Monday, 11 December 2017

Lent reminds us to count our blessings

WHAT do we do in Lent? Five traditional characteristics are a time for self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study and preparation for Easter. To this is usually added almsgiving.

WHAT do we do in Lent? Five traditional characteristics are a time for self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study and preparation for Easter. To this is usually added almsgiving.

This Lent my wife, who after a stroke is confined to a wheelchair, and I are following daily the Christian Aid Lent courss â??Count Your Blessings 2015â?� (christianaid. org.uk/lent).

Its main characters are Elema, Bokiya and Galgalo in Ethiopia, where our 11-year-old granddaughter was brought up until she was adopted at the age of six.

The first week is about food and water; Elema explains the tradition that women grind the grain, fetch water and make the food, which men eat first.



The second is about financial security with Galgalo saying how, in line with tradition, he used to make all financial decisions without consulting his wife.

In a country where parents are being urged to understand that girls should go to school as well as boys, Bokiya, who avoided marriage at the age of 13, says in the third week: â??I like education because I can be a self-helper, a strong woman who can help herself.â?�

Mothering Sunday is in week 4 headed â??Genderâ?�. Elema followed tradition and was proud when her daughter got married at the age of 12. Shortly afterwards Elema watched her die in labour. She now campaigns against child marriage and protects girls under 18 from marriage.

Week 5, headed â??Having a voiceâ?�, speaks of communities where women cannot speak in public; Galgaloâ??s community was one of these but women now attend and speak. Galgalo says: â??It is a useful thing to do. It helped us to see that women are valuable and they bring a lotâ?�.

â??Emergenciesâ?� (week 6) often leave women alone and vulnerable, having lost men who were either at work or at home protecting property. Now goats and cows are given to some women in need so that they can have milk for their children and a way of earning money.

Finally, week 7 covers climate change. When Elema was growing up she remembers that the cattle were fat, the children always had milk to drink and it rained regularly. Now this isnâ??t the case.

â??We are facing poverty, we are facing hunger because of the ever-changing climate in this area,â?� she says.

It is interesting how these six characteristics of Lent emerge in this Christian Aid story, which I have only summarised here.



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