That None May Suffer

The United Nations report on Poverty in Rural Communities states that ‘At the heart of every human experience is the desire to survive and prosper: to live without fear, hunger or suffering.’  In our work, the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal seeks to respond to these debilitating factors, through supporting communities that live through such stark realities on a daily basis.

Last year we started the year by highlighting the fact that the majority of the world lives in fear, hunger and suffering, and yet by some ugly twist of fate, this truth goes unnoticed by the minority most of the time. (see article below ‘Forgotten Projects) Out of sight, out of mind.  Certainly we have seen the effects of constantly bombarding people with images of poverty that never seem to improve, and the wearying of people who wonder if anything they do or contribute actually achieves anything in the face of such overwhelming need.  Donor fatigue is a real and understandable reaction.

But what happens when we remove the images and stories of people struggling to provide a meal for their children each day?  Our committment to the Gospel slips, our desire to see God’s justice wanes and we become comfortable.  Even worse, we demand more comforts, more competitive prices, more choice in our supermarkets, more sales in our stores, better coffee at cheaper prices and newer technologies with different edges to satiate all our wants, and we do it on the backs of slaves, and because we cannot see them, we feel irate at our lack and not theirs, and continue to demand for more.

So as we bring the lives of others back to the forefront of our minds and focus, there IS something we can do collectively in 2015 to see that fewer people suffer, go hungry and live in fear this year.  It’s very simple, but in its simplicity it’s also costly.  Are you ready?  In 2014, Bishops’ Appeal responded to 6 emergency/disaster appeals: Philippines, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan and the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  People gave generously.  However, much of the funds were redirected funds from support of our general work in responding to the world’s poor, to disaster relief in a particular part of the world.

So here’s the crunch: Ongoing projects must not be overlooked when a crisis hits. Parishes are urged not to redirect Bishops’ Appeal general giving to emergencies, rather to continue to give to Bishops’ Appeal as usual and to give to emergency appeals over and above this regular and consistent giving, or our compassionate response to disasters in one part of the world could create a disaster in another part of the world.  In 2014 alone up to 15 excellent project, that if implemented could have brought real change to communities, had to be turned down by the Bishops’ Appeal committe because parishes were only sending their funds to emergencies.  It is even more important than ever that the Church stands with these communities and refuses to overlook them, even if this decision is costly.  Because the reality is that the ultimate cost is not borne by us, but by those weighed down by fear, hunger and suffering.

For more information on deferred projects and how you can support them, visit our Projects page.

Thank you.

Forgotten Projects

Every day millions of people live in an ongoing state of emergency.  This emergency is not reported in the media and is rarely picked up in news feeds.  It is the peretual state of insecurity: food insecurity, housing insecurity, health insecurity, to name a few.  It is pandemic but whilst being so prevalent, it represents the norm rather than the extraordinary for the people who exist like this, and so it fails to become news by its very embeddedness in ‘the way things are’. Their situation has been relegated to the realm of international charities and NGOs and we dip in and out of the noble work being conducted in a designated sector, often wondering if out efforts are making much of a difference.

As a Church we believe that we have a responsibility to the poor of the world.  We believe that this responsibility far outweighs any desire for material gain beyond that which is necessary to live.  We believe that we are called to live with enough and to reach out to those who do not have enough and to those who continue to accumulate more than enough.  We believe that we need to be reminded regularly of these beliefs so as to challenge ourselves to live them out.  We believe that our responsibility does not impose itself on the poor, handing down help or providing solutions from our perspective.  Instead taking responsibility involves recognising the ways in which we are interconnected, from the systems and structures in place to ensure our lives are comfortable and prices are competitive that detrimentally affect small farmers and industry workers in the Global South to our recognition that the people living in such unjust circumstances globally are known by God as we are known by Him, are loved by God, made in His image and welcomed, as we are, into ‘fullness of life’ with Him.  And so, even the words of this piece become inaccurate, displaying an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality instead of an ‘all of us together’ reality that we have obstructed by putting up barriers and boundaries that prevent us visually and emotionally from being accosted by the painful mere existence of others, in which we are to whatever extent, participants.And so, as we see Kenyan workers inhaling dangerous insecticides for pittance and entire surrounding villages experiencing drought because of the massive flower farms that draw water and hire workers for our constant supply of flowers in Ireland, we must respond.  As we see churches in the Global South working tirelessly to address the needs of the poor through setting up programmes, micro-finance groups, saving schemes, mother-buddy systems to reduce the transmission of HIV from parent to child, literacy programmes, demonstration farms for agriultural training, reconciliation programmes and Youth at Risk courses, we must engage with their efforts.

Bishops’ Appeal responds to reported emergencies, those that generate overwhelming responses to tragic disasters, be they earthquakes or famines.  But Bishops’ Appeal also responds to these everyday disasters of constant insecurity such as the worry that your children may not live, let alone have a life better than your own.  As the Church’s Aid and Development Fund, Bishops’ Appeal identifies programmes all over the world and donates to them on behalf of the wider Church of Ireland, to ensure that those merely existing can have the opportunity to live, to participate, to hope and to work for the future.  It is but one way for us to respond to our collective responsibility to one another, and to God, but it is a vital in itself as well as being a starting point for further engagement.  If you wish to donate to a Forgotten Project, please do so, through the ‘Donate’ page on this website.  Thank You.