Launching the 2018 World Development Appeal (WDA), ‘Seeking Safety’, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) is continuing its focus on the challenges of sustainable justice in fragile states, with a particular focus on gender justice and the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV).
Primarily for the church’s 535 congregations across Ireland, the annual appeal has been known to raise £500,000 over the Advent and Christmas season. Since it began in its current form nearly 40 years ago, the appeal – in support of the work of PCI’s relief and development partners Christian Aid and Tearfund – has raised millions of pounds for projects in some of the poorest communities and disadvantaged places on the planet. This year’s featured project focuses on a safe house for women in the city of Ariquemes in north-west Brazil.
Setting the scene at the Belfast launch, the convener of the World Development Committee, Rev Fiona Forbes said, “While this is my first year as convener, each and every year I am always overawed by the generosity of our congregations who give faithfully and prayerfully out of their love for Christ and humanity.”
“The work of sustainable development is not simple. It is hard work. It is most often long-term as it seeks to build within communities a shared vision for a future different to that which tradition or cultural norms might dictate. It is a work of faith and courage, of endurance and of hope, and hope is something the safe house provides the women and their children who have sought safety there.”
The 2018 World Development Appeal will support projects in Brazil and Democratic Republic of Congo
The 2018 Appeal highlights the work of Christian Aid partner, the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil, which seeks to confront and challenge gender-based violence and, in particular, to prevent and tackle gender-based violence against women, with an emphasis on the important role that faith communities can have in addressing the issue.
Rev Forbes, who is minister of Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church near Lisburn, noted that GBV is particularly pervasive in Brazil. Across the country almost a third of girls and women in 2017 said that they had suffered violence during the previous year and 100,000 women had lost their lives as a result since 1985.
“This year’s featured project, Casa Noeli dos Santos, opened in 2010 in response to concerns over gender based violence in Ariquemes. The safe house has since supported some 1,500 women enabling them to leave behind abusive situations, work through their needs and move forward in their lives,” she said.
“Acting as a gateway to other services for women who find the courage to report abuse to the police, it is a place that they and their children can ‘seek safety’ and not have to return to a violent partner or family member.”
In a specially commissioned video shot in Brazil, Fabiola who has been in the safe house on three occasions, talks about her experience, “I felt very good there, very welcome and safe. I found the support that I didn’t find in my own family’s house and I knew that my children would be safe too…God won’t let us down, he never does, as long as we are with him and faith is everything, we need to keep on trusting and having faith and never giving up,” Fabiola said.
Christian Aid’s head of country in Brazil, Sarah Roure, who was in Belfast and has visited the safe house on many occasions, spoke at the launch. Welcoming PCI’s support she said, “We really appreciate the support and prayers of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at this time. This Appeal will help us to raise awareness of the practical and transformational work being done at the Casa Noeli safe house and the funding will help to ensure this project will continue to provide a haven for vulnerable women and children at their time of greatest need.”
The 2017 World Development Appeal introduced a new approach to the remit of the WDA, linking together each appeal up to 2020/2021 under a common, overarching theme – the challenges of sustainable justice in fragile states with a particular focus on gender justice and the prevention of gender-based violence.
Rev Forbes explained that as a result of the new approach, the Church will be able to return to the projects during the four year period in order to learn from them. This will enable PCI to see how the work has developed and might continue to develop in the longer term.
“Our new approach will deepen our understanding of the challenges partner organisations they have encountered on the ground. This year, congregations are again invited, as they were last year, and will be in 2019 and 2020, to make this journey of understanding and to take small steps towards long-term transformation in solidarity with our partners in dangerous places like Ariquemes,” she said.
While Casa Noeli safe house is this year’s WDA featured project, the 2018 Appeal will also support a number of other Christian Aid and Tearfund projects. These consist of projects supported by Christian Aid partners in Angola – including a ‘Promoting positive masculinities’ programme for boys and young men, that focuses on human rights and building positive and healthy behaviours.
This year’s appeal will also continue to fund Tearfund partnered projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Read more PCI news on their website here.