The desperation of parents by Stephen Pittman

Stephen P

Those mothers must be desperate. It’s heart breaking to hear of them throwing their children over the fence to British and American soldiers. They believe those little ones will have a greater chance of survival elsewhere. Yes, desperate is the word. But the situation in Afghanistan is just that – desperate.

 

Pope Francis has called for prayers “so that the clamour of weapons may cease, and solutions may be found at the negotiating table”. CAFOD has been in Afganistan since the late 1980s. Some of its work has been paused to keep workers safe. But CAFOD is still there. If, and when, refugees arrive in the UK, no doubt the SVP will be there to support them. And, doubtless, our many voluntary groups like the UCM and the CWL will be there too ­– that’s the sort of thing they do.

 

Back in 2001, the man next door bore the scars of his incarceration by the Taliban. The wounds from the chains on his wrists were deep. He had escaped – somehow – to join his wife and three small children who had arrived a year or so earlier. He made it just in time. In the 20 years since, the UK Government has rejected more than 32,000 Afghan asylum seekers. And while the Home Secretary is planning to appeal to local authorities for help, this may be temporary fix – the Nationality and Borders Bill is still working its way through Parliament. But when you’ve seen the evidence, when you’ve heard those desperate mothers, there is no debate about what we should do.

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There was a queue outside the school supplies shop this week. School uniforms can be expensive and the parents in the queue did not look wealthy. This is not a wealthy part of town. But it’s that time of year when school uniforms have to be bought. There are arguments for and against school uniforms but, if we’re having them, they must be affordable. According to a local headteacher, the only items which have to be bought from the specialist shop are the school jumper and the school tie. But the school jumper is £22.50 – an item of equivalent quality is just £4 in the supermarket. The extra cash would mean those correctly dressed children don’t go to school hungry.

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Meanwhile, members of Young Christian Climate Network are walking in relay from Cornwall to Glasgow, taking their message to world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference. Their arrival in Coventry this week means they’re halfway there. They’ll be greeted in the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral by local campaigners. They have been offered overnight hospitality by the Salvation Army and meals will be provided by parishioners of St Thomas More, Church, Knoll Drive. Again churches and other local charities are on hand to help. Again, let’s hope world leaders hear the message.