Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Operation Rice Bowl in Niger

Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) is the official Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, and calls Catholics in the United States to reach out in solidarity with the poor around the world through the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, learning, and giving. By participating in these four activities, we come to understand our call to be a part of one global community. This is from the latest ORB e-mail.
In this fifth week of Lent we visit a community in Niger that finds that with a combination of faith and technology, water can be restored to a long-dry well. Located southeast of Algeria in West Africa, Niger is one of the world's poorest countries. As much as 63 percent of the population lives below the poverty line in this arid country, which is often beset by extended drought. In 2005 a severe locust infestation on top of drought caused food shortages for more than 2.5 million people.


" Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? ... For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink." Sunday's reading from Isaiah (43:16-21) resounds with the impossible reversals that accompany Easter hope. God is doing something new, even in the midst of thirst and hunger. Those who have committed to following the risen Christ know that they are commissioned to bring that "something new" to a thirsty world. In your prayer this week seek the ways that God might do something new in you. Examine the dry, desert places in your life and ask God to show you how they might be channels for Christ's hope and grace.


Without water we die, much sooner than if we lack food. More than 50 percent of the human body is composed of the stuff. It covers more than 70 percent of our planet. As part of your Lenten fast, consider skipping a meal today and drinking only water. Prayerfully reflect on the source of the water you drink. How far did it travel to get to you? What structures are in place to ensure that it arrives clean? What resources go into its delivery and its packaging? Pray for those who do not have the benefits of such a purification and delivery system. Let the hunger pangs of a missed meal remind you of the global cry for "something new."

The people of the Nigerien village of Marmari were sure they had been cursed. Long ago, the story went, when water was plentiful a stranger had visited the region and asked a villager for a drink. The villager, who was on his way to the field, refused, saying he had no time to do women's work for a stranger. Offended, the visitor said that one day the village would have greater sympathy for his thirst. After that the water became steadily less plentiful. Wells had to be dug deeper and deeper, until they could no longer reach the water table below. The people could not remember a time when water was plentiful. In 1994, CRS secured funding for the village to dig a new well. The skepticism of the villagers mounted as months went by and the workers were forced to drill deeper and deeper. CRS secured more funding, the villagers contributed to the labor, and finally the masons hit water. Mamari now boasts the deepest well in the region. While the old women of the village admitted they had doubted the project would succeed, the masons reminded them that as the men labored in the hot sun day after day, the women had never allowed their water bowls to go empty.


This week, instead of buying a bottle of water or a soda, fill a container from the tap and place the money you would have spent into the Rice Bowl.