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Image: Easter in Managua - A crucified people is always resurrected

26/04/2019

This week, in our blog, a Scottish development worker returns to Nicaragua on the first anniversary of the self convened Civic Insurrection"
 


When I left Nicaragua in April last year, the killings had already started, but I had no idea the extent of the human suffering that the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship would inflict on its own people.   
 
In a year that Nicaraguans refer to as the “eternal April”, an estimated 500 peaceful, unarmed protesters, including 20 children and adolescents, have been murdered by police and paramilitary forces loyal to a government that ironically proclaims to foster “Socialism, Solidarity and Christianity”.  Thousands more have been injured, around 800 political prisoners are held in squalid jails and up to 60,000 Nicaraguans have fled, mostly to neighbouring Costa Rica.
 
 Human rights groups, women’s organisations and independent media outlets have been ransacked and stripped of their legal status. Several priests and bishops have been attacked, vilified and their lives threatened.  Bishop Silvio Baez of Managua, a fearless ally of the people’s right to protest and to demand freedom, justice and democracy, has been transferred to Rome by petition of the Pope, out of fear for his safety. 
 
One year later, I am back in Nicaragua for the first anniversary of the self-convened civic insurrection that poignantly coincides with Holy Week.  On Palm Sunday, in Masaya, the annual Procession of the Captives is led by children in chains dressed in blue uniforms – a harrowing allusion to the plight of the hundreds of political prisoners that continue to be held in degrading conditions, where they are subject to physical and psychological torture and sexual violence. 
 
On Good Friday, thousands of Catholics take part in the Way of the Cross Procession in Managua led by Cardenal Brenes, many carrying black crosses bearing the names of those massacred during the 2018 protests.   Others wave blue and white Nicaraguan and Vatican flags and pray for the immediate liberation of all political prisoners and an end to State violence.  As the procession ends, a group of mostly young people hold a spontaneous protest. Still inside the Cathedral grounds, police attack with tear gas and rubber bullets.  Arbitrary detentions and further police repression are deterred by the intervention of the Papal Nuncio and leaders of the Civic Alliance.
 
Nicaragua is under siege, kidnapped by a morally corrupt government that has lost all respect for the rule of law and human rights.  All recent citizens’ attempts to hold protests (outlawed since last year) are quashed by repressive policing.   During Holy Week, around 150 people were arrested; many were beaten before being released.  Their crimes? Waving the Nicaraguan flag, releasing blue and white balloons, singing the national anthem, demanding freedom for political prisoners and calling for free and fair elections as soon as possible.   
 
At the end of March, under intense internal and international pressure, the Nicaraguan Government signed agreements with the Civic Alliance to liberate all political prisoners, restore constitutional rights, including the right to public protest, freedom of expression and an end to the police repression.  Only 200 prisoners have been released under house arrest and the unrelenting repression continues and intensifies. The population feels duped, as frustration, anger and an insatiable thirst for justice grow. It feels like a pressure cooker…
 
Before leaving for Rome, Bishop Silvio Baez said, “A crucified people is always resurrected. The only thing I ask of you is not to let anyone take away your hope. Nicaragua must be resurrected, just as the one crucified on Calvary rose again. Live your faith in Christ intimately, deeply, with all the seriousness it demands, without ever letting yourself be drawn into violence, without letting sadness darken your heart, without bargaining with the liberty and dignity of human beings, without being ambitious or being an idolater of anything or anybody.”


Image: Bridge Hotel, - A Calais update

19/04/2019

Alex Holmes updates us once again on the situation on the ground in Calais in this week's blog.  


I was in Calais and it was registering minus four degrees. There was a roundabout under the motorway ironically known as “Bridge Hotel”. It is where the Eritrean refugee community had sheltered since 2017. But mid-morning, word came through that the police had cleared the Eritreans from under the bridges. We observed workmen in white protective suits and facemasks pile sleeping bags and blankets into a truck.
 
“The police wouldn’t even allow me to get my medication from under the bridge,” Merhawi told us. He’s recovering from a broken leg after falling from a lorry.
His friend Fikru shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “No problem, when you have God, everything is ok.”
 
But nearby, tempers frayed. Two young guys either side of a big bundle of salvaged bedding faced each other off in a fierce argument. Across the road, more security barriers were rising.  A three-metre high reinforced concrete wall was nearing completion around “Belgium Parking”. This added to the razor wire, moat and metal fencing already “protecting” the site from refugee access to the lorries that park there.
 
At “Belgium Parking” in early December, a young Eritrean, Semere, was helped into a small trailer attached to a van. He hoped to reach the UK, but the van went east, and he disappeared. Silence. Six weeks later he was tracked to a hospital in Lille. Police reported that he was found in a coma beside the road and his injuries didn’t equate with jumping from a vehicle. A criminal investigation has begun.
 
Roger Salengro Hospital in Lille, where Semere is being treated, is a vast complex of buildings. Mebratu came with us to identify his friend.
 
“He slept behind me under the bridge,” he explained.
 
In the neurology department on the first floor, we donned thin blue gowns and were led along corridors to Semere’s room. Still in a coma, his blinking eyes darted here and there. It was impossible to know if his brain was registering anything. He had movement in his left hand, but his right arm lay motionless on the bed. Oxygen was fed through his nose, liquid food through a hole in his throat. Mebratu confirmed it was Semere and gave hospital staff more information.
 
Visibly shocked, he wiped away a tear. We stayed a while, prayed, held Semere’s hand, and left, heartened by the news that each day there was a slight improvement in his condition.
 
The road from Lille back into Calais circles the “Bridge Hotel”. Two white vans filled with CRS* officers were parked on the verge. There would be no return there for the refugees. Across from the roundabout, the Calais town sign is emblazoned with four scarlet flowers; Calais, ville fleurie, it boasts, a town in bloom. As the light faded, a huddle of five young Eritreans stood around the sign watching the passing vehicles, some with UK plates. I prayed.
 
*CRS, Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, the French Riot Police


Image: Marian Action

12/04/2019

John McConville writes our latest blog and tells us of the work 'Marian Action' do with the homeless and marginalised in Glasgow.  


Marian Action is a movement that aims to bring the maternal joy and love of Mary to the marginalised. It does this primarily through its spirituality, the members gathering together weekly to pray about the work, and for those whom we come in contact with.

We also have our special prayer, the Angelus, which the members say daily in order to bring Mary's blessing on the movement. The blessings we receive from this spirituality are taken into our work, which currently consists of organising social evenings in two of Glasgow's centres for homeless people, and also organising periodical coffee mornings for the wider homeless community.
 
Taking into account the fact that Jesus, during His time on earth, spent a great deal of time amongst the downtrodden of society, it seems to me only natural that He would want His love, and that of His mother, to be brought to the most marginilised of society, and indeed that is what struck me most of all when I first got involved with the group- as a youngster back in the 1970s, and also in seeing how the men responded so positively to the care and attention being shown to them by what was then, in a main, a group of young people.
 
And indeed these many blessings have continued during the years, and indeed decades in which Jesus has used our various services to reach His marginilised- many of our members have remarked on how gratifying it is to be thanked at the end of one of our social nights, and that in fact the gratitude of the people could teach the wider community a thing or two about genuine sincerity.
 
One example which comes to mind is a lady, who was resident at the women's hostel in Inglefield St. for many years, and who was usually the life and soul of the party, particularly at Christmas, but actually admitted that, in the early days of our work, our social nights had stopped her from commiting suicide.
 
Marian Action has been in existence since 1972, orginally working in the old council-run hostels. We started by organising bingo nights, but eventually our mission evolved into offering shaving, haircutting, serving Christmas dinners, and other related events. The haircutting and shaving actually came about when we were asking God to show us if there was something else He wanted us to do. At  Broad St. hostel one night, our then president was approached by a man who asked if he could cut his hair. When our president replied that he hadn't done anything like that before, the man told him him to "just f*** well cut it". We took that to be a sign from God!

Over many years, we carried out these activities at ten different hostels. We found that the services we offered the people were always well-received, and there are many examples of this having a positive influence on peoples' lives.
 
After the council hostels closed in the early 2000s, we took our work into Aspire Housing, Partick, and the Talbot Association, Garnethill, where once again Marian Action has been well received by the people.
 
We realise that our work is but a drop in the ocean in the universal need for God's love to be given in both a practical and emotional way, that there are so many people throughout the world who have been involved in giving of themselves to God's marginilised- people like Mother Theresa, Abbe Pierre of the Emmaus Community, Frederick Ozanam of the SVDP society, and many other lesser-known examples, but we hope that our efforts also contribute some way towards bringing about the advancement of Jesus' love among those who need it.
 
Our current spiritual base is St. Simon's, Partick, where we hold our weekly meeting on a Tuesday evening. Our hopes for the future include developing our periodic coffee mornings, and also, if possible, to take part in some form of street work- it's been brought to our attention a few times about the amount of rough sleepers there are in the Partick area where we're based, and I would like to try to reach them, possibility through distributing small food parcels, with Bible quotes attached.
 
This summary is only a brief account of all the many blessings which God has showered on Marian Action through our years of service to Him, as He blesses the poor man in the parable of Dives and Lazarus(Luke 16:19-31) so He blesses the poor and suffering through our efforts, and hopefully He will do so for many years to come. Marian Action is a splendid way to see how love of Jesus and Mary, expressed through both spiriuality and practical means, can transform lives. If you would like to get involved with Marian Action, please email marianaction@rocketmail.com



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