We live in an increasingly interconnected world: our local community is global. Coronavirus has shown us that our lives – how we share our resources and the planet in which we all live – are bound together more tightly than ever before.
Christian Aid is an organisation that has never just dealt with the symptoms of poverty, but rather, looks to tackle the underlying structural causes, working through local partner organisations to bring about lasting, sustainable change for everyone in a community. When Ebola struck Sierra Leone, Christian Aid partners were well placed to support the country’s efforts to contain it. Our relationships with communities, our ability to gain trust quickly, disseminate correct information and put in place sanitation facilities and hygiene measures were a vital contribution to containing the virus. We also supported communities to access decent local health care by putting in place three-way agreements between ourselves, the local government and the local community. Easy as it is to build a hospital, a hospital alone is useless to a community unless it is staffed by trained medical professionals with access to medicines, and unless the local community, especially the women, are free and empowered to come. That’s where our work on local governance and gender justice complements the heath care work which can bring lasting change to a community.
As coronavirus spreads globally there is a real fear that it, like so many other diseases, will spread fastest where people are poorest and leave fledgling health centres unable to cope.
A place of particular concern is Cox’s Bazaar, one of the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh where the first case of Covid-19 was recorded at the end of March. Christian Aid has been working there for years, ensuring that people have proper sanitation facilities and running water. The virus could spread incredibly quickly in camps such as these as living conditions are already poor and cramped. We have set up washing facilities and are educating people about the virus in the hope that infections can be minimised.
As we approach May, our attention usually turns towards Christian Aid Week – a week in the calendar where churches, communities and individuals up and down the country come together to raise money, raise awareness and raise their voices on behalf of the world’s poorest people. For nearly three quarters of a century, supporters have been walking in solidarity with sisters and brothers of all faiths and none to provide practical help and political change so that people can live dignified lives free from poverty and oppression.
This year, however, Christian Aid Week will look very different as our normal community-led fundraising activities can’t happen. However, although we cannot go from door to door, host coffee mornings or book sales, our passion to help our neighbours near and far is unabated. In the past, we have come together to provide respite from storms, conflict and the impact of climate change. This year, we will meet virtually in online quizzes, coffee clubs and to do house-bound challenges. Coronavirus impacts all of us and love unites us.
The post-coronavirus world is likely to look very different from the one we had mere weeks ago, which presents many challenges – but also the possibility to do things in new ways. It is, perhaps, a time to pause and reflect on how we live in community, both locally and globally, and how we care well for our fragile planet. Christian Aid was born out of the upheaval of the Second World War to provide practical support for the refugees in Europe and has campaigned for justice for everyone ever since.
Whatever the world looks like in the future, one thing is sure, we will still be standing with the poorest, the most marginalised and calling for a more just world. We invite you to join us for a virtual and vibrant Christian Aid Week. Your support will help families facing poverty and injustice around the world, which is more important than ever. www.caweek.org
Val Brown, Church & Community Action Manager, Christian Aid Scotland.