By Sarah Mac Donald - 03 March, 2015
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh has been gift wrapped with a massive red ribbon to mark the launch of the ‘FleshandBlood’ campaign, a cross border partnership between the Churches and the health services.
The ribbon, which took four hours to install, is 200 metre long, 2.5 metre high.
The initiative aims to encourage parishes to see blood and organ donation as a part of their giving and to encourage people to become advocates for blood and organ donation within their family, friends and community, potentially helping to save thousands of lives each year.
Monday’s launch included speeches by Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Richard Clarke of the Church of Ireland, Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland and Paul McElkerney of the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service.
Welcoming the initiative, Archbishop Eamon Martin commented, “The FaB campaign calls on all of us to recognise the importance of being an organ or blood donor, and it challenges us to recognise the need to respond with an act of generosity and love. It aims to raise the profile of donation within our Churches and encourages donation as a personal gift.”
Representatives of those who received blood or organs in the past, and those who have lost loved ones as a result of a lack of blood or organs attended the launch on Monday.
Parishioners and representatives of the health boards were also present and the special celebration which was followed by midday prayer.
Dr Eddie Rooney of the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland explained the need. “In Northern Ireland and the Republic, around 800 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant, with 96,000 people receiving blood transfusions every year,” he said.
“We hope that many more lives will be saved and transformed through the generous commitment made by the Churches in Ireland to raise the profile of blood and organ donation, placing it on the agenda for the Church.”
The two Primates were already advocates for donation before this event.
Archbishop Richard Clarke commented in St Patrick’s Cathedral, “The Church is an organism that is characterised by its giving nature; its people are characterised by being giving people. So, when there is need across Ireland for more people who would give the gift of blood in life, or of organs after earthly death, this is an opportunity for giving of which all should become aware.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin added, “The challenge of the fleshandblood campaign – to see blood and organ donation as a part of our giving within the Church – is one I encourage all to consider; that we might mirror God’s perfect gift to us in His Son by giving the gift of life ourselves.”
The event kicks off a week of activity by the Churches, culminating in a further launch at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin on Friday hosted by the Cathedral Dean, Very Revd Victor Stacey, who will welcome the Archbishops and health service representatives to the historic Lady Chapel.
The Dublin reception will feature contributions from Stephen Cousins (Irish Blood Transfusion Service) and Colin White (Irish Kidney Association) alongside the inspirational story of Colin Clare, recipient of two separate organ transplants.
On Monday, Stephen Cousins commented, “As blood donation services, both the IBTS and NIBTS have been very fortunate to benefit from the strong values and altruistic beliefs of donors, regularly giving of themselves to help others. We are particularly pleased to have the support of the Churches across Ireland to raise awareness of the constant need for blood donation and enable us to reach into communities to help us maintain supply for all our hospitals.”
The two events follow the Christmas Day message broadcast on RTÉ from the Archbishops who, as part of their commitment to raising the awareness of donation, dedicated their annual joint message to meeting blood donors and people whose lives have been transformed by organ donation.
Founded as a partnership between Kore and NHS Blood and Transplant in 2013, the FleshandBlood campaign has already witnessed widespread support across churches, community groups and from government ministers in England, Wales and Scotland, with over 35,000 local church leaders having been resourced.
The impact has been so great that other faith groups working on similar concepts are also being supported by the organisers of the campaign.
The FleshandBlood campaign has been sponsored by Give.net in association with denominations and organisations including the Church of Ireland, Catholic Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Church of England, the Salvation Army, Methodist Church, Catholic Church of England and Wales, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church In Wales, Church of Scotland, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Hope and Evangelical Alliance.
3,000 blood donors are needed each week in Ireland, while one in four people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives.
Over 1,000 Irish people receive transfusions every week in Ireland. Approximately 70,000 patients will have transfusions in Irish hospitals this year.
A unit of blood lasts for just 35 days. There are currently 650 patients awaiting transplantation. One donor can potentially help nine other people.