Journalist Philip Crispin writes: Four years ago, many of you supported me in my Epiphany Birdwatch for Palestine when I wrote:
'You don't need me to rehearse the suffering of the Palestinian people. It has struck me forcibly during the past months of [Covid] lockdown that our privations pale into insignificance compared to those in perpetual lockdown in Gaza or languishing in the West Bank.'
Tragically, four years on, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic, the suffering immense. Regular readers of the excellent coverage on this site will be painfully aware of this and I would like to congratulate Jo Siedlecka for her indefatigable and exemplary editorship in the cause of justice and peace.
I'm writing this on the Feast of St Brigid of Ireland and just yesterday, my friend Brigid, told me that the oystercatcher is her namesake St Brigid's bird.
According to Birdwatch Ireland, Giolla Brighde, meaning the 'Servant of St Brigid', is one of the names for the Oystercatcher in Irish. The story goes that St Brigid was pursued by a band of men who wished to kill her. Coming onto a beach she realized there was nowhere to hide and so praying, lay down on the beach, accepting her fate. A flock of Oystercatchers was nearby. Realising what was happening, they quickly gathered seaweed and covered St. Brigid, hiding her from the men. In return for saving her, St. Brigid blessed the Oystercatcher. Since then, the Oystercatcher has been linked to Ireland's principal female saint.
This story evokes so much. Violence and protection. Destruction and haven. The compassion of the birds chimes with Brigid's own generosity of spirit, empathy and compassion. Her deep humanity.
The first of February is also the Celtic feast of Imbolc 'when ewes are milked at Spring's beginning.' A turning point. It leads naturally into Candlemas the next day - a feast of wisdom, insight and enlightenment: 'a light to enlighten all peoples.'
I'm therefore going to undertake a Candlemas Birdwatch, in the hope that enlightened vision will lead to peace and justice, and to show my solidarity and support for the Amos Trust's Emergency Appeal for Gaza and Palestine.
I heartily recommend this charity to you and if you fancy it you can make a direct donation to the charity via my Just Giving Page below.
Support for Amos will help:
- send vital funds to Al Ahli Hospital
- provide food and water for some of the thousands sheltering in the church and community buildings in Gaza City
- provide vital support to Amos's partners on the West Bank as they seek to respond to the needs of the communities they work with.
- enable the Gaza Sunbirds to provide essential food packs to their communities.
The Gaza Sunbirds - who take their name from Palestine's beautiful national bird - comprise amputee cyclist-athletes who lost limbs to Israeli Defence Force bullets. In the first six weeks of Israel's assault on Gaza, the Sunbirds had helped distribute 36,000 tonnes of food, pedalling around on prosthetic limbs and dropping off essentials from door to door.
"Despair is a luxury. Hope is all that remains for those who don't have that luxury," said Karim Ali, co-founder of the Gaza Sunbirds.
When I attended a fundraiser for Amos's Emergency Appeal for Gaza, the night ended with this prayer:
May the peace of the Sunbird's song
Be heard once more
On the shores of Gaza.
And may justice flow like a river
Like a never-ending flood.
Go in peace
As the makers of peace
As those who believe
That another world is still possible
And we shall hear her breathing again.
Peace to the whole earth
Peace to all peoples
Peace to one another
I won't see a Palestinian sunbird tomorrow but perhaps I will see an oystercatcher.