This year, November marks the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Leah Parker-Turnock spoke to one CAFOD supporter, Judith Tooth, who was inspired by her faith to undertake a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to stand in solidarity with refugees.
Central to Judith’s pilgrimage were those affected by the global refugee crisis. “Walking a pilgrimage can be challenging,” said Judith. “But it’s nothing compared to the perilous journeys so many refugees face. As I walked the long, hot road, I tried to imagine being on such a journey, and, worse, being separated from my four children, not knowing when, or even if, I’d see them again. It was unbearable to think about. And thousands of families are still trying to escape war, poverty and persecution, often only to be met by hostility and further hardship.”
Judith carried a special cross on her journey – the Lampedusa cross. In 2013, hundreds of refugees who were fleeing Eritrea and Somalia drowned off the coast of Lampedusa. Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter from the small Italian island, was moved to gather the driftwood from the wrecked boats and turn them into crosses. He offered the crosses to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope.
The cross was also a powerful symbol for Judith throughout her pilgrimage: “I fixed the 30cm cross to my backpack along with my scallop shell – the symbol of the pilgrim route. Fellow pilgrims were profoundly moved when I explained to them that the carpenter had offered the crosses he’d made to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope, and that I was carrying one of those crosses to continue that message of hope.
Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the inspiring prayers, gifts and actions of the Catholic community throughout this Year of Mercy.
At the beginning of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis proclaimed, “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
I have been amazed by the ways you have borne witness to God’s mercy this year, through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Thank you for all you do to stand alongside our sisters and brothers living in poverty. Here, we celebrate how you have brought mercy to your local communities and our world.
This Harvest, St John Bosco’s parish in Woodley offered gifts to people who are hungry around world.
Rita Belletty said, “This year we held a creation mass and Harvest offering. It is a token offered back to God in thanksgiving for the gift of fruitful earth, sun and water, joined by our own labour, making us co-creators with God. The second offering was a globe which was taken up to remind us that it is the whole world we are praying for.”
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.
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.
Chris Bird was a volunteer at Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as part of the Step into the Gap programme. Here he reflects on his first experience of campaigning and marching with CAFOD to show his support for welcoming refugees.
As our group of CAFOD representatives walked around the corner of what seemed to be just another generic grey building in London, in front of us opened up a flood of people and noise.
Thousands of people marching, chanting, singing, playing drums and holding placards. The atmosphere of humdrum London had changed into an energized, passionate movement.
What surprised me most was the diversity in the crowd, our group of mixed-aged CAFOD supporters with placards, immediately dispersed into the plethora of people of different backgrounds, age, race, class, faith and no faith. Yet all these people were here for one reason, to be part of a voice standing in solidarity welcoming refugees. It was quite something to behold. Continue reading “Refugee march: Bravery, compassion and hope”
Clare Grimes is a CAFOD schools volunteer working with children in the Hallam diocese. Over the last few months Clare has been running the Year of Mercy pilgrimage with children, and has been encouraging schools to take part in the refugee action.
‘I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.‘
Friday 17 June was a nice sunny day and I felt very happy to be visiting St Thomas More school in Sheffield to hold a ‘Welcome the stranger’ refugee workshop with a Year 6 class. Alex and Rose, two other volunteers for CAFOD were also coming to help. I had led this workshop with other schools and had excellent response and participation, so I was really looking forward to another opportunity. The children entered the hall very quietly and looked happy and expectant.
We began with a presentation of various pictures of refugees and shared the facts and figures. The children answered questions intelligently and eagerly. When asked about their hopes and dreams they were forthcoming and shared their aspirations to be actresses, doctors, teachers, just to get married, Olympic athletes, and footballers of note.
I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.
We then showed the film/video of the refugee children and their hopes and dreams.
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.
Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the Ethiopia food crisis on the anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on ecology.
It pains me to hear about the devastating drought in Ethiopia.
I have no doubt that our partners are doing all they can to tackle the Ethiopia crisis. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to support families to cope with the drought in a way which respects their dignity.
Yet it is still a distressing situation. Herit is a mother who lives in a village in the northern Tigray region. She has toiled for many years to help her family be self-sufficient, so I can only imagine how devastating this must be for her. “I have worked hard for a better life,” she says, “to go back to dependency is very difficult for me. I feel sad, it hurts me inside.”
For me, Herit’s words echo someone I met in Kenya with CAFOD a few years ago. John, a village leader in rural Isiolo diocese, greeted me warmly and walked with me up a hill to where his community were gathered. We looked across the slope of the field, across the swirls of dust where the fruit trees once grew, and there was not a drop of water in sight. Looking into his eyes, I saw the pain as he expressed what this lack of water meant for his people. Hunger.
This week we heard that there are a record 65 million people displaced around the world. The European crisis is mirrored across the planet: in Colombia, in Central America, in the Middle East and many more places, including many of the countries where CAFOD works.
Fleeing war, poverty and persecution, people are moving in search of peace and prosperity – a better life for their families. A few find their way to the UK. There are likely to be refugees living in your parish.
It can seem like these global issues are far beyond what we as individuals and families can do to help. But in this Year of Mercy, we are reminded that we should welcome the stranger. We’ve already been moved and encouraged by the number of schools, parishes and individuals who are showing solidarity with refugees.
Ahead of Volunteers’ Week, we asked a number of CAFOD volunteers to share why volunteering with CAFOD is important to them. One volunteer, Trevor Stockton, has been an active volunteer for more that 40 years in the Birmingham diocese. Here, he shares his inspiration for volunteering and tips for those wanting to get involved.
My volunteer work with CAFOD has been an important part of my life, especially my spiritual life, since the early 1970s. I was inspired by Pope Paul’s encyclical ‘Populorum Progressio’ and by Dom Helder Camara and his work in Brazil.
My whole working career was in social work and so my commitment to people who are disadvantaged was already active. So, parish involvement in Lent and Harvest Fast Days, and campaigns such as that against apartheid in South Africa were my starting points with CAFOD.
Last week, I spent the day with a group reflecting on Laudato Si’and on our response. We began by sharing our own stories of journeys made and new turns taken.
Several people spoke of leaving home and family in their teens or early twenties to live and work overseas, of becoming adults in countries they knew little about, and dealing with situations for which they were totally unprepared. Continue reading “Lampedusa cross: We are all migrants”