Commitment for Life
This is the World Development programme of the United Reformed Church. It works through Christian Aid and 'Global Justice Now' to bring hope and new life to those living in poverty. For more information visit www.cforl.org.uk
Our Church in Romsey has chosen to focus on the needs of Israel/Palestine.
Money we collect at coffee times, and at other opportunities during the year, is for Commitment for Life.
At this Christmas Season of 2015 we are collecting money for Olive Tree Planting. This is sponsored by East Jerusalem YMCA. Last year we sent enough for the purchase of 45 olive tree saplings to replace ones destroyed in outbreaks of violence.
Recently the Winchester Fairtrade Network offered the opportunity to meet two Palestinian Farmers.
With language difficulties, we talked to Bassema about her family and work. She prepares “Maftoul” in her village and the other visitor, Taysin, was a fruit grower and olive farmer. There were slides of the seemingly dry landscape which they cultivate, the glasshouses and olive terraces of gnarled trees. Olive trees live for 100's of years. Taysin told us that new saplings, replacing those destroyed by Israeli settlers, take seven years to yield fruit.
The evening featured Zaytoun products. Zaytoun is a pioneering Fairtrade initiative importing and selling Palestinian products in the UK and Ireland. Apart from olive oil, there were Zaytoun aromatic herbs, in jars, used as a dip with olive oil and bread. “Maftoul” was also displayed. This is a whole grain alternative to couscous or rice. It is made with organic wheat dried in the sun before made into flour and mixed with bulgur.
Here in Romsey URC we sell olive oil (£8.50 for 500ml) and also olive oil soaps made with various natural ingredients, lemon, sage or pomegranates (£2.00 a bar)
Buying Zaytoun products means we are helping to support Palestinian farmers, like those we met. Beyond the endless conflict and upheaval there runs a vibrant cultural thread in their communities.
Thank you for buying the goods and supporting this URC Palestinian project.
Working together in the Southern Gaza Strip brings a story of co-operation. PARC has been receiving funds through Commitment for Life for many years. Recently they co-operated with Save the Children Fund and a German charity (BMZ) to restore greenhouses for tomato grower Adel Alsamiri. His tomato houses were destroyed in Israeli aggressive attacks and only growing vegetables did not provide enough income for his family. He had tried to repair the damage himself with simple materials but now with the greenhouses completely restored his tomato growing business can flourish again.
In early March Fairtrade Network Winchester organised two Palestinian farmers to talk about the growing of the olives that make up the Zaytoun oil and soap that we have for sale in church. We listened to the familiar problems of their everyday living. One interesting fact was that when trees that have been growing for hundreds of years are destroyed by settlers, it is 7 years before the replacement trees produce a crop. Our Commitment for Life monies come from Sunday coffee donations and the Christmas Cards for the Church noticeboard help to pay for olive tree saplings.
During December the church corner by the crèche was enhanced by a board of colourful cards sent to the church as a general greeting to the whole fellowship. Amongst them were some from groups who use our premises during the year and others who had received donations from us towards their charity work. Local Catholics acknowledging our links, and Amnesty, Romsey Ladies Choir, the Open Gate Stroke Club, Romsey Opportunity Group and Di Williams from Trinity Music all sent greetings. Hopefully you were able to see the cards and list of senders on the table at the back of the church. Details about the resulting money for Olive Trees for Palestine will be available later.
PARC is in the news again. This is the organisation (Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee) that we first started to support after Amy Roberts visited the Holy Land about 15 years ago. Now, as a Christian Aid Partner in Gaza they have been supplying clean water and food to communities after the recent conflicts. PARC still helps people to rebuild their farms and poultry units. Nimer, a chicken farmer whose farm had been destroyed, writes:
“We need to be able to live in the same way as people in other nations. We need to be able to live in peace and to see our children growing up safely”
Read more of his story at the church display. Copies of Commitment for Life booklets are there too.
This year Christian Aid is celebrating its 70th anniversary. In the space of one lifetime, millions of lives have been transformed through the collective efforts of churches and supporters like you.
Commitment for Life is an example of the long-term support that enables us to tackle not just the symptoms of poverty but also those things that can prevent people lifting themselves out of poverty, such as the devastating effects of climate change..........
In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory we have focussed on the terrible aftermath of the recent conflict in Gaza – and a young father who cannot even imagine a future for his children anymore....
As we look ahead to the coming year, know that I am humbled by your unwavering commitment to love your global neighbours to help them rebuild their lives when tragedy strikes and to celebrate their successes.
Bless you and thank you.
Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive, Christian Aid
The full text of Loretta Minghella's letter can be read on the board at the back of the Church.
A story from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It is now 48 years that Israel has occupied Palestine. The work of policing goes on with only an occasional glimmer of humanity.
*Alwyn Knight writes:-
A young Palestinian approached the checkpoint – one which we regularly monitor at school times. He was using a zimmer frame with his right foot held above the ground. He really needed crutches but the frame was all he had. He looked exhausted. All the weight of his body was borne by his arms, and his progress was painfully slow. Near the checkpoint he sank to the ground, helped by a friend who was accompanying him. Two soldiers left the checkpoint and approached. We couldn't hear the conversation, and wouldn't have understood it anyway, but their demeanour was friendly and clearly solicitous.
Their actions spoke louder than any words. A few minutes later they opened the barrier that straddled the road, and allowed a Palestinian car – the first I have ever seen on this stretch of road for ten years – to back to where the young man lay on the pavement. Then they helped the Palestinian and his walking frame into the car.
Not quite a modern parable of Good Samaritan, and a small enough gesture of human kindness, but very welcome on these mean streets. It's just sad that in Hebron this is newsworthy.
Rev. Alwyn Knight is a retired URC minister who regularly travels to Palestine and reports on his experiences there.