challenging my candidates on poverty”

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 “Syria crisis: healthcare for refugees”

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 “CAFOD campaigner? Don’t be shy, reply”

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 “Ebola crisis: we are the foot soldiers”

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 “Listening to the cry of the earth”

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 “Ebola: my return to Sierra Leone”

Hands On: the halfway mark

Unbelievably, we are already halfway through our project in Kitui. So much has been achieved in this short time, but there is much still to be done, and no time to waste.

We were happy to welcome our friends Mark and Louise from CAFOD in the UK, who were able to see first-hand the hard work being done all around the project site, look out for their reflections in your next postal update.

Your support makes all of this work possible – please accept our warmest thanks, and keep Kitui in your prayers.
Continue reading “Hands On: the halfway mark”

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”

Harsh life for Iraqis in Kurdistan

By Rachel Felgines from CAFOD partner Caritas International 

Help us respond to emergencies

Caritas distribute aid to Yazidi families in Zacho
CAFOD partners distribute aid to  families in Zakho

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”

Young people speak up for our sisters and brothers in the face of climate change

Liam Finn, CAFOD Regional Media Officer
Liam

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.

Join the One Climate, One World campaign for young people

One Climate, One World comes at a time when climate change is firmly on the Church’s agenda. Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, broke the news at CAFOD’s Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture that Pope Francis is preparing to publish an encyclical on the environment and human ecology. Continue reading “Young people speak up for our sisters and brothers in the face of climate change”