The Canadian bishops are aiming to raise $30 million (USD 23.8m) over the next five years to support the Indigenous peoples of the country, including survivors of residential schools.
“The Bishops of Canada, as a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with the Indigenous Peoples of this land along the pathway of hope, are making a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced in a Sept. 27 statement.
The bishops will launch fundraising initiatives throughout the country, to be “achieved at the local level, with parishes across Canada being encouraged to participate and amplify the effort.”
The announcement comes days after the Canadian bishops concluded their plenary assembly. At the conclusion of the assembly Sept. 24, the bishops issued an apology for the Church’s role in the country’s residential school system.
Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jerome and Mont-Laurier, who was recently elected president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that there was a “universal consensus” among his brother bishops that “Catholic entities needed to do more in a tangible way to address the suffering experienced in Canada’s residential schools.”
“Comprised of local diocesan initiatives, this effort will help support programs and initiatives dedicated to improving the lives of residential school survivors and their communities, ensuring resources needed to assist in the path of healing,” said Bishop Poisson.
Per the CCCB’s statement, the projects will be funded on a local level, with input from area First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The individual initiatives will be developed and announced by November 2021.
Bishop Poisson said that he hopes that the initiatives result in a “significant difference” in confronting the “historical and ongoing trauma” wrought by the residential school system.
Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary, vice president of the CCCB, emphasized the importance of working with the Indigenous population on deciding how and when to move forward with these efforts.
“The Bishops of Canada have been guided by the principle that we should not speak about Indigenous People without speaking with them,” said Bishop McGrattan.
“To that end, the ongoing conversations with local leadership will be instrumental in discerning the programs that are most deserving of support. There is no single step that can eliminate the pain felt by residential school survivors, but by listening, seeking relationships, and working collaboratively where we are able, we hope to learn how to walk together in a new path of hope.”
The residential school system was set up by the Canadian government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means of forcibly assimilating Indigenous children and stripping them of familial and cultural ties. Catholics and members of ecclesial communities ran the schools, although the Catholic Church or Catholics oversaw more than two-thirds of the schools.
The last remaining federally-run residential school closed in 1996.
In response to the “grave threat” of climate change, heads of the world’s major religions united at the Vatican to issue an unprecedented joint appeal to government leaders at next month’s United Nations climate summit, calling for “urgent, radical and responsible action” to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions and for the world’s wealthiest countries to lead in healing the planet.
The nearly 40 religious figures, among them Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, also pledged to increase awareness of the climate crisis and actions to address it within their own congregations.
“We are currently at a moment of opportunity and truth. We pray that our human family may unite to save our common home before it is too late,” the declaration read. “Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity.”
“We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children,” the faith leaders wrote.
The joint statement, issued Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, outlined the expectations of the world’s major religions — representing about half the global population — for the COP26 U.N. climate conference, set for Nov. 1-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship,” the faith declaration said.
“We appeal to everyone on this planet to join us on this common journey, knowing well that what we can achieve depends not only on opportunities and resources, but also on hope, courage, solidarity and good will.”
A portion of the statement was read at a “Faith and Science Toward COP26” ceremony at the Vatican, where faith leaders, all wearing masks, signed the document. Francis, who signed last, handed the appeal over to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Alok Sharma of Britain, president of COP26. Officials from embassies to the Holy See from both nations, which are co-hosting the climate conference, worked with the Vatican to organize the statement.
Sharma described the appeal as “a powerful call to action for the world.” He called for an alliance of faith leaders, scientists and youth to “turn the tide” on climate change.
“Doing so requires us all to play our part, every country in every part of society mounting a global effort led by those most human qualities, reason and morality, the head and the heart,” he said.
Each religious leader present spoke briefly about the need to protect the environment. Those unable to attend because of the coronavirus pandemic sent video messages. At the conclusion, each poured soil into a potted olive tree to be planted in the Vatican gardens. They met again in the afternoon to discuss how faith and science can work together to raise awareness and cooperate further.
In prepared remarks for the event, Francis said that the world’s religious and spiritual traditions and science both stress the interconnectedness of our world. Recognizing the interrelations among species, he said, reveals not only the harmful effects of human activity on ecosystems, but also possible solutions.
“COP26 in Glasgow represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and our spiritual closeness,” the pope said.
COP26 will be the first U.N. climate conference in two years. An abbreviated, virtual meeting was held in December 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event is viewed as the most consequential climate summit since the 2015 COP21, which produced the landmark Paris Agreement in which the world’s nations committed for the first time to cut emissions in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
The faith leaders, who conferred throughout the year in multiple meetings with leading scientists, including Hoesung Lee, chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that “time is running out” and that this decade may be the last chance left “to restore the planet.”
Average temperatures already have risen by more than 1 C and are on track to reach 2.7 C by the end of the century, based on countries’ current greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments, according to a recent IPCC report.
“The degradation of our common home due to climate change is a symptom of deeper social ills,” Joachim von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences told the gathering. “For this reason, it is essential that in addressing these challenges, science and faith combine forces.”
Climate change solutions must include changes in consumption, technological breakthroughs and policies that recognize that human and ecosystem health are inextricably connected, the scientist said.
The religious leaders urged governments to “achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.” Wealthier nations, which are the major emitters, must lead that effort, they said, as well as follow through on long-promised financing— $100 billion annually through the Green Climate Fund — to help less-industrialized nations curb emissions and adapt to climate change.
They also urged developed nations to commit to “loss and damage” payments to less-industrialized countries for climate-related destruction that has already occurred.
They advocated a new economic model that prioritizes human dignity, inclusivity, ecologically friendly practices over exploitation and excess, and “one based not on endless growth and proliferating desires, but on supporting life.”
The statement also called for special attention to the rights of Indigenous peoples, an end to biodiversity loss, responsible financing by banks and investors, and a just transition to a clean energy economy, with particular attention to employment for people working in the fossil fuel industry.
Calling climate change a moral issue, they stressed the importance of education and the “crucial” role of religious traditions in bringing about an “ecological conversion” among all people.
The faith leaders also pledged to more active political participation on environmental issues, and to take actions within their own communities to reduce emissions, pursue sustainability in their buildings and properties, encourage simpler lifestyles, seek out ethically produced goods and services, and apply environmentally and socially responsible standards to investments, including shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
An interfaith program called “Faith Plans for People and the Planet,” aimed at leveraging religious groups’ assets and investments, was also launched Oct. 4.
To involve Catholics, the Vatican is creating the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year roadmap to sustainability for all types of Catholic institutions, from families and dioceses to hospitals and schools.
Climate negotiators have said Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” along with statements from other faith leaders and the world’s bishops, had a positive influence on COP21 in 2015. The hope is that this new interreligious appeal will yield similar results in Glasgow.
Plans for the Oct. 4 faith appeal began in January. Since then, faith leaders have met eight times with scientists, including Lee of the IPCC and the heads of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences.
Before the event, von Braun told EarthBeat he was “pleasantly surprised” with the faith leaders’ openness to scientific advice and is optimistic the statement will deliver “a powerful message” to political leaders at COP26.
“This summit comes at a point in time when the world knows more, is concerned more and wants to see more action. And the people are moving together. That’s why this new alliance between science and faith will matter at the COP,” he said.
LONDON,- Charity food banks in Britain are “preparing for the worst” as the government starts winding up emergency aid measures put in place to cushion the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on millions of workers and low-income households.
Food banks, which hand out staple goods from dried pasta to baby food, are especially concerned about the loss of the top-up to the Universal Credit (UC) benefit, which is claimed by almost 6 million people, according to official statistics.
“You’re going to have parents who are going without food so their kids can eat,” said Garry Lemon, policy and research director at the Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,200 food bank centres across Britain.
“I’ve been speaking to lots of food banks in recent weeks and they are absolutely preparing for the worst … They are doing everything they can to ensure they have got enough food to be able to cope with the increase in need.”
The British move comes as other countries start wrapping up state aid programmes announced last year as COVID-19 battered the global economy.
A British government spokesperson said the income benefit increase was always intended to be temporary and had been effective in softening the pandemic’s impact on family finances, adding that the focus now was on helping people back to work.
But anti-poverty groups said the loss of the benefit bonus would deal a heavy blow to low-income Britons.
It also comes as rising gas prices usher in higher domestic energy bills, with the average household expected to pay 139 pounds more each year.
“The last time I used it (a food bank) the kids hadn’t had dinner for six days,” said Emma, who has three young children and asked to be identified only by her first name.
Emma said the family was behind on paying bills due to financial stresses from the pandemic and the benefits cut would hit them hard.
“Once you’re in that financial downward spiral, it’s so hard to get back out of it because you’re constantly running behind,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
“The one bill you can amend from week to week is your food bill,” said Emma, who is sharing her experiences with the Covid Realities research project that tracks the impact of the pandemic on low-income parents and carers.
Emma said she went to a food bank every few months – aiming to minimise visits so as not to deprive anyone in an even worse position.
“It’s going to be more regular (now) – it makes me so upset because it’s something that we never thought we’d have to do. We’re not a well-off family but we’ve never been this bad before. I can’t see a way out of it,” she said.
A fifth of the benefit’s claimants said they would “very likely” need to skip meals once the uplift is withdrawn, found a survey of more than 2,000 people carried out for the Trussell Trust.
A similar number said they would struggle to afford to heat their homes.
“Independent food banks are bracing themselves for a surge in demand as well as the challenges of food supply shortages and a reduction in donations,” said Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network.
At Moray Food Plus, a food bank in Scotland, Mairi McCallum said they were already running “at almost full capacity”.
“We’re concerned about the negative impact the UC cut will have and the strain this will put on our organisation,” McCallum said. “There’s only so much more we are able to do.”
At one East London food bank, where a stream of visitors arrived to pick up bags of store cupboard essentials, organisers have already had to limit the total lifetime number of visits to 12 per household.
“We’re always getting new clients,” said Jemima Hindmarch, a spokesperson for The Bow Foodbank, adding that they “constantly” worry about having enough supplies.
The impact of the benefit cut and rising heating costs over the winter months is likely to be “catastrophic” for people already struggling to cope, she said.
“It’s pushing people just a little bit lower below that poverty line.”
NAIROBI, – In the 30 years that Josephine Muthoni has lived in Nairobi’s Mukuru slum, she has never had a steady supply of clean water.
The only way to get water was from vendors dotted around the slum, who charge exorbitant prices for the often polluted water they buy from government water points or steal straight from the municipal pipes, the 62-year-old mother of nine explained.
Muthoni said filling a 20-litre (5-gallon) jerry can cost as much as 50 Kenyan shillings ($0.45) – a potentially crippling amount in a city where the majority of slum dwellers earn less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.
“We would sometimes walk five kilometres to get water. I thought that was how life should be until I worked for a family and saw water flowing full time from their taps,” the retired housekeeper told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The more than 600,000 residents living in one of Nairobi’s largest slums have struggled with water access for years, a problem exacerbated by frequent bouts of city-wide water rationing, which has been ongoing since 2017.
But soon, Mukuru residents will be able to fill a jerry can with clean water for as little as 50 Kenyan cents, using token-operated vending machines that the city government is installing in an effort to ease the slum’s water stress.
With the new system, residents will receive plastic tokens – similar to key fobs – that they can charge using the M-Pesa mobile money platform.
They then insert the tokens into a machine at one of the 10 water stations being set up around Mukuru and select how much water they want dispensed.
Kagiri Gicheha, an engineer at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), which is helping develop the system, said the project is in the final stages, only awaiting the installation of the vending machines.
The dispensers, each costing 200,000 shillings, mean Mukuru residents will no longer be at the mercy of the slum’s informal, exploitative water market, Gicheha said.
“This is a way of controlling the cartels that have long been stealing water in the slums because this is an automated system that is very easy to manage,” he said.
Until the system is operational, residents can fetch clean water for free from boreholes that have been dug for the project, each of which will feed up to four water dispensers.
Since starting the project in April 2020, the city government has drilled nearly 200 boreholes across five Nairobi slums and hopes to expand to more areas depending on funding and demand, Gicheha said.
CHEAP, CLEAN, RELIABLE
Officials decided to launch the system in Mukuru after seeing the success of a similar programme run by the local nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum.
Currently, there are 23 machines dispensing water to Kibera residents, who pay two shillings to fill a jerry can, said Johnstone Mutua, a programme officer at the grassroots group.
“The project is very efficient. Most residents now know how to use the system and we installed solar-powered lights for security at night,” said Mutua.
“This means someone can get water anytime they want.”
Maureen Adhiambo, a 28-year-old mother of three in Kibera, says the vending machines cost half of what she used to pay water vendors and finally offer her a reliable source of water.
“(Before), the queues were too long and water would come only once a week,” she said.
“Now, I can buy five 20-litre jerry cans of water per day … and there’s no queue.”
Mutua said the first attempt at setting up a water vending system was in Mathare slum in 2015.
But the machines were being fed from large tankers, not boreholes, he said, which meant during drought there was no water to fill them with – so now the machines in Mathare stand empty.
RISKY WALK FOR WATER
Fuelled by explosive population growth, demand for water in Kenya’s capital has shot up over the past decade, but broken municipal water pipes and frequent drought leave the city chronically thirsty.
While residents need more than 810,000 cubic meters daily, the city’s dilapidated water infrastructure can only supply 526,000 cubic metres, according to figures from the NCWSC.
Across Kenya, the water crisis hits hardest in slums, where nearly half the urban population lives, according to the World Bank, and where homes are not connected to the water grid.
Before the vending machine project came to Mukuru, Gideon Musyoka, an elder of one of the villages inside the slum, said the taps at the government water points rarely flowed and when they did the water was often tainted by raw sewage.
For women, the search for water was time-consuming, expensive and dangerous, exposing them to sexual assault or rape. “Women were almost getting used to being raped, even in broad daylight, as they went to water points to fetch water,” said Muthoni, the Mukuru resident.
Jamlick Mutie, an independent water and sanitation expert working in Nairobi’s slums, applauds the water dispensers as a safe, affordable and efficient solution.
Mutie noted that at the subsidized cost of 25 shillings per cubic metre, Mukuru residents will be able to buy water for less than half what other Nairobi residents pay to get it piped into their homes.
Efforts to get clean water to the slums are especially urgent during the coronavirus pandemic, with health experts pointing to handwashing as one of the best ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, he said.
“For the slum residents, it would be a disaster without water,” he said.
The price of the water is enough to cover the costs of maintenance and electricity to run the machines, making the project sustainable, he added.
The biggest challenge, Mutie warned, is protecting the machines from the cartels who see the project as a threat to their business.
Mutua at SHOFCO said Kibera residents are tackling that problem by having volunteers guard the water stations.
To discourage tampering with the vending machine pipes, the charity built an aerial water network, suspending the pipes overhead rather than burying them underground, and is encouraging the government to do the same in Mukuru, he said.
As the people in Mukuru wait for their water vending machines to arrive, Musyoka, the village elder, said having abundant, clean water is something many of them never could have imagined.
“Seeing so much water in Mukuru slums is what we call magic. Now, we can say that people are clean and healthy,” he said. ($1 = 109.7500 Kenyan shillings)