Father Ed O’Connell is one of our Connect2: Peru narrators. He is a Columban missionary priest who has been working in Peru since the 1970s. He is one of the founders of our Connect2: Peru partner Warmi Huasi. From June until September 2016 he was in the UK on a home visit, and took the opportunity to go to some CAFOD supporter meetings in Bristol and Birmingham.
I have been in Bristol and Birmingham with CAFOD and representatives of Connect2 parishes. It was an opportunity for me to meet people from the parishes and to hear their desire to get closer to the work of CAFOD through the work in Peru. People asked lots of questions about CAFOD in general and the children Warmi Huasi works with. I enjoy visiting as a way to offer thanks for people in the Church here sending me to Peru, and also as a way of staying in touch with the local Church in England and Wales. I think it is important to make links between the local church in England and Wales and the local Church in Peru and the projects they run.
When I left Peru in June, Keiko Fujimori’s party had won total control of congress in the first round of the presidential elections. In the second round, Pedro Pablo Kuczyinski beat Keiko Fujimori only by 0.43% to become the president.
People are mixed in their responses. At the moment, people are unsure how the presidential elections will affect their daily lives at a local level. But people are frustrated. Young people are in jobs that require long hours – working like new slaves. More and more people are studying at university without job prospects once they graduate.
Bea Findley travelled to Peru with CAFOD as part of the Step into the Gap programme, and in this blog explains how our partners are working on human right issues.
I’m writing this blog today because the political conflict in Peru feels like more than just history to me now; I have a real understanding of what the people went through and the difficulties of the recovery.
CEAS are the social action group of the Peruvian Bishop’s Conference. I met two women, Bernadina and Clotilde who receive support from CEAS in response to their suffering during the internal political violence which ended in 2000.
During that terrible time, approximately 70,000 people were killed or disappeared. 75% of these were from rural areas and 73% were speakers of the indigenous language, Quechua. A terrorist organisation called Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) began the violence and the army responded with more violence.
There were horrific mistreatments of people and breaches of human rights: people were tortured, killed, displaced and disappeared. Both the Shining Path, the army and other armed groups were responsible. Nobody could be trusted.
Fiona has written from her Step into the Gap visit to Peru about how she is seeing the corporal acts of mercy in action in CAFOD’s work:
During this Year of Mercy, we are called to act upon the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. And so, while in Peru, I’ve been reflecting on the corporal acts in particular. It seems that they don’t need to be taken literally, as I’d first thought. I thought I’d take this time to focus on CAFOD partner CEAS who we’ve had the privilege of spending time with during this trip. They are the organisation for social action set up by the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference.
Of all the corporal acts of mercy, I find that ‘welcoming the stranger’ is a particularly challenging one. It’s God’s call for us to put the faith and trust we have in Him into a complete stranger’s hands. It can be difficult to open our hearts—let alone our homes—to people that we know nothing about. Still, families have been doing just that—and more!—for us gap year volunteers here in Peru. The relationship built between CAFOD partners such as CEAS and the local community has enabled this faith and trust to exist.
Fiona Sim is one of our gap year volunteers. Here are some of her reflections from her first week seeing projects CAFOD supports in Peru:
From working with the dynamic children of Warmi Huasi to meeting the inspirational residents of Lomas de Carabayllo, it has been a jam-packed first week of our journey. Though it’s been quite an intense week, I feel so privileged to have been able to meet and learn from so many amazing people already. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like I’ve met some of the real life super heroes of our time. These people have no special powers, no soothsaying abilities, and no fancy capes. This is what they do have: resilience, strength, and a kitchen at their fingertips.
These are the wonderful women of two of Lomas de Carabayllo’s comedors. These communal kitchens provide a subsidised lunch to people who need it in the community—those who would struggle to afford hearty meals otherwise—from Monday to Friday. The staff members themselves are part of the same community and earn free meals through working at the comedor when they can.