Today Friday 2nd October is Harvest Fast Day. Thank you to all who are promoting CAFOD’s work in Parishes and Schools this Autumn.
In preparation for this year’s Harvest Fast Day, Geoff O’ Donoghue, Director of CAFOD’s International Division, gave a very stimulating and informative talk to CAFOD supporters and volunteers.
Although this year we are focussing on what the farmers in Niger are suffering due to climate change, we realise that this is a worldwide problem. How to meet the challenge is what CAFOD and her partners are called upon to consider. To illustrate this Geoff told the story of The Monkey and the Fish.
As the monkey sat contentedly on the lowest branch of a tree he began to realise that he was in danger for a heavy rain began to fall and the river below him started to overflow its banks. He stared into the water as it rose and suddenly he noticed a fish in the water staring up at him. He felt the fish was in distress and his heart went out to him. So he stretched out a hand, picked him gently out of the rising flood, hugged him to his chest, climbed up the tree and left him safely on the topmost branch. This action of the monkey gave rise to an interesting discussion. We concluded that before offering help we have to understand what it is that people need.
Good intentions are not enough. When planning how best to help others in distressful situations we have to 1) keep in mind their human dignity, made as they are in the image and likeness of God that they are entitled to a say in what is best for them, 2) we must do what we can to correct the greatest problem of all, which is the gender issue, the huge inequalities between men and women. Only 5% of the world’s wealth is owned by women, and women are highly disadvantaged in the field of education, which is the case for example in Niger, where 50% of men are literate and only 15% of women., according to the latest figures supplied by our partners, Caritas Niger. 3) As part of the one global family we are responsible for each other; if any part of the body is in pain the whole body suffers. 4) We are stewards of the earth, not just consumers, and as Pope Francis writes in his message to the world, Laudato Si, we are called to rediscover the sacred in our beautiful world and hand it on in good shape to our children and their children’s children.
Another problem CAFOD and others are facing at the present time is the worst displacement of peoples the world has ever known. As a result of war and torture 60 million people were made homeless last year. To meet challenges such as these we and our fellow charitable agencies have to seriously consider how we can come to the help of these people who are in great need.
The rest of the day was devoted to workshops on the presentation of Laudato Si’ in parishes, on the training of volunteers to speak in parishes and on how to get our young people interested and involved in the CAFOD’s mission in the Church. Participants were highly appreciative of the day which for all who attended was a worthwhile and rewarding experience.