Val Brown: Help us to help others escape hunger, war and poverty

Christian Aid was born at the end of the Second World War because churches in the UK wanted to help the German people and refugees in Europe. A war-weary people reached out to ­provide practical help to brothers and sisters in need, irrespective of race or ­religion and despite the ­political, practical and pastoral ­difficulties involved.

Women like Nejebar, from Afghanistan, with children  Sudai, 5, and Shikufa, 8, are stuck in limbo in Greece after fleeing from Taliban death threats, and do not know what their future holds
Women like Nejebar, from Afghanistan, with children Sudai, 5, and Shikufa, 8, are stuck in limbo in Greece after fleeing from Taliban death threats, and do not know what their future holds

As an organisation rooted in the belief that poverty and injustice are wrong, Christian Aid has never existed merely to keep treating the symptoms of poverty. Our vision is to establish lasting change by challenging systems and structures that keep people poor.

We lobby for financial transparency around tax – who is paying tax, who is not and where is it being paid? We call for gender justice so that women have a voice over decisions that affect their lives. We campaign for climate justice given the catastrophic impact an increasingly erratic climate is having on people’s lives around the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

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For our supporters and supporting churches, it has always been this practical solidarity, epitomised by the fair trade movement and charitable giving, that characterises the work of Christian Aid.

This year, in the year that Christian Aid Week marks its 60th anniversary, an estimated 65 million people are displaced from their homes. The vast majority are internally displaced within their own countries, or seek sanctuary across immediate borders.

Every year during Christian Aid Week, supporters across the UK and Ireland deliver envelopes, walk across bridges, run coffee shops, hold book sales, offer breakfasts and run a host of other fun and innovative events to raise awareness and funds for Christian Aid’s work.

These efforts support landless ­people across Latin America, Palestinians in refugee camps in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria, and people across Africa who have fled hunger and violence. We work with all those seeking a safe place to call home.

Host countries, like Lebanon, which has a significant percentage of their population as refugees, are struggling to cope. Christian Aid partners in Lebanon and Iraq were quick to support refugees by providing the essential items of food, water and shelter.

The conflict in Syria has forced more than four million people to flee their homes, most leaving for the safety of neighbouring countries, others trying to cross the sea to Europe. Greece has been at the forefront of this mass movement. Christian Aid supports partners to meet the needs of destitute people in Greece. However, border closures have meant that many people have become stuck there, unsure both as to what their future holds, and whether they will ever be reunited with their families.

Nejebar, from Afghanistan, fled her homeland after the Taliban announced that they would kill ­anyone, like her husband Noor, who worked for the government. They and their young family left their home, family and friends behind and crossed the Mediterranean in a small rubber dinghy, eventually ­seeking refuge in Greece.

They do not know what the future holds for them or their ­children. Nejebar describes the mental anguish of living without certainty, not knowing when, if ever they will be able to move on.

She said: “Our wish is to get out from this situation and to be able to go further. We only want a peaceful life. We want our children to have an education, to go to school. The most important thing is for our children. Not to stay like this, to not be able to go to school.”

Despite the difficulties that her own family face, Nejebar is also mothering two teenage boys who came to Greece unaccompanied. Thanks to our ­supporters, Christian Aid has been there for refugees like Nejebar since 1945, providing essential food, shelter and legal assistance for ­people far from home.

The resourcefulness and the resilience of people across the world who refuse to accept that poverty is inevitable, who refuse to give up as they hope that things will be ­better for their children is truly inspiring. Each donation – no matter how small – given during Christian Aid Week will enable us to keep working to ensure that those like Nejebar, who live with a daily uncertainty about their present or their future, will find a safe place to call home.

To donate this Christian Aid Week (14-20 May) log on to www.caweek.org

Val Brown is church and community manager, Christian Aid Scotland.