Reflections on the Zimbabwe election

Dadirai Chikwengo is CAFOD’s Governance Advisor supporting work across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She is currently in Zimbabwe ahead of the first elections since former President, Robert Mugabe – who had been leading the country for over 30 years – stepped down.

In the last five days, I have been taken back to my childhood days. The days when I was a little girl in Gweru. The euphoria and the excitement in the country have taken me back decades to 1980 when Mugabe came into power.  It is winter in Zimbabwe. Not that our winters are grey and wet as some place in the North where I now live. Here most of the vegetation looks brown like fields of wheat ready for harvest. But this winter, the colours on the brown barks of the trees have been unusual. From green, yellow, red, blue, you mention it!

Trees in Zimbabwe covered in election posters
Trees in Zimbabwe covered in election posters

In case you think I am out of my mind – surely who has seen a blue tree? I am not. These are all the colours of posters tied up or pasted on the trees. The colours of posters that are lining the streets or on walls whenever you go. Posters of political parties, the Church or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission about this election.  I meet people in the streets who are fearlessly open about their candidate of choice. Clad in the colours of their party every time they see someone in the same colours they acknowledge them and loudly say out the slogan ED Pfee (ED enters) or Chamisa chete chete (Chamisa the only one).

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Five ways to start a conversation about climate change

CAFOD's Sarah Croft wearing her green heart badge to show support for action on climate change
CAFOD’s Sarah Croft (right) wearing her green heart badge

Sarah Croft works in CAFOD’s campaigns team. This week, she’s challenged herself to talk to five new people about climate change. Why?

Last week I was shocked to learn that women my age are the group least likely to talk about climate change, even though they are the most concerned about the issue.

We are not alone in our reluctance to talk. Two out of three people have never had a conversation about climate change – ever.

CAFOD campaigns on climate change, so I am unusual in that I spend most of my working day thinking and talking about it to colleagues.

But despite this, when I leave the office and head out to have drinks with friends or to see family, I rarely bring the topic up.

Find resources to help you start conversations about climate change this Valentine’s Day

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Time for Time Out

Daniel Hale is CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns. In November, CAFOD will be hosting retreats all around the country, giving supporters a chance to reflect on faith and taking action in light of the Year of Mercy.

There are only three more weeks until the end of the Year of Mercy, the holy year called by Pope Francis to reflect on the mercy of God. Of course reflection is good at any time, but why did the Pope ask for this year to be the year?

I think it was a clever way to ask us to take a fresh look at the problems faced by the world and its people. The refugee crisis, to which Pope Francis had tried to draw so much attention was one such issue.

pilgrimage-1
The Lampedusa Cross has been an image of hope during the Year of Mercy

 

Over several years Francis had done a lot to promote the cause of refugees, including visiting Lampedusa, where so many migrants washed up on European shores. But the world was slow to act.

Send refugees a message of hope

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Connect2: Brazil: communities connected through the power of cake

The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers at St. Columba’s RC Church have baked hundreds of cakes to raise funds for Connect2: Brazil
The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers at St. Columba’s RC Church have baked hundreds of cakes to raise funds for Connect2: Brazil

The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM) group at St. Columba’s RC Church have a long history of supporting CAFOD’s work with our partners in Brazil. Starting from fundraising to supporting children in need in general, they explain how they came to be a Connect2: Brazil parish.

Learn more about Connect2: Brazil

We have always raised money for children who were in need and following a presentation about sewer children in Mexico, we decided to change the focus to South America. Parishioners, past and present, of St. Columba’s RC Church in Chesham have regularly and for many years donated to CAFOD via the CAFOD Envelopes. CAFOD has been an organisation dearly close to our hearts and is always well supported within the parish.

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Laudato Si’: a personal reflection

Kathy McVay is a CAFOD supporter from Sacred Heart parish, Bristol. Kathy reflects on her experience of reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

A song of praise

Laudato Si’ is a paean to God’s creation: humankind, other forms of life on earth, the earth itself, our whole planet. And it is a plea to all people to stop destroying it.

Like the majority of scientists (Pope Francis has a background in chemistry), the Holy Father fears that we are destroying our planet, chiefly by creating climate change. He believes that it is a very real threat to poorer countries who are trying to develop, and also to our children and grandchildren.

This interconnectedness between humankind and the elements is a theme that runs throughout the encyclical.

Pray for our earth

The climate is a common good 

Chapter one is partly a factual account of what is happening to the earth; pollution and climate change, waste and the throwaway culture, the issue of water, the loss of biodiversity. He links these issues with a decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality. Continue reading “Laudato Si’: a personal reflection”

Laudato Si’: catholic with a small ‘c’

This blog is written by Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, Theological Adviser to CAFOD. He reflects on how Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a truly universal message.

Father Augusto Zampini-Davies
Father Augusto Zampini-Davies reflects on how Laudato Si’ is universal and all-embracing

Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ (Praised be), is a truly inspiring and catholic document. It is catholic, with a small ‘c’, in the sense that it is universal and all-embracing.

First, it is catholic because it tackles a global problem, one which affects every single inhabitant of the planet: climate change. Due to the harm we have inflicted on our ‘sister-mother’ earth by the “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” she is crying out for help. But this cry echoes the cry of poor communities and of the earth. The present economic consumerist culture not only damages the earth, but also affects the quality of life of the most vulnerable communities.

Many of our sisters and brothers live in rural areas, as witnessed by CAFOD partners overseas, and they often cannot cultivate their land and need to migrate. Others cannot drink water or breathe fresh air due to the contamination and pollution produced by industrial activity. Many in huge cities live in unhealthy conditions, “while contact with nature is limited, except for areas reserved for a privileged few.” The Pope’s appeal, therefore, is to face these injustices in common, as a human family who dialogues and cares for her common home.

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What does upcycling and New Balance trainers have to do with Laudato Si’? CAFOD designer Ivan fills us in

Pope Francis writes in in his encyclical Laudato Si’ that we should “aim for a new lifestyle”. He says we can easily get caught up in “a whirlwind of needless buying and spending” and “compulsive consumerism”, missing the beauty of creation. CAFOD’s Designer Ivan Nascimento has been making small changes to his lifestyle over the years and shares with us some top tips for reducing our own carbon footprint.

Over the years, and while working for CAFOD in particular, I have become increasingly aware of the impact I have on the earth and our brothers and sisters overseas. As a result, I’ve sought ways to reduce my carbon footprint and, instead of buying new products, I have explored repairing, fixing and up-cycling.

Ivan's New Balance trainers, before and after
Ivan’s trainers, before and after

What I have found as I’ve looked at the alternatives is a greater freedom to enjoy my belongings and less pressure to conform to society’s expectations of me. I wouldn’t claim to have all the answers, but I am convinced that where there is a will, there is a way and that small changes really do make a big difference.

Make do and mend 

When New Balance trainers came back into fashion earlier this year, instead of spending between £60 and £70 on a new pair, I dusted off my old trusty runners and gave them a revamp. Using a simple black dye I made them look good as new – and even got some compliments from friends and colleagues!

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Laudato Si’: Caring for the garden of creation

This blog is written by Bernard Shaw from East Anglia diocese. He has been involved with livesimply since 2009, and more recently has been part of a small CAFOD group sharing insights on Catholic Social Teaching and the encyclical. Bernard explains how he is inspired by Laudato Si’.

Bernard with friends from East Anglia at the Speak Up For The Love Of... lobby
Bernard with friends from East Anglia diocese at the Speak Up For The Love Of… lobby

A rich tradition of caring for creation

When explaining his choice of name back in 2013, Pope Francis spoke of St Francis of Assisi as the man of poverty, peace and care for creation, a significant step “in this moment when our relationship with creation is not so good”. This left me with an expectation of development of his predecessors’ teachings in this area and now we have his most comprehensive document yet in Laudato Si’. In it, he calls for global dialogue across disciplines, including a religious contribution, to address humanity’s propensity to pollute and leave so many people living in desperate poverty. Too often economic and political decisions lack the long term vision to recognise environmental impacts. Pope Francis also corrects the notion that biblical texts justify our absolute domination over other creatures, explaining our “duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations”#67.  He outlines the Gospel of Creation and invites everyone to experience an ‘ecological conversion’.

“Creation is a magnificent book in which God speaks to us”

Bernard's parish garden provides flowers throughout the year
Bernard’s parish garden provides flowers throughout the year

One way of protecting the earth, at a personal level, is to use gardens, for those privileged to have them, in a way that encourages wildlife and minimises use of water. Back in 2011, one of our parish flower arrangers here in Cambridge had the idea of using the presbytery garden, consisting of an uneven lawn and neglected borders, for growing flowers for church decoration. It took much communal effort to rid the borders of bindweed and old tree roots.

Now the garden provides flowers for much of the year, replacing financial expenditure with human effort. Slightly encouraged by the CAFOD call to Dig Deep, an area of lawn has since been transformed into a vegetable bed, with lifting of the first potatoes eagerly anticipated.

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A New Heaven and a New Earth: Pope Francis on Our Common Home

This blog is written by Celia Deane-Drummond, who is a member of the CAFOD Theological Reference Group, and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She has been writing and publishing on eco-theology for the last twenty years.

“Our home looks like an immense pile of filth”

Laudato Si’ is not for the faint hearted. Pope Francis, like Liberation Theologians, is prepared to go into the mud, as it were, of our own making and dwell there for a while.

The encyclical reads like a Psalmist cry of lament peppered with examples of our own degraded earth; “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more like an immense pile of filth” #21. This implies that creatures once capable of offering a cry of praise are now silenced.

That this degradation is of our own doing is there for all to see, but for Francis it reflects a wider cultural carelessness and indifference about building relationships with each other and with the earth; a neglect of the most vulnerable in society. He points to the violence meted out on the earth and each other in the name of false ideals of progress, understood in terms of relentless growth and consumer capitalism.

Climate change impacts vulnerable communities

And for those who wondered how far Pope Francis would take on board the climate debate, it is clear that, chemist by training, he would have no ambiguity in his mind about the validity of human sources of climate change. He is suitably nuanced in his claim, so “a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases…released mainly as a result of human activity” #23.

A model of development based on the use of fossil fuels simply will not work, and he is adamant that use of coal needs to stop. He recognises, too, that the brunt of climate change impacts are felt by those who are most vulnerable in society, leading to forced migrations and loss of livelihood.

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‘Our common home’: a challenge and an opportunity

This blog is written by Linda Jones, Head of the CAFOD Theology Programme. Linda shares her initial response to the Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

I have to admit that sometimes reading Church documents can feel more of a duty than a joy. But reading the new encyclical, Laudato Si’: on the care of our common home is a completely different experience.

I feel full of joy and excitement. I can sense possibilities, hope and new opportunities. Pope Francis draws a stark and troubling picture of reality, but also reminds us that change is possible and that we can work together to care for creation.

The choice to care for creation, rather than exploiting the earth for our own short-term gain, will demand that humanity itself must change. We can no longer live as if our actions have no consequences, nor can we continue to put economic growth and consumption above all else. We have not taken into account the costs to ourselves as humans of prioritising economic growth over human flourishing, nor have we sufficiently considered the cost to our environment.

“The climate is a common good,” Pope Francis writes, “belonging to all and meant for all.” And yet the earth, our sister, “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

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