Justice and Peace, Connect2 Rwanda and Refugees

On the evening of 5th December the Justice and Peace group from the Cathedral parish in Coulby Newham, held a short prayer service where they spoke about the causes they had supported during the year. Laurie Haley, CAFOD’s parish contact at the Cathedral, spoke about the Connect2 Rwanda project, which the parish had been supporting for the past year.

“As many of you will know, we have here in the Cathedral Parish a collection bowl into which people place their donations to help our brothers and sisters in need. A year ago, the parishioners decided that those funds would be shared between a local and an international cause. The causes they chose were the Middlesbrough Catholic Handicapped Fellowship and a project run by CAFOD helping people in Rwanda.

You will hear shortly from a member of the Handicapped Fellowship about the valuable work they do, but I’d like to give you some insight and feedback about the CAFOD project we have been supporting in a village called Musha in Rwanda .

The world has largely forgotten the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when one million people were killed in 100 days. But 17 years on, Rwandan women live with the scars of war. Around 50,000 were widowed as a result of the genocide.

CAFOD has worked in Rwanda since 1994. In Musha, a village in eastern Rwanda, they are still helping women rebuild their lives after losing loved ones, homes, livestock and belongings.

Despite the traumas they have faced, the strength of the women in Musha is tangible. How else could they raise children, care for orphans, live alongside the released prisoners who killed their loved ones, and find the strength to forgive?

Over the last year, your donations have helped in this work and I’d like to read for you a letter which explains in the words of two of the ladies of the village of Musha just what that help means, in practical terms.

He then read from a letter sent by Steve Tassie – CAFOD’s  Head of Supporter Services. ‘In Musha, we are helping women widowed by genocide to feed their children and earn some much needed money. Recently our local partner gave cows to Musha’s poorest families to help boost nutrition levels’ Berina describes her cow as a ‘God send’.

“Giving my children milk to drink and cheese to eat makes me proud” she says ” In the future I hope to rear some calves and sell them at market. In Rwanda, a cow is like a status symbol. It means you have money and you are someone important. Before the genocide we had five cows but we lost them all. This is my chance to start again.”

As the basics of life improve, people have more time and energy to focus on the future. Take Feza, a mother and community leader ” People come to me for counselling, help and advice. I want to help my fellow women start small businesses such as basket weaving and selling goods at market. Because of the counselling, our outlook is changing. We are focussing on the future now, not on the pain of our pasts” Simon, from CAFOD’s Rwanda office wants to pass on this message to you -” When people start caring about each other, the world seems smaller. Please believe me when I say your support is making all the difference.”

Later we heard from some very brave asylum seekers and refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who shared the pain of being seperated from their loved ones and of the difficulties they faced and fled from. They shared their hopes and very powerful prayers, which gave a lot of ‘food for thought’ at this particular time of year.

Laurie also provided the musical accompaniement to the evening, with the support of his wife and daughter.

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