Day 1 – Let the stone be rolled away
Blessed are those who mourn – In Colombia names are written on stones to commemorate the disappeared.
Colombia has an estimated 6 million people displaced from their homes and living elsewhere within the country. More than 70,000 civilians have been killed or have disappeared in Colombia in the past 20 years. Displaced for their land.
Afro-Colombians have been some of the most affected people by the violence in Colombia. Maria Ligia Chaverra (pictured with her grandchildren) is 73 and has been violently displaced several times. She currently lives in a humanitarian zone and is a leader in her community.
Humanitarian zones have been set up to help communities to live in relative peace and dignity. These zones are set up to be safe spaces, free from arms, and are recognised by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. They are part of Christian Aid’s vision for vulnerable people in Colombia to be protected from violence.
With support from Christian Aid partner CIJP, she has travelled overseas to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to put pressure on the Colombian Government to return the land taken from her and her community by palm oil companies.
Day 2 – Called to be heralds of joy
Blessed are the poor in spirit – In Ethiopia joy is being brought to communities living in poverty.
It’s hard to be left alone as a widow
It’s harder when you can’t inherit anything because you’re a woman. It’s hardest when you’ve got no cattle in a community where you simply have to own livestock to have any status or respect.
For Adi, who lives in a village called Abunu in southern Ethiopia, hard didn’t cover it. With no cows, no rights, no status and no hope, she and her 8 children were the poorest of the poor. They ate just a few spoonfuls of food a day.
“Hunger is difficult, hunger makes you blind. If you are hungry, you can’t see. Your eyes can’t see the ground. Your legs can’t walk and your mind can’t think.”
But Adi is strong. Adi wasn’t defeated. And when HUNDEE, one of Christian Aid’s partners in Ethiopia, started working with her village, life took a turn for the better. She was chosen by her community to receive a cow and two goats.
“I felt like a conquering hero returning from war, the day I received my cow. Lots of people walked back with me and welcomed me. We drank coffee together and they blessed my good fortune.”
It was the first day the rest of her life
Adi has become a businesswoman, selling her milk and butter, plus eggs and sugar. Not one to keep her good fortune to herself, she’s become a role model for other women in her village. They come together in a self-help group to learn and share. And now Adi’s cow has had a calf, she’s been able to pass on the gift of livestock. So for the next woman too, there’s hope and a future.
Day 3 – The witness of fellowship
Blessed are the meek – In Brazil the Quilombola community are living meekly on the earth. The Quilombola are the descendants of slaves who escaped Brazil’s plantations and fled deep into the Amazon for security and protection.
For decades their isolation helped to keep them safe. But now loggers, miners and cattle ranchers are encroaching on their territory. The Quilombola are, once again, under threat.
Most of these industrial trespassers are operating illegally. However, the Amazon is so vast and remote that it is very hard for the authorities to monitor activity and uphold forest protection laws.
That’s why it’s so important for the people who live in these remote areas to know how to protect themselves.
Title deeds as shields
Under Brazilian law, the Quilombola have the right to apply for legal ownership of the forest lands where they have lived for generations. Though there is difficulty in getting full recognition of territories. Since the 1998 Constitution and as of 2012, only 192 Quilombola communities (out of an estimated 3000) have won titles to their land. Approximately 6% of all Quilombolas.
When Quilombola communities lawfully own the lands they occupy, they are protected, as if by an invisible shield. They can use the courts to challenge and evict trespassers however this can be a long, administrative heavy process and can take years!.
But Quilombola people, many of whom did not go to school, do not have the expert legal knowledge needed to make this happen.
Christian Aid partner, CPI helps Quilombola communities to understand and negotiate the complex legal and bureaucratic processes necessary to make land claims and challenge trespassers.
Land for 8,000
There are 34 Quilombo communities in Oriximiná, numbering about 8,000 people.
CPI has already helped 24 villages – some 7,000 people – to obtain the title deeds to their territory. Claims by the remaining ten communities are in progress.Recent legislation means the government must conclude the titling of 3 Quilombola lands in Oriximina within the next two years. This will benefit 400 families.
When all these claims are processed, an area of forest three-times the size of the Lake District will be under Quilombola ownership and protection.
And, as Hugo de Souza, a Quilombola community leader, says, ‘When you own land you have security. No one can kick you out.’
Day 4 – A priestly people called to proclaim the Gospel
Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO established in 2004 by Israeli army soldiers and veterans who collect and publish testimonies about their military service in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem since the start of the Second Intifada.
They are dedicated to exposing the Israeli public to the realities of the Israeli occupation as seen through the eyes of Israeli soldiers and to stirring debate about the impact of the prolonged occupation on both the Palestinian population and on Israeli society.
All testimonies released by Breaking the Silence are collected by military veterans and verified prior to publication. It should be emphasised that unless noted otherwise, the testimonies are reported by eyewitnesses, and in their own words.
You can listen to one of the testimonies here:
Day 5 – Listen to this dream
Blessed are the pure in heart – In India those considered impure, the untouchables, dream of a time when all are treated equally.
In India, ‘untouchables’ as they were formerly known, have chosen to be known as dalits, meaning ‘oppressed’. Officially named ‘scheduled castes (SCs)’, they constitute more than 17% of India’s population.
Dalits face daily discrimination, including segregation in villages and schools; limited access to roads, public spaces, temples and public services such as healthcare and safe drinking water; and difficulties in access to, and ownership of, land.
30 year old Anti Devi, is from the Nalanda district of Bihar, she started manual scavenging at the age of 10.
“The one constant memory was – and will always be – the gut-wrenching sight and nauseating smell of piled human waste,” she says. “We removed it, latrine after latrine, with our bare hands. Then we carried the full basket on our heads or hips outside the village, where we disposed of it.”
Anti Devi was among India’s estimated 1.3 million ‘safai karmachari’ or manual scavengers. They clear excrement and urine from dry latrine toilets that are not plumbed into the sewerage system. Wearing nothing to protect themselves from the vomit-inducing smell or the real risk of disease, they face daily humiliation and dehumanising poverty.
The vast majority of manual scavengers are dalit women, the lowest of the caste hierarchy. The work they do has been called both a form of caste discrimination and a form of gender violence.
Through the DFID PACS programme Christian Aid have worked through partners such as Jan Sahas who is challenging the system and liberating women like Anil from such a nauseating and degrading profession – equipping her with information so she is aware of her rights and entitlements.
Day 6 – Hospitality of prayer
Blessed are the merciful. The country of Lebanon now hosts more than 1 million refugees from Syria, many of whom are children. In 2015 a Christian Aid partner gave cameras to 12 Syrian refugee and Lebanese children living in Beruit. The children have been given photography training and mentoring as a means to express themselves and build confidence. This is one of their stories
‘When my mum was pregnant with my youngest sister, we were still in Syria. She went for her final check up, and there was something wrong, and the doctor told her ‘you have to give birth now’. But the hospitals weren’t working because of the war, so my mum went to the house of a female doctor who had been delivering babies at home, and the baby was induced there.
But the doctor made a mistake and gave her more of the drug than her body could take. Her womb fell apart. They had to drive all the way to another town to get to a hospital. When they arrived she was almost dead, and the soldiers in front of the hospital had to give blood because she had lost so much.
My mum’s heart stopped three times during the operation; three times the trainee doctors said ‘she’s dead, let’s give up’. But the head doctor said ‘No. We have to keep on’ — and she survived.
So we really love our baby sister. She talks now and whenever she says anything people fall in love with her. She’s a miracle baby, and it’s a miracle that our mum made it back to life again.’ See Stephanie’s photographs and read more stories on the Christian Aid website.
Day 7 – Hearts burning for unity
Blessed are the peacemakers. Pray for those who are working to build peace in the many conflict hotspots across the world.
In December 2013, fighting erupted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and quickly spread to the Greater Upper Nile region. Though the conflict has its roots in political struggle, it has aggravated ethnic divisions and violent clashes have continued.
More than 2.2 million people have been displaced, and more than 600,000 people are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
In 2014, the humanitarian situation deteriorated dramatically. A famine was averted due to humanitarian assistance, but the food security situation continues to worsen.
The recent intensification of the conflict and the disintegrating economic situation have severe implications for the lives of people in South Sudan.
What we’re doing to help
We have worked in Sudan and South Sudan for many years. Since the crisis began, we have been working through local partners to respond to humanitarian needs, including:
- providing access to safe water for drinking, cooking and washing
- providing health education to enable people to protect themselves from disease
- constructing toilets
- providing household items and shelter to protect people’s health, safety, dignity and wellbeing.
Christian Aid are also supporting the church in its historic and important role in speaking truth to power and preaching messages of peace and accountability.
Day 8 – The fellowship of the Apostles
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – many communities across the world experience real food and water shortages as a result of a changing climate.
A solitary woman navigates her way home through a vast network of flooded fields in south- west Bangladesh. A country carved up by more than 700 rivers and tributaries, and now widely recognized as one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
Extreme temperatures, increased rainfall, sea level rise means that the 80% of Bangladeshis whose lives depend on agriculture will have to substantially increase their resilience. As the impacts of both climate disasters and climate change grow, thriving when conditions are good is vital to ensure that families and their communities can escape poverty.
Bangladesh is the focus country for this year’s Christian Aid Week. Find out how communities there are being supported at www.caweek.org.