Solidarity and Prayer

Last Sunday, St Mary’s Harborne took part in Share the Journey, a global call to walk together in solidarity with migrants all over the world. harborne 1

How could our stroll on Sunday have any comparison with those who are forced to leave their homes for fear of their lives or their livelihoods?  How could it be related in any way with those who face a dangerous journey with an uncertain end?

It is, of course, about acting in solidarity – which can a tough concept to describe and to feel.  Wikipedia says it “refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one”.   There is a part of me that thinks that that must mean that unless I walk hundreds of miles and risk my life in a rickety boat, I am not in solidarity.  A walk in the park won’t cut it.

But it does cut it.  I could have been doing other things on Sunday morning, I wasn’t, I was walking purposefully with a group of people who share a belief that having to leave your homeland and flea is not a good thing. We were listening to stories of refugees as we walked. And we were praying together.

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Do I know it works? Yes I do, that is my faith of course. I believe that my prayers and my deliberate footsteps in the sunshine in a park in Birmingham will be felt by refugees the world over.  It’s what gives me hope that together we can make the world a safer place for everyone.

We were joined by a photographer, James Maher, who spent some time with the Lampedusa Cross we were carrying, a simple cross, made by Francesco Tuccio on the island of Lampedusa from the wreckage of boats carrying migrants, which he finds washed up on beaches. James’ passion for taking photographs of the cross was obvious and wiped away my feeling that we may not have done very much.

We were passionate and hopeful and walking together with thousands of others around the world. That makes our small number of steps go a long way.

Article by Abigail McMillan

Photo Credit: James P Maher of Giant Peach Photography

Leave no-one behind

At the heart of the 2030 agenda is to ‘Leave no one behind’; this means reaching the most vulnerable groups in society and the hardest to reach areas, development must reach everyone. After having some time to reflect on my experience in Sierra Leone this is something which has stuck with with me.

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Step into the Gap volunteers Siobhan, Chris, Kayleigh and Hannah

‘Leave no one behind’ was evident in Bo where CAFOD works in partnership with the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary. In many of these communities CAFOD is the first NGO to ever work there because of the remoteness and the road conditions. We visited Bo during the dry season so there roads were dry, but even then the communities were difficult to access due to the roads being so bumpy. In the rainy season the roads will have been far more difficult to drive on and sometimes communities will go days without access to the city.

Falla is a remote community in Bo, it was much more remote that other communities we visited and the road was narrower and windier. Before the Missionary Sisters and of the Holy Rosary came to the village they did not have access to safe drinking water. There was no access for vehicles to the village because of a streams and it

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The bridge the community built in Falla

could only be accessed on foot. There was no way for the digger to access this community to build a borehole. This community were determined to have access to clean water that they came together and built a bridge out of palm trees. CAFOD are the only NGO to have ever worked in this community, there are now less cases of cholera in the community.

 

We also met widowed women whose husbands had died during the civil war many had children and to bring them up as a single parent, they received micro grants which allowed them set up businesses. Regina received one of the grants and she sells peanuts, soap, cigarettes, biscuits and sugar. Regina said “I used to carry wood from Manguama to Bo to sell. I got up at 5am. 12 sticks of wood are really heavy and it is a two and a half hour walk. Sometimes the sticks would not sell so I would leave them with some builders to sell for me and collect the money another day. Then I would do farm work. The farm is also far from town. I would work three to four hours at the farm.”

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Women who had received the micro grants

It was inspiring to see development reaching the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups, but also to see how their voices were heard and listened to.

 

I am now back in Birmingham sharing CAFOD’s working in Sierra Leone at schools, groups and parishes.