CAFOD Retreat: ‘Thirst for Change, Hunger for Justice’

Back in March, Peter Coates visited the CAFOD Campaigns retreat at Launde Abbey in Leicester. The theme of this event was ‘Thirst for Change, Hunger for Justice,’ and it was a great opportunity for CAFOD supporters to meet up and share their stories. Here is what Peter had to say about the event.

Maria Elena Arana from the CAFOD office in London arranged an energising weekend for about 40 campaigners from around the country at Launde Abbey on 16th-18th March 2012. It was wonderful to meet campaigners and chat about their activities. Sponsored fund-raising events and talks to schools, churches and colleges seemed to be the main activities. Katy Harris had visited Zimbabwe and Zambia and met the people who live and die without access to clean water or sanitation. It occurred to me while listening to the people’s stories that we can either take the easy, worldly view of judging these people so that we don’t have to do anything or we can take the harder Jesus-based view and have compassion for them.

The main point is that it is now becoming politically possible to deliver clean water to the one in eight people in the world (1.1 billion people) who lack access to clean water. The International Sanitation and Water for All partnership seeks to deliver clean water and sanitation to the poor of the world by recruiting government support.

We heard amazing stories of women and children queuing for water or walking several kilometres daily carrying 10 or 20 litre containers of water. Perhaps you would like to try doing this? Water is very heavy and fetching water is very time-consuming. Some people are forced to collect water from the river and give it to their children to drink even though they know the danger of infections like Cholera or Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) in the water. A child dies every 20 seconds of infection because of drinking dirty water. At the Resurrection we will meet these children with Jesus in a new creation. Did we do enough to save them?

Rev. Rob Esdaile, who talked about water and the Scriptures, had spent a week living on 10 litres of water per day which he walked to collect from the homes of parishioners. He has produced a film of this which is on the CAFOD website and shows how time-consuming and difficult it is. It takes 5 litres of water just to flush the loo and 5 litres to wash your clothes. (Please see here for Rev. Rob Esdaile’s blog posts on his experience.)

The gospel reading for the Mass on Saturday was about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman (an outsider) at the well and asking for water to drink. How amazing to think that God experienced our needs in Jesus. It is right that we have needs so that we can have compassion for others who have needs. Jesus is the outsider who has needs so that we can learn compassion. What a terrible mistake it would be to let this opportunity go by. No, we all must be able to look back and say ‘I was part of that world development that brought clean water and sanitation to the poor because Jesus asked for water to drink’.

Thank you to Peter for sharing your story with us. If you would like to learn more about our Thirst for Change campaign, please visit CAFOD’s website here:


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