Save lives not money this Black Friday

Jeremy Cain, Community Participation Coordinator for Hallam diocese, dreams of a better Black Friday.Black Friday

It’s Black Friday this week, another American import that we might be better off without. Last year, in all the excitement, people in the UK spent £1.23bn online in just one day, an average of around £18 per person.

We all know the thrill of picking up a bargain. It’s partly the money we’ve saved but (at least for me) it’s also a sense that I’ve got one over on the retailers and even my fellow shoppers- “You didn’t pay that much, did you??” I try not to say to my friends.

The trouble is, it’s all a bit of a coFind the pean. Research by Which? magazine shows that Black Friday prices are very rarely the cheapest, and that you’re likely to find the item for less money in December. For example, an oven sold by Curry’s for £494.99 on Black Friday was £45 cheaper three weeks later. If you have a steady nerve, it definitely pays to wait!

Water for a family

Longora using the newly repaired  village water pump in Uganda

But with CAFOD you don’t need to worry. If you buy a World Gift from us, you can be sure that you’re getting it at our best ever price! Not only that but we absolutely guarantee that it will change someone’s life: buy “Water for a family” and you will be providing poor people with a supply of clean, safe water in their homes for drinking, cooking and washing, keeping everyone safe from infection. And you can do all this for only £33.

Teach someone to read

Thiago, age 9, learning to read in Brazil

So imagine, for a moment, that last year people had spent their cash with CAFOD, rather than Amazon, eBay and the like. That would have helped more than 37 million families stay free from disease, or taught over 120 million children to read, giving them a greater opportunity to work their way out of poverty; or it might have given more than 8 million refugee families protection from the winter cold. It’s only a dream but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it came true?

Winter Survival kit

Ahmad with his wife and grandchildren surviving winter in Lebanon

So, this Friday, we’d love you to shop with us. There’s no bargains to be had, just dreams to be realised. You won’t be saving money, you’ll be saving lives.

A strange gospel for the poor?

Jeremy Cain, Community Participation Coordinator for Hallam diocese, looks forward to the World Day of the Poor.

English breakfast
“The first will be last…”

 

Staying in a retreat centre over the weekend, my friend and I found ourselves first in the queue for breakfast. “The first will be last,” my friend said, quoting Matthew 20:16, though, of course, it didn’t stop us tucking in!

 

For CAFOD supporters these are comforting words, with the assurance that God will one day fix the unjust world that we live in. However, five chapters later, Jesus seems to contradict himself, at least on the face of it. Once again it’s a parable about money (Jesus had quite a few of those), but this time he’s not talking about small denarii, but great big bags of gold! Yes, it’s the Parable of the Talents which, finishes with the rather worrying words, “for to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

Bag of gold

“For all those who have, more will be given…”

It might seem an unfortunate gospel to fall on the upcoming World Day of the Poor, inaugurated by Pope Francis this year on Sunday 19th November. But, of course, Jesus isn’t talking about money and if I’d have been there listening to the parable, the question I hope I would have asked is: “All those who have what, teacher?”

We live in a world where we measure success by our wealth and, as I read about the Paradise Papers in the news, it certainly seems that more is being given to those who really have quite a lot already. Yet we all know that money isn’t everything; given the choice between a healthy bank account or loving relationships, I think most people would go for the latter. So the answer I suspect Jesus would have given would have been love, or maybe faith, or maybe joy; but definitely not money.

Prayers-in-Kenya-CAFOD

Kenyans at prayer

At CAFOD we work with the poor on a daily basis and know from experience that they often possess love, faith and joy in abundance. This doesn’t make their poverty OK- far from it-  but it does suggest that our world of material wealth can somehow insulate us from what really matters: “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” So how can we break through this insulating barrier? How can we fill our lives with love, faith and joy? Or, as the astonished disciples put it, “then who can be saved?” The answer Jesus gives is simple, yet deeply challenging to our postmodern self-sufficiency: “for God, all things are possible.”

With nowhere else to go, let us pray for the Lord’s mercy.

 

A Future of Hope for Afghanistan? Will the Afghan people enjoy kiterunning again?

Jenny Seymour is a volunteer in the CAFOD Hallam office.  Yesterday, I went to the theatre to see Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s acclaimed novel, the Kiterunner and it reminded me of the work that CAFOD do to help the role of Afghan women.

kite flying

The Kiterunner

I absolutely love the novel, the Kiterunner, and in fact, I love many of Khaled Hosseini’s works on life in Afghanistan.  I’ve now read the book, seen the film and watched the play adaptation and each one has moved me incredibly.  As I watched the play last night I found myself wondering, “What would I do?” – would I step up to the mark and help my fellow citizens of the world/my friends when they need me the most?  I like to think I would, but the harrowing events of this story actually take place when the lead character is 12 years old.  I think a 12 year old can be forgiven for running from their fears, after all he is still a child.  However, unfortunately, in the war-torn world we live in children have witnessed such atrocities and, like Amir, the lead character in the Kiterunner, their lives are changed forever.

kite flying 2Children are forced to grow up quickly and many have to drop the lives that they have known and loved to go on a difficult and dangerous journey across the globe – but they are still just children, with the same hopes and dreams that our own kids would have.  They have a right to be safe.  The play last night also tackled the issue of refugees.  Amir and his father make the difficult decision to leave Afghanistan for America when the Russian army move in.  They are cramped into a pitch-black truck with many other families and are treated very badly.  People who may have been wealthy, well educated and highly regarded in their own country are left to find mundane jobs to make a living.  I thought that this aspect of the play was really well produced and the audience are really able to empathise with this change in status of the family as their lives progress.

I left the theatre last night with a sense of guilt, but thankful that I have not had to witness first hand the atrocities of war and that, for now, my children are being brought up in a safe environment.

Asia-Afghanistan-Crocus-growers_mainstory3

Women crocus growers in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. 30 years of conflict mean that a third of the population lives on less than 60 pence a day, one in six children die before their fifth birthday, and the average life expectancy is just 48. The status of women in Afghanistan is especially low.  CAFOD has been supporting communities there since the 1980s.  Their work focuses on peace in the region, women’s rights and improving peoples’ lives so that they can grow out of poverty.

saffron flowers

Saffron is harvested from crocuses

The work CAFOD has done with its partners has enabled women to start their own businesses and save.  In particular, saffron is grown and traded.

Please support CAFOD’s partners in Afghanistan and donate to our work – click here to donate.