Mosi oa Tunya -the 'smoke that thunders' - is what the locals call the Victoria Falls, once the magnificent cascade between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Today the vast plume of spray, once visible 35 miles away, is gone and the thunder is little more than a burble. The rains have failed. The whole region is experiencing a drought and a fifteen-fold increase in the prices of basic foods over a year. Fergus Conmee of CAFOD told the seventy participants in a briefing at Romero House on January 25 that half the population (7.4 million people) faced a food crisis.
Today, CAFOD stands with Zimbabwe: it has committed £260,000 to emergency relief in a speedy response to the threat of catastrophe to people already struggling to cope with the aftermath of cyclone Idai. Now, the prayers and the generosity of parishioners in the Lent Fast Day collections are needed as much as ever to help meet this crisis and others like it from earthquake, flood, or flame.
But CAFOD will not lose its primary focus on equipping local communities to develop their own means of overcoming the challenges posed by climate change whether in Southern Africa, the Andean Altiplano, or the low-lying regions of the Indian sub-continent. In many countries it offers help with adaptation of farming methods and crops to changing patterns of rainfall and higher temperatures.
Lent Fast Day this year centres on sustaining and developing the heroic work of Sister Consilia in Zimbabwe. Despite ill-health and isolation in her early life she qualified as a pharmacist and more than anyone else in her workplace has reduced the mortality rate among mothers and their new-born children to zero in the last year. CAFOD supports local experts like Sr Concilia as well as striving to empower women in other African countries; building peace in regions devastated by years of conflict; and - following the call of Pope Francis - to press governments to cut global carbon emissions urgently
Participants in the meeting contributed attractive ideas to alert schools and parishes to the issues underlying the evils threatening the poor of the earth and Archbishop John Wilson paid warm tribute to CAFOD as the official agency of the Church. He stressed that the only person at the centre of the Church is Jesus, whose command goes out to all the baptised, including those clergy who thought that they had any right to allow or not people to engage or not in God's work. Archbishop John will establish in a few days' time a council of deans which will bring all twenty Southwark deaneries together, and he wanted CAFOD be invited to a meeting.
CAFOD Fast Day envelopes will arrive in parishes on 5 February in good time for the Fast Day on March 6. Volunteers have received their packs for the day, including a draft short talk at Masses around the time.
Please do everything you can to promote CAFOD Family Fast Day in your Parishes this Lent.
Our Key weekends are Sunday 1st March when we would like Fast Day envelopes to be distributed and talks delivered at Mass.
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