In Christian Aid Week, stand together for dignity, for equality, for justice

David Pain, 29 April 2018

Acts 8: 26–40; John 15: 1–8

Christian Aid Week 2018 tells the story of Vilia in Haiti.

People are everything.

It’s a privilege in my job to be part of a team sharing the stories of remarkable people, people like Vilia. People who are living in some of the poorest communities in the world, people who despite their poverty are strong and generous.

As we saw in the film, after the earthquake of 2010 a million people in Haiti were made homeless. With your support, Christian Aid and our local partners built 700 new homes as part of the global effort to rebuild Haiti. One of those is Vilia’s home.

Last week I was with our Country Manager for Haiti, Prospery Raymond, speaking at a conference in Manchester. As a Haitian, Prospery told me that as a child they expected a hurricane about every seven years; now they come every other year. This is climate change. As we saw in the film, Hurricane Matthew devastated the community where Vilia lives; but she was able to provide shelter for 54 neighbours in here new home. 250 neighbours were killed in the storm.

Last month I met the filmmaker, Ben. He told me about how he made the film with Vilia. Usually these films take a few days of research: scripts and ideas are discussed and refined. Ben told me how one day he asked Vilia casually what her prayer for the future would be, expecting to have a chat about this. Instead, she closed her eyes and started to pray right there and then. The prayer at the end of the film is her prayer. It was shot in a single take – no edit, no script. Her prayer. And how powerful that she prays for us: we are the ‘people overseas’, and she prays for us to have ‘strength, courage and compassion in our hearts’.

Over the years in my work for Christian Aid I have met many, many people in countries all around the world. People with whom Christian Aid works on your behalf – as the relief and development agency of the British and Irish churches. For six years I led the Africa programme, and met people across that continent in very diverse situations and facing big challenges.

They all had one thing in common. They are all people who are taking action; I have never met anyone waiting passively for a handout, for ‘aid’. AND they are people who need support and solidarity, to make change happen. I love the bit in Vilia’s story when she talks about the ‘chain of solidarity’ she formed to provide food for her 54 neighbours as they took shelter in her home.

I love the bit in Vilia’s story when she talks about the ‘chain of solidarity’ she formed to provide food for her 54 neighbours as they took shelter in her home.

The invitation of Christian Aid Week is to be part of the ‘chain of solidarity’. We are invited to #standtogether with people like Vilia who are also taking action where they are. This is love in action; this is our gospel calling to love our neighbours, locally and globally. How fitting that our own Community Day here at St Paul’s coincides each year with the start of Christian Aid Week.

This Christian Aid Week we extend an invitation to our neighbours with this red envelope. On the envelope is the story of Marcellin. He is a neighbour of Vilia; he lost his home in the storm. We stand together with Vilia and with Marcellin.

Christian Aid works in 37 countries on our behalf. We provide help to meet immediate needs and we work for long-term change. Look out next week for the vote in parliament on tax transparency and tax havens – change in the law here is one of the ways we have been working for long-term, sustainable change. Tax transparency means the governments of poor countries can see where tax should be being paid; this is all part of a future beyond aid where governments can finance the development of their own countries.

Thank you if you are already planning to collect in Christian Aid Week; if you have not volunteered yet, Barney will be happy to persuade you over a cup of coffee after the service.

You can also send an e-envelope to your friends.

Thank you for all the support you give to Christian Aid throughout the year; to me personally; and thank you for #standtogether with Vilia and Marcellin this Christian Aid Week.