Visit to Ethiopia November 2018 – Bishop Ray Browne
I was privileged to be among a small group from Irish dioceses who travelled with Trócaire for a five day visit to Ethiopia last November. The purpose of the visit was to refresh and deepen our appreciation of the work of Trócaire. Trócaire enables the parishes of Ireland to reach out to people in need worldwide.
There are serious issues of world poverty and of social injustice in so many places. You can curse the dark or light a candle. Trócaire lights a candle. Irish people make great personal sacrifices to work abroad with Trócaire. They work alongside local partners. Enabling locals to manage the work themselves is a key objective. It was heartening to see the strong bonds Trócaire have developed with the local people. The hope is that Trócaire are sowing seeds and that locals will be able to continue the projects and expand them to neighbouring communities and thus lead to an abundant harvest.
In the province we visited, serious difficulties are caused by changing patterns of rainfall. Evidence points to climate change as a cause. Trócaire seeks to build resilience, basically helping the people to cope better with such occurrences, e.g. better storage of water, or ways of preventing soil being washed away by heavy rains. It can be as simple as starting local ‘cooperatives’, neighbours planning and working together; or a local ‘credit union’ system where locals can borrow small amounts to buy better seeds or plants.
In Ethiopia, besides farming projects, Trócaire are involved in projects like giving special support to women who are heads of households, supporting a city school that is for the poorest of local children, and providing an eye clinic.
Ethiopia is a beautiful country. It has a strong Christian presence through the Coptic Orthodox tradition. Their monastic tradition continues to flourish. The areas we visited had spectacular mountains, valleys and canyons. We were blessed to visit as the harvest was gathered, gathered in a way that differed little from a thousand years ago: two oxen pulling a wooden plough, the reaper using a simple sickle. People walked everywhere. The donkey was the main beast of burden. Amid great poverty, people were full of energy, life and joy. After difficult years there is hope for the country politically.
The work of Trócaire and other development agencies is something we can be proud of. They deserve our continued support. Participate in their Lenten campaign this year, encourage other families also. See their website for information in both English and Irish. ‘Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.’ Mt 5:7
Bishop Ray Browne