Living simply in Lent – February 2013

VAL MORGAN

Every year during Lent, SCIAF (the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) invites people across Scotland to live more simply so that others might simply live, by giving something up, sharing what they save, and supporting efforts to end world poverty. The agency’s communications officer explains how the WEE BOX BIG Change campaign reflects SCIAF’s approach to international development.

Claude Manirambona is a 22-year-old man from Burundi, a small nation in east Africa. It is a little-known country with a violent history, including a civil war which ran from 1993 until 2005. As a young boy Claude saw his father being murdered and lost many close family members. Grieving, hungry, homeless and desperate, he became a child soldier.

People like Claude were not abandoned. Organisations like SCIAF’s partners in Burundi, Nduwamahoro (which literally means ‘I am for peace’) and Agakura, an agricultural training project, help many survive their tragic past.

Nduwamahoro provided training in peacebuilding and conflict resolution which enabled Claude to work through his feelings of anger and revenge and make peace with his father’s murderer. Claude is now living a peaceful and productive life with his wife Espérance and their baby daughter Inès. He said:‘Nduwamahoro has planted seeds in the community and they are starting to blossom. There used to be a lot of conflict but Nduwamahoro has taught us not to be selfish and to try to see things from others’ point of view because things are not always black and white. Nduwamahoro has taught us to love each other and to try to find peaceful solutions to our problems. Now I am teaching these things to others’.

As the Catholic Church’s official development agency in Scotland, SCIAF knows that peace is often the first step on the road to development. Without peace basic infrastructure such as schools and hospitals cannot be built, local people with small businesses struggle to make money if it is not safe to travel to markets, and people cannot work in their fields for fear of being attacked or stepping on landmines.

That is why promoting peace and justice in local communities in countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, is a core part of SCIAF’s work. The next step is giving people the help they need to support themselves. That can take the form of providing seeds, tools and training to grow and sell food; giving people a small loan; or training them in tailoring, engineering, or making crafts from waste products. SCIAF’s focus is on providing a hand up, not a hand out.

SCIAF helps change lives in 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As well as supporting long term sustainable development, it provides care through its local partner organisations for people living with HIV and AIDS, and supports community education, especially among young people, on prevention. Through its membership of the Caritas Internationalis network of 163 Catholic aid agencies around the world, SCIAF is mandated by the Church to provide emergency aid like food, water, medicines and temporary shelters when disasters strike, such as the Haiti earthquake and recent drought in countries like Ethiopia and Kenya.

With nearly 50 years of experience, SCIAF and its partners across the world continue to listen to people in developing countries, and act effectively and efficiently to help bring about positive change.

SCIAF’s holistic approach to development is strengthened by its work in education and its advocacy on the political and economic decisions which cause and sustain poverty. By raising awareness and encouraging Scots to make their views known to governments and businesses, SCIAF aims to influence government policy and corporate behaviour on issues such as international trade rules, tax evasion, access to land and resources, and transparency in government and business practice in developing countries.

SCIAF’s campaigns on climate change, mining in Zambia, sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the need to maintain the Scottish Government’s budget for international development have helped change the lives of many more people than it can reach through support for its partners’ work on the ground alone.

Advocacy and campaigning, often undertaken in partnership with other organisations, focus on the root causes of poverty. They reflect the need for large scale and urgent action in a world where one in eight people go hungry every day.

SCIAF is a leading Scottish member of the new UK-wide campaign on global hunger, Enough Food for Everyone IF. It brings together over 100 development organisations and faith groups to call on Prime Minister David Cameron to use the UK’s presidency of the G8 this year to tackle the root causes of global hunger. Its demands include stopping corporate tax evasion, promoting sustainable land use for food crops, honouring the UK’s aid commitments to the poor and calling for greater government and corporate transparency. It will be the biggest campaign of its kind since Make Poverty History, and aims to be the beginning of the end of the global hunger crisis which has resulted in almost a billion people without enough food to live on.

It’s no coincidence that the approaching 50th anniversary of SCIAF’s foundation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the publication of Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Its famous opening lines, The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ, in many ways encompass SCIAF’s vision, mission and values. SCIAF and its sister agencies in the Caritas Internationalis family were established to be a manifestation of the Church’s mission to create a more just world.

Supporting SCIAF is one way we can put our faith into action, and the Year of Faith, which marks the anniversary of the first Council sessions, might encourage us to renew our commitment. All the strands of SCIAF’s mission: its work in schools and parishes across Scotland, its support for poor communities overseas, and its advocacy for change, are drawn together in its WEE BOX, BIG Change campaign in Lent. With the focus this year on Burundi and Claude’s remarkable story of change, we are invited to make it part of our Lenten practice. SCIAF has produced a selection of prayers, Stations of the Cross written by Fr John Bollan, a children’s liturgy for the fourth Sunday of Lent and a reflection video to accompany and enrich our journey through Lent. Visit www.sciaf.org.uk.

Val Morgan is the media and communications officer for SCIAF

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In June 2019 Open House held a conference exploring possible new directions for the Catholic Church in Scotland. See conference papers.


Open House also held a conference on the role of lay people in the governance of the Catholic Church in November 2013. See conference papers.