TRÓCAIRE is the irish word for mercy or compassion and is the name of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland
Trocaire Lent Stories
Maria and her family
“There were many many police, army and security contractors at the eviction. I begged them not to burn my house and crops but they went ahead. They could have killed us but we ran away.”
José Cuc Cuz (45) describes the night his family was forced to flee their home.
In the Polochic Valley in northern Guatemala, indigenous communities live on lands their ancestors lived on for hundreds of years. But the land is valuable. Big businesses want it to grow sugarcane or palm oil, or to use it for mining. Families such as José’s live in fear of waking in the night to see bulldozers and soldiers gathered to evict them.
In 2011 they were one of 750 families to be evicted to make way for large sugarcane plantations. Several people were injured and one man was killed. Their houses were burnt to the ground.
Maya and her family
“I don’t feel at peace,” says Maram. “There is no peace for me. I know just war.”
Maram is with her husband, Hassan, and their daughter, Maya. They are in the cramped and cold room where they live.
They will never call it ‘home’. Home is many miles away, back in Syria, where they lived a good and happy life before war took everything from them. “There are no windows and doors” says Hassan (37). “It is so cold during winter and so much rain gets inside. I don’t feel safe living here because people and animals can get in easily”.
The room has barely any natural light, and is made of bare concrete. There are exposed wires hanging from the ceilings and the window is simply a gap in the concrete with a plastic sheet pulled over it. It is no place to raise a child. Both Maram and Hassan worry about the life they can provide for their young daughter, who is one of the girls on this year’s Trócaire box.
This family are some of the one and a half million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Lebanon is a tiny country, less than half the size of Munster. It has a population of only four million, and is still reeling from its own civil war and conflict with neighbouring Israel.
More than half of all Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty and over three quarters live below the poverty line. Life for these refugees is extremely difficult. Driven by desperation, many consider taking the dangerous option of being smuggled on a boat across the Mediterranean towards a new life in Europe.
For Hasan and Maram, returning to their homes in Syria is their dream.
Patricia and her family
“He came to our house and pulled a matchstick from his pocket. He took some grass, lit it and set fire to our house.”
Evelyn (36) from the Gulu District in northern Uganda describes the night in 2015 when the uncle of her late husband tried to burn her and her young family out of their home.
When her husband died in 2011, Evelyn lost more than her life partner: she lost her security. Relatives of her deceased husband claimed that the land she lived on was rightfully theirs.
Around the world, millions of women like Evelyn are denied the right to land. If their husband’s die, they are left with nothing and no way to feed or care for their children.
With her husband’s relatives seizing control of her land, Evelyn was soon left with only a quarter acre of land. It is not enough to feed her children.
“When we have run out of food, I go to work in other people’s gardens for money,” she says.