A CLWR prayer for Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday

Sunday of the Passion_Palm Sunday-2

God of the cross, Jesus willingly gave up his power and it was the most powerful thing this world has ever seen.

It is the same for us; giving of ourselves and our time is a powerful witness to the new life we have in Christ.

Grant us the courage to give up our own power each day, so that we become humble servants to the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, and the sick. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thanks to Rev. Joanna Miller (Zion Lutheran Church & St. James Lutheran Church in Philipsburg, ON & Baden, ON) for contributing this week’s prayer.

A CLWR prayer for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday in Lent

God of love, the gift of your Son extended grace and mercy to all those in need.

Remind me this day and always that Jesus’ death is not just for me, but for everyone.

Let me live every day, extending grace to those I fear, disagree with, or don’t understand.

Help me to see your face in each of their faces. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thanks to Rev. Joanna Miller (Zion Lutheran Church & St. James Lutheran Church in Philipsburg, ON & Baden, ON) for contributing this week’s prayer.

Hiba, the future pediatrician: receiving support from the LWF Peace Oasis

By Rifat Odeh Kassis

(article provided courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)

Everyone in Alshoy knew that Hiba would become a great pediatrician someday.

Alshoy is a village located on the Horan plain, in southern Syria, under the administration of the Daraa governorate. Because of its fertile soil it is also called “the village of wheat”. The place is also known for its archaeological and historical sites, with ruins from Roman, Byzantine, and Ghassanid times, ancient buildings, wells and tombs.

Like in many other Syrian towns, the war ruthlessly destroyed the villages and their cultural heritage in that governorate. Many people lost their lives, and many civilians left their villages and fled as refugees to neighboring countries. Hiba’s family—her parents, five siblings, and Hiba herself—sought refuge in Jordan in November 2012. Hiba, the eldest child, was 12-years-old at the time.

An exceptionally clever girl, she had always worked hard at school. When her family left Syria, she was in the 7th grade and had already decided to study medicine: she wanted to become a pediatrician. Her siblings say it was the war and suffering around them which caused this dream to bloom in her. As it began to grow, war broke out; when it destroyed her village, her dreams were also destroyed. Overnight, Hiba was uprooted from her home and reached Jordan with her dreams uprooted, too.

At the Za’atari refugee camp, she joined what the refugees call “the Bahraini School”. A month later she stopped attending classes. Hiba told me that she left school for some reasons to do with herself and others related to her father. She added, “The curriculum in the school, the way they teach here, is completely different than in Syria.” She looked at me and saw that I wasn’t entirely convinced. Then this strong little girl surprised me by bursting into tears, and speaking from the depths of her heart. “Is this a life? Is this a place where you can study, read, write, and think? I didn’t have proper clothes or shoes…we had no electricity. All my dreams evaporated as soon as I set foot in the camp. I was so sad and depressed.”

There was a long, terrible moment in which only her sobs could be heard. “It was only when I joined the Peace Oasis in the camp,” she said, referring to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) program at Za’atari for young people aged 14-24, “that I managed to pull myself together and decided to go back to school.”

The Peace Oasis program includes art and play therapy, sports, group counseling and vocational training. Activities are separated by gender in ways that respond to cultural norms and have been developed through consultation with young people living in the Za’atari camp. Donations from Canadian Lutherans have helped make this life-changing program possible.

The LWF Peace Oasis offers workshops in arts, sports and music and non-violent conflict resolution. There is also vocational training for young people. Here, women participate in an art program. Photo: LWF/ M. Renaux

The LWF Peace Oasis offers workshops in arts, sports and music and non-violent conflict resolution. There is also vocational training for young people. Here, women participate in an art program. Photo: LWF/ M. Renaux

Hiba, however, still is not going to school. “When I decided to go back, there was no more room for me. I was put on the waiting list…and I’m still waiting,” she says.

Hiba’s father phrases it in more socially dictated terms. “We didn’t have enough resources to send them to school,” he said. He also remarked about particular incidents, sexual harassment that some girls are subjected to, especially when they have to walk long distances to school.

Hiba’s father only allows her to attend the LWF Peace Oasis because she goes with other girls and LWF volunteers accompany them to ensure their safety. “If there could just be a minibus in the camp,” he told me, “people’s lives will change, especially girls’ lives, and they will be able to attend some of the many activities in the camp.”

Hiba told the LWF counselors that her biggest fear is being forced into early marriage. If that should happen, she told them, it would put an end to all her hopes. According to UNICEF, Syrian refugee girls are especially vulnerable to early marriages. While in 2013, every fourth girl was married early in 2014 the numbers rose to every third girl being subjected to the practice.

When I asked Hiba about her hopes and dreams for the future, she said, “I lost all my dreams, but I didn’t lose my faith in people. Being here in the Peace Oasis, surrounded by such lovely and friendly people, has made me feel happier. I still hope for a better future in a safe, secure, and united Syria. My personal dreams and my dreams for my country are finally becoming one.”

By Rifat Odeh Kassis, the LWF Country Representative for the program in Jordan. Donations from Canadian Lutherans have helped make the Peace Oasis possible.

A CLWR prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent

God of light, in you is healing and wholeness.

Bring healing to creation, bring healing to all nations, bring healing to broken hearts and bodies.

Make us instruments of that healing, knowing that when we look to the cross – we will always find light in a dark world, we will find life where there is death.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thanks to Rev. Joanna Miller (Zion Lutheran Church & St. James Lutheran Church in Philipsburg, ON & Baden, ON) for contributing this week’s prayer.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! CLWR believes that women and men are created in God’s image as equals, with the same inherent rights and dignity, and we are fully committed to challenging systems and practices that limit the choices of individuals on the basis of gender. It is our vision to achieve a world where people live in justice, peace and dignity, united in diversity, and empowered to achieve their universal rights to basic needs and quality of life. Policy, programming and practices that seek to restore equality, including gender equality, dignity and humanity are fundamental priorities. We wish to bring about sustainable, transformative change in gender relations.

This year’s theme is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity.” Please find below three of many examples of how you’re making a difference in the lives of women around the world, through your partnership with CLWR.

Yasmin is a graduate of the Vocational Training Program run by the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem. She's helping to support her family through her job a secretary at United Motor Trade. M.Brown/LWF Jerusalem

Yasmin is a graduate of the Vocational Training Program run by the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem. She’s helping to support her family through her job as a secretary at United Motor Trade. M.Brown/LWF Jerusalem

Take Yasmin’s story. After her father passed away, she knew she had to help support her family. But she needed affordable, accessible job training to do so. She enrolled in secretary training through the Vocational Training Program, run by our partner the Lutheran World Federation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. An apprenticeship funded by CLWR and the Manitoba government helped her gain on-the-job skills and eventually a permanent job. One of the goals of the Vocational Training Program is to offer culturally acceptable and market-relevant training for women, who are underrepresented in the workforce.

Halima is getting to go to school, unlike countless generations of girls before her. An irrigation system has allowed her formerly nomadic family to settle down and farm, making schools accessible. Photos by A. Thorsteinsson/CFGB

Halima is getting to go to school, unlike countless generations of girls before her. An irrigation system has allowed her formerly nomadic family to settle down and farm, making schools accessible. Photos by A. Thorsteinsson/CFGB

Medina outside the family's home in Segentole. Not having to travel long distances with young children to collect food, or walk long distances with heavy loads, has lightened the burden on her life.

Medina outside the family’s home in Segentole. Not having to travel long distances with young children to collect food, or walk long distances with heavy loads, has lightened the burden on her life.

Or take the story of Medina and her daughter Halima. Medina, and generations of women before her, never got to go to school. They lived as nomads in the arid Afar region of Ethiopia, traveling with their belongings on their backs, often with babies and children in tow, as they moved to find grazing land for their livestock. The men walked with the animals. When you’re always on the move, it’s hard to enroll children in school. This harsh and challenging life was made all the more difficult when food was scarce. That’s changed now that Medina and her family have settled in a community with an irrigation system supported in part by Canadian Lutherans. They have water to grow crops, so there’s enough food to eat. There’s no need to be on the move, and Medina’s life has become that much easier. What’s more, young Halima will be the first girl in her family to get an education.

South Sudanese women who are refugees of the war in their country learn crafts in the Adjumani settlements in Uganda. There skills can be used to earn a living.  CLWR/T.Brook

South Sudanese women who are refugees of the war in their country learn crafts in the Adjumani settlements in Uganda. These skills can be used to earn a living.
CLWR/T.Brook

South Sudanese women who have become refugees of the civil war in their country are receiving livelihood training by our partner the Lutheran World Federation in the Adjumani settlements in Uganda. Learning skills in crafts, textiles and cooking not only empower women to earn a better living, but also provide time to share personal stories with one another and help overcome the psychological scars of harrowing escapes and lost loved ones. What’s more, the Village Savings and Loans Associations being established will allow men and women to save a portion of their income, and obtain small loans to increase their earning capacity by acquiring a sewing machine, a new oven, more livestock or stock for a small store.

Livestock Herders Begin Farming, Women’s Lives Made Easier

Halima is getting to go to school, unlike countless generations of girls before her. An irrigation system has allowed her formerly nomadic family to settle down and farm, making schools accessible. Photos by A. Thorsteinsson/CFGB

Halima is getting to go to school, unlike countless generations of girls before her. An irrigation system has allowed her formerly nomadic family to settle down and farm, making schools accessible. Photos by A. Thorsteinsson/CFGB

Halima Mohammed is only five years old, but already the life she leads will be light years from the life led by her mother, grandmother, and countless generations of women before her.

Halima’s family are livestock-herders who live in the remote and arid northern Afar region of Ethiopia.

Water in the form of an irrigation system fights hunger for the Eyasu family. “Before we were livestock people,” Mohammed says, “but now we have learned how to grow food.”

Water in the form of an irrigation system fights hunger for Mohammed’s family. “Before we were livestock people,” Mohammed says, “but now we have learned how to grow food.”

They used to depend entirely on their livestock for survival, never staying in one place for long and moving with their goats, cattle and camels as they searched for good grazing land.

It was a bleak and harsh existence.

They traveled by foot, sometimes for many days. The men walked alongside the livestock. The women, like Halima’s mother Medina, would follow, carrying everything the family owned, including their tear-down huts, often with a baby on their back.

After a long day of walking, it was the women who set up the huts, gathered firewood, and cooked the meal.

It was a tough life at the best of times, particularly for women, says Medina, adding that because families were often on the move, it was rare for a child like Halima to be enrolled in school.

It’s a life Halima will not know.

With assistance from Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Halima’s father, Mohammed, has switched from depending entirely on livestock for his family’s livelihood to also growing cereal crops, fruits and vegetables.

It’s a huge change in lifestyle. But, as Mohammed says, “we had no choice.”

Living in such a hot, remote region, the Afar have always had a tough go of it.

But in the last 30 years or so, it’s gotten worse.

Increasingly frequent droughts, and the growth in population squeezed traditional Afar grazing land. To survive, families had to travel further and further with their livestock through the harsh climate.

Frequent famines only made things worse.

“There was famine after famine,” says Foodgrains Bank Field Representative Sam Vander Ende, who has lived and worked in Ethiopia for over 20 years. “In years of severe drought, the herds move frequently and for long distances.”

A herd of cattle in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

A herd of cattle in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

“The livestock were their lives, and people were watching their livestock dying in the field. Everyone knew something had to be done.”

One man with a solution was Gebreyes Haile, an Ethiopian man with a Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Southampton in England.

Working with funding from the Foodgrains Bank through Canadian Lutheran World Relief, he began designing irrigation dams to divert water from nearby streams and rivers to land that before would have been unusable.

Water channels in Afar.

Water channels in Afar.

His organization, Support for Sustainable Development, trains the pastoralists in how to add farming to their livelihoods.

Today, vegetation springs out of that land like an oasis in a desert. Among the crops are maize, bananas and papayas.

fruit tree

Lush, green crops in the middle of the Afar desert.

Lush, green crops in the middle of the Afar desert.

There’s enough surplus produced that families no longer have to travel long distances to buy food.

Now, says Mohammed, “the traders come to us.”

The biggest winner from this investment in agriculture is women like Medina, and their young daughters.

Not having to travel long distances with young children to collect food, or walk long distances with heavy loads, has lightened the burden on their lives.

“Women traditionally have much heavier workloads,” says Terefe Seife, the program coordinator for Support for Sustainable Development.

“Men didn’t do nearly as much. They took the cattle out each day. Now, they are responsible for going out and working on the farm.

Medina quietly agrees. “It’s easier,” she says.

Medina outside the family's home in Segentole. Not having to travel long distances with young children to collect food, or walk long distances with heavy loads, has lightened the burden on her life.

Medina outside the family’s home in Segentole. Not having to travel long distances with young children to collect food, or walk long distances with heavy loads, has lightened the burden on her life.

Halima runs and laughs around her family’s group of huts. She’s on a break from school right now, but she’ll be back soon enough, the first of the women in her family to get an education.

Mohammed looks at Halima and three siblings.

“My children are not illiterate,” he says proudly.

–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer for Canadian Foodgrains Bank

These irrigation projects are supported in partnership with CLWR, Canadian Foodgrains Bank and Support for Sustainable Development Ethiopia.

A CLWR prayer for the Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday in Lent

Humble God, we are guilty of placing too much value on things that have little worth and little value on those things that are true treasures.

Open our eyes to see our greatest treasure is relationship – relationship with you, with each other, and with your creation.

Help us redirect our attention and energy to caring for each other and the world you created, for that is where we will find the blessed life you intend for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks to Rev. Joanna Miller (Zion Lutheran Church & St. James Lutheran Church in Philipsburg, ON & Baden, ON) for contributing CLWR’s prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent.