One of the highlights of Afri’s year is the Annual Doolough Famine Walk and 2015 was no exception. The walk encapsulates many elements, from the tragic story which it commemorates to the reality of continuing famine and food inequality today; the local and the global, connecting Ireland, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the world. The breath taking beauty of the landscape and the way in which Delphi Lodge has now embraced the story adds another dimension. East Timor was the focus of the 1993 walk, which was led by Tom Hyland and Timorese students Dino Rai and Jose Lopez. The walk is also a generator of ideas and images, a place to plant trees and potatoes, to sow seeds to sing songs and recall stories.
In May 1994, Don Mullan and I left from the walk to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. On that occasion Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and his wife Sunandra had just led the Famine Walk and unveiled a memorial to Mahatma and Michael Davitt in the famine graveyard in Swinford. Gandhi, of course had strong links with South Africa, spending many of his formative years there before returning to India to lead the independence movement.
In 2015, I left the Famine Walk to fly to Dili, capital of the first newly independent state of the 21st century, Timor Leste. I last visited Timor in 1999, as part of a human rights delegation including Fr. Michael Lapsley and Robbie McVeigh from Derry. We met with many groups and individuals on that occasion including the leader of the resistance Xanana Gusmao, who was in prison in Jakarta at that time. Soon after he was released and a referendum was held in which the people overwhelmingly voted for independence.