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Special Day of Prayer for Syria by Robert Schofield – 29 Oct 2013
How do we pray for a crisis as complex as Syria? It’s the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time, there don’t seem to be any obvious good guys and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. In fact, in the last few weeks we have seen an escalation in the fighting. So, how do we pray?
Here are my top three ideas…
1. Pray for the vulnerable- the innocent victims caught up in the conflict.
100,000 people have been killed, 4.25 million people have been displaced internally (that’s almost the population of Ireland!), two million people have fled to neighbouring countries. Some are living in formal camps but many are scratching a living, barely surviving in informal settlements.
2. Let’s keep praying for organisations working on the ground.
Tearfund and other charities have partners working in Syria and neighbouring countries, reaching out in love to those in need.
- Pastors inside Syria are risking their lives to deliver monthly food parcels.
- Church staff are seeking out refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to provide food, blankets and help with rent payments.
- They are also providing safe spaces for children to play and counselling for those suffering the effects of trauma.
Please pray for the safety and well-being of our partners and their church networks.
3. Above all, pray for peace.
We need faith and perseverance because it is difficult to see how this could be possible at the moment. I read many reports from inside Syria that tell of conflict raging with all sides seeking to gain the upper hand.
There was an initial round of peace talks in Geneva in June 2012 but the second round, called Geneva II, have been frequently postponed. They are now due to take place 23 November but at the moment one of the opposition groups is refusing to be involved. Pray that they happen and that everyone attends.
Let’s believe in a powerful God and call on him to cause people to pursue peace.
Tearfund has designated 17 November as Syria Sunday, a moment to unite in prayer around the Geneva II peace talks, stay tuned for details coming soon.
Reverend Mai Ki, the first ordained female minister of the Mara Evangelical Church in Myanmar and Tearfund Inspired Individual, was awarded the annual prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life by the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) for her work to tackle poverty and famine in formerly oppressed Chin State, Myanmar.
Mai Ki grew up in an illiterate farming family in a remote village in Burma. Blessed with exceptional talents and skills, and through sheer perseverance she progressed to obtain a Masters in Theology in India. However her heart remained in the hill country rural villages of Burma, an area oppressed by the Burmese military regime for many years and recently victim of a severe famine, and she returned to there after completing her studies.
With a spirit and passion for social interventions and female empowerment, Rev Mai Ki has inspired and led a number of other community based initiatives to tackle poverty, including promoting animal husbandry, community healthcare projects, skills and training courses and disaster and management relief. Her work has a strong emphasis on women taking the lead in developing themselves and their families.
The award honours creative and courageous women around the world for their contribution to improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, imparting knowledge and standing up for human rights, development and peace. Since it was established in 1994, WWSF has awarded 395 prizes in over 120 countries.
Because of work to tackle poverty through social enterprise in Myanmar, Mai Ki was selected to be part of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals initiative in 2012. The Inspired Individuals Initiative seeks to identify, resource and connect social entrepreneurs – change agents whose unique vision has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people living in poverty.
“We could not be more proud of Mai Ki,” said Gary Swart, Inspired Individuals Director at Tearfund UK. “We’re incredibly pleased that other organisations like WWSF are starting to recognise her hard work and dedication to people living in poverty, she truly is an inspiration.”
“I feel really great hope,” says Mai Ki. “God is answering the prayers of believers in Myanmar. As a rural woman, wherever I go I see people having hope and trusting each other. We don’t have change yet, but in our hearts, we do.”
Thanks a million for your prayers – 14 Oct 2013
The worst of cyclone Phailin is over, and whilst very low casualties have been reported, a trail of destruction to infrastructure, properties, and agriculture has been left behind. The cyclone has been ‘very severe’, severely impacting lives, properties and infrastructure but not a‘Super Cyclone’ as predicted by many. Even secular NGOs think that “It’s nothing short of a miracle that so many lives were spared. We were expecting the worst, but it just shows that all the time and investment put into preparing for such disasters by the authorities, civil society organisations and communities has paid off,” said Save the Children’s Devendra Tak.
Management of cyclone Phailin was a success due to excellent planning done by the state, central government, three defence wings and more importantly excellent coordination between them. According to Chief Minister of Odisha Mr. Naveen Patnaik the experience and learning from 1999 super cyclone helped in saving lives.
This is in contrast to the flooding in Uttarakhand where the government was caught unaware and over 5000 people lost their lives. It underlines that preparedness by the government, communities and aid organisations, while building resilience saves lives.
14,515 villages have been affected. Some affected areas are still inaccessible and the government has prioritised and rightly so to repair roads, telecommunication and power which will enable access the affected area and assess the extent of destruction the Phailin cyclone has caused.
Prayer alert: Cyclone expected in India – 11 Oct 2013
Cyclone Phailin is expected to hit India tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 12 Oct) causing large-scale destruction. Odisha state, formerly known as Orissa, and the eastern coastal regions are particularly vulnerable. The country is currently is approaching its harvest season and the government has advised people in these areas to harvest as much as they can within the next 24-hours. The government has also called for evacuations and has put cyclone shelters in place.
India was hit by super cyclone Odisha in 1999 which left 10,000 people dead. Since then Tearfund partners have prioritised preparing people for disasters, including evacuation points on higher ground, access to food and safe water, and ensuring people look out for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled.
Great losses are expected and the cyclone poses a large threat to livelihoods, with a significant economic impact.
Please join us in prayer:
- Pray that the wind speeds decrease and that the storm will be weaker than expected.
- Pray that the storm doesn’t move further east where it could do more damage.
- Pray that the work of Tearfund partners to prepare people for disasters has great impact.
- Pray that the local church in the region will be able to help communities to deal with the impact.
The Choice - pull Sina back from the brink – 12 Sep 2013
SINA AND HER FAMILY
Sina* is 28 years old. She has three children: Yuth (aged ten), Bunton (aged eight) and Den (aged five and a half months). Sina is married to Bora, who is also 28. Sina is a warm, strong, dignified woman. She has a beautiful smile, but a lot to worry about. She’s open about her hopes and fears, and strong in spirit – she holds on to the hope that things can somehow be better for her children.
‘Sometimes I find it hard to sleep, because I have a lot on my mind. And sometimes I wake early in the morning with worry.’ (Sina)
Sina’s father died when she was a teenager, and she is now close to her mother Sokly and sister Sokha. Her mother doesn’t live very close by, but comes to stay with the family sometimes. Sina’s sister and her family live two doors down from Sina, and both sisters face very similar struggles.
Sina lives in a tiny one-roomed shack. The walls are made of dried palm leaves, and some sides are open, with just fabric hanging from the tin roof. The whole family sleeps on one raised wooden platform, and at one side of the shack is a fire for cooking. There is no electricity, running water or toilet – Sina and her neighbours go to the toilet in the field at the back of the house.
Sina’s small home was built by her and her husband with their bare hands, using scrap and second-hand materials. The family can’t afford a proper house or their own land, so the shack is built on government-owned land. This means Sina’s family could be moved on any day, and would have to start again.
Sina’s family is among the poorest in her village Tonle Batie. In Cambodia, the government gives ‘poor cards’ (officially called equity cards) to those least well-off – Sina has a ‘poor card number one’, which means she is among the very poorest (the cards are graded one to three, one being allocated to those in most need).
Rice is a staple food in Tonle Batie. Rice with vegetables is a popular meal for families like Sina’s, fish when they have it. Other meals eaten by the family include vegetable broth, fish broth, rice soup and dried fish – when they have those things to cook. Meat is extremely rare for families like Sina’s. ‘It’s very hard when we struggle to have enough food. I pity my children.’ (Sina)
Currently, Sina’s husband Bora is working as a security guard, and the family rely completely on his small income. Bora and Sina are both poorly educated and unskilled, so those few jobs available to them are extremely limited, insecure and poorly paid. Despite this, Sina is immensely grateful that her husband is in work. She is also grateful that, at the time of writing, her husband’s work is close to Tonle Batie village.
For many families like this, things get harder and more hopeless, and children are pulled out of school in order to save on school fees and so that the children can contribute to the family income. This limits the future prospects of the children, meaning generation after generation is stuck in extreme poverty.
Sina is desperate to break this cycle and give her sons a better life. She feels she could do this, if she could fulfil her dreams of growing vegetables and keeping animals – the first steps towards a better future.
This would provide the family with more food, as well as the option to sell vegetables and animals at market to make more income. Eventually, Sina would love to have her own piece of land and live there with her family in a house that is more secure and fit for purpose. Then she and her husband could work the land and make a sustainable income – he would not need to go away for work, and she could contribute while still being there to care for the children.
When she talks about these things, she gets tearful – the prospect is so lovely to her, and seems so far from reach.
She feels she currently lacks the power, skills and resources to fulfil these ambitions – and has no option to lead her family out of poverty. ‘I hope the future is better than the here and now, where we have nothing. Right now, because we have no money, it’s hard to dream dreams about the future.’ (Sina)
Sina is not forgotten. The local church is helping villagers like Sina beat poverty. They’re pulling them back from the brink and helping them build a future that’s safe and secure.
But people like Sina need your support.
Around the world, churches are reaching out to whole communities, right to the edges. Can you help them stretch further?
Please download this ‘Sina giving flyer’ and make a regular gift to Tearfund and make life secure for many more like Sina. Today, tomorrow and beyond.
A regular gift of €7 a month for one year could give 12 people like Sina the chance to learn skills such as breeding chickens to sell for extra income.
You can also donate here.
For more resources (including prayer ideas and kids activities) on our project in Cambodia visit our Resources page.
Syria needs your prayer and support – 11 Sep 2013
Many have left everything behind and have no income, no healthcare and no certainty over what lies ahead. You can give to our Syria crisis appeal by donating to our Disaster & Emergancy Fund
Tearfund’s partners are providing food, help with shelter and hygiene goods. Eventually, we hope to help refugees return to their homes.
Please join us to pray for peace in Syria. You can also download our Prayer for Syria.