Celebrating Christian Aid

CAW Service 1 – Chris Walters Main Address – Sunday 9th May

Christian Aid, together with its donors, is clearly working as a Good Samaritan, but on a much larger scale, helping those in need, regardless of status, gender, colour or religion.

Christian Aid currently works in about 30 countries in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, and is presently giving Covid aid to about 20 of these countries, including India and her immediate neighbours. This is clearly Christian Aid’s most acute challenge at this time, given that its aim is to improve the lives of those living in its targeted countries, especially within their poor and marginalised communities.

More generally, Christian Aid’s work can range from rapid responses to emergencies such as cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions (CA is a member of the Disaster Emergencies Committee) to long-term commitments to address chronic problems such as endemic diseases, community sanitation and hygiene, regular drought and flood threats to small scale farming, human rights, fairer taxation for all and, of course, global warming (CA is also a founder member of CFL and is one of the 20 members of the Climate Coalition).

CA’s annual income is normally just over £100 million, of which just under half is raised from individual donations, including CAW. Of the remainder, the British Govt has generally committed of the order of £5 million with the rest coming from international agencies plus the USA and Ireland.

It is not immediately clear how much of this income is directed at the alleviation of existing problems as opposed to investment in possible future solutions, but the impression is that most of CA’s spending is indeed on addressing on-going issues to try to make life better for those suffering now, but with a sizeable sum also targeted at persuading governments, major global companies and international agencies to adopt better and fairer practices in the future.

Like last year, this year’s CAW focuses on the existential threat of uncontrolled global warming, a threat not only to all of us as humans but to all of the life on our planet, be it large or small, land-based or in the vast oceans which cover two thirds of our earth’s surface. As seems always to be the case, it will be the poorest humans, particularly those in the most at-risk countries, who are likely to suffer first and the most, and this is what much of CA’s work is focussed on.

In this context I would strongly recommend that you look at the CA Seven-day Devotional booklet you should have received (more copies at the back), which gives a very good outline of CA’s approach to addressing the threats of climate change, including pictures of Rose and Florence, whose stories are being told this morning, and also has, at the back, an already typed out, addressed and free-posted petition to our Prime Minister which we should all sign and return to CA as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, we remain constrained this year in our CAW fund-raising activities, as door-to-door cash collections are not recommended. Nonetheless, CA has produced an alternative envelope which a group of volunteers from our church and St Michael’s will kindly be distributing to a limited number of roads in Broadway and which can then be handed in to one of four specific addresses in the village (incl. our Manse next door) or donated over the internet if preferred using the attached instructions. (These are different from the envelopes you have here in Church, which can be handed in here with cash or cheques). We hope therefore to make a significant village contribution to CAW, even if below our usual sums in previous years.

Being a generally optimistic water-engineer, I would like to say that all is not yet doom and gloom, “yet” being the key word! We still have a few years during which, if COP 26 later this year can achieve agreement from its key participants (primarily China, the USA, India, Brazil, Japan, the EU & UK), we can slow down and halt the net release of greenhouse gases (especially CO2) into the atmosphere, halting the otherwise inexorable rise in global temperatures and the disaster that will accompany this.

“Necessity is the mother of invention” comes very much to mind here. The increased use of solar and wind-power, the reduction in exhaust pollution from all forms of transport, the inevitable change from burning coal and natural gas to maybe using hydrogen, more electricity or alternative heat-sources, the reduction in pollution from domestic open fires or wood-burners as recently announced here, the planting of more trees and greater restrictions on felling mature trees (including in the Amazon basin) and changing farming livestock choice and management are all being implemented or addressed. Another very exciting area is the “wilding” of the oceans, or at least of the relatively shallow zones where sea plants can flourish and support a wide variety of sea creatures. This would require much stronger legislation regarding sea-bottom dredging, but could result in absorbing and thus reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a significant amount.

All of these options are possible and, together, would stand an excellent chance of halting global warming before it becomes too great to allow life to continue as at present. However, there would be a financial cost and inconvenience to very many people, both in the developing and in the richer and more advanced countries. This would need longer-term visionary government leadership on a world-wide basis extending well beyond the next election dates, something which as yet is sorely missing. It would also need more investment in new technology, with its risks attached but with the potential for huge rewards, something which is already being pursued from university labs to global companies.

So, all is not yet lost. We probably have the potential solutions to halting global warming but not yet the will to commit fully to them. In the meantime, time is very much of the essence and people and wildlife are already suffering. Christian Aid is committed to playing its part to meet these objectives.

So now, to end this address, you heard earlier about the problems facing Rose as she tried to eke out a living where she lives in Kenya, we have Margaret reading the positive story of Florence, who has benefitted from a CA-supported project, also in Kenya.