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Holy See Cites Caritas work in Democratic Republic of Congo

April 13, 2018 . Address to UN Humanitarian Conference on the DRC

Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, on April 13, 2018, cited the work of Caritas Internationalis o help those suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His remarks came during the Humanitarian Conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) organized by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.

“For its part, Caritas Internationalis, collaborating with and through the local diocesan Caritas agencies, has assisted approximately 790,000 people in emergency situations,” according to the monsignor. “In addition to more than $100 million USD allocated to various projects divided between healthcare and development incentives across the country, including in Ituri and North Kivu, a contribution of $31.9 million USD has been allotted to tackle the current humanitarian emergency in the regions of the Grand Kasai, Tanganika and South Kivu:

  • “by providing displaced persons and households affected by the crisis with food, non-food items, and shelter, as well as delivering food and medical assistance to children and the sick;
  • “by offering early assistance after crises through the distribution of seeds and agricultural tools;
  • “through humanitarian assistance (sanitation, health, education, etc.);
  • “by crisis prevention measures through its humanitarian activity, by monitoring the protection of the population, by minimizing risks and catastrophes, by capacity building and through prevention of violence. The extension of Caritas, through its networking in dioceses and parishes, makes it a major and indispensable player among humanitarian actors.
  • “Caritas is also engaged in post-crisis projects of consolidation of peace (social cohesion) and of socio-economic reintegration of the households affected by the crisis.”

Monsignor Camilleri stressed to the conference the need for a “Humanitarian Response Plan for the DRC… The suffering of millions of innocent Congolese civilians, as well as those of many other populations, who find themselves fleeing from wars and environmental disasters, is very much on the mind and in the heart of Pope Francis.”

Statement of Monsignor Antoine Camilleri

Mr. President,

I am pleased to convey the greetings of Pope Francis to all gathered in this assembly of the high-level Humanitarian Conference on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is with great hope that this Humanitarian Conference may, through a sincere and honest dialogue, meet the needs of millions of persons who are suffering from a lack of food and basic medical resources. Through our efforts, today, may real and sustainable solutions come about in a spirit of shared responsibility, solidarity, and fraternity. From this perspective, the Holy See eagerly acknowledges the generous contributions offered by donor countries to assist the financing of a most urgently needed Humanitarian Response Plan for the DRC. At the same time, it must be said that there is an urgent need for progress on the political level, especially with regard to the commitments made in view of the elections next December, including the organization of an impartial and democratic electoral process, as well as the full and effective implementation of the provisions of the 31 December 2016 Agreement. The National Bishops’ Conference of the Congo (CENCO) requests that the international community accompany the DRC in its electoral process, as well as promote the welfare of the Congolese people while encouraging the Congolese themselves to be vigilant and to take charge of their own destiny.

The Catholic Church is indeed faced with a particularly difficult situation due to the violence that some of its members have suffered in the aftermath of the first peace march organized by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), as well as for the destruction and the killings that are regularly occurring in the areas where armed gangs roam uninterrupted, as in Grand Kasaï, Utembe-Beni, and Djugu, as well as in the provinces of Ituri, in the North and South-Kivu, to name only a few. Most recently, on April 8, the killing of a priest of the Diocese of Goma took place. These armed groups or local militias, whose violent activities are becoming increasingly more aggressive, often attempt to justify their activities by way of ethnic/tribal pretexts, when in reality they are often politically and economically motivated.

The suffering of millions of innocent Congolese civilians, as well as those of many other populations, who find themselves fleeing from wars and environmental disasters, is very much on the mind and in the heart of Pope Francis.

In his Urbi et Orbi address last Easter Sunday (1 April 2018), Pope Francis referred to Africa saying: “We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts, and terrorism.” The Holy See remains ever concerned with the numerous situations in Africa where unrelenting conflicts continue to cause countless victims, massive numbers of displaced persons and widespread destruction.

On several occasions, the Holy Father has expressed his concern regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 19 February 2017 (Angelus), lamenting the escalation of conflicts in the Kasaï, Pope Francis said: “I feel deep pain for the victims, in particular, for the many children torn from their families and schools to be used as soldiers […]. I ensure my closeness and my prayers also for the religious and humanitarian workers who operate in that difficult region; and I renew a heartfelt appeal to the conscience and to the responsibility of the national authorities and the international community, to take appropriate and timely decisions to rescue these brothers and sisters.”

During the Prayer Vigil for the DRC and South Sudan last November 23rd, the Holy Father decried: “How hypocritical it is to deny the mass murder of women and children! Here war shows its most horrid face.” He then launched a heartfelt appeal that those in authority become “artisans of peace”: “May the Lord strengthen in government officials and all leaders a spirit which is noble, upright, steadfast and courageous in seeking peace through dialogue and negotiation.”

Most recently, the Holy Father called for a Day of Prayer and Fasting for the DRC and South Sudan, which was celebrated on February 23 last. In announcing the initiative and inviting non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to join with him, the Pope said: “I launch a heartfelt appeal that we too may listen to this cry and each, according to his or her own conscience before God, can ask: ‘What can I do for peace?’” (Angelus, 4 February 2018).

The ever-worsening and dramatic humanitarian situation in the DRC presents us with a serious challenge to find immediate, effective and sustainable solutions. Since 2016, the Holy See has intensified its aid to the Dioceses of the most affected areas, in particular, those in the Grand Kasaï, South Kivu and Tanganika. To date, the Holy See has distributed more than $500,000.00 USD to rebuild schools, to reconstruct health clinics and to assist those in situations of extreme poverty. Among others, funding has been directed to a number of projects for the training and professional start-up of young refugees, as well as to help in providing work for the victims of the ethnic purges in Katanga, who not enjoying their rights, find themselves without the means of support and the possibility of access to medical care, work and nutrition.

Both the urgency of the humanitarian emergencies, as well as the appeals presented by individual Bishops to the Holy Father, were considered in the allocation of these resources. Among the distribution of funds, some were offered directly by Pope Francis, while others were contributions given by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development or by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Special attention was given to feeding malnourished children and giving assistance to displaced families (in the Archdiocese of Kananga and the Diocese of Luebo); to reconstructing damaged schools and training centers (in the Dioceses of Mbujimayi, Kole, and Kenge); as well as to development programs for widows and single mothers (in the Diocese of Bondo).

For its part, Caritas Internationalis, collaborating with and through the local diocesan Caritas agencies, has assisted approximately 790,000 people in emergency situations. In addition to more than $100 million USD allocated to various projects divided between healthcare and development incentives across the country, including in Ituri and North Kivu, a contribution of $31.9 million USD has been allotted to tackle the current humanitarian emergency in the regions of the Grand Kasai, Tanganika and South Kivu:

  • by providing displaced persons and households affected by the crisis with food, non-food items and shelter, as well as delivering food and medical assistance to children and the sick;
  • by offering early assistance after crises through the distribution of seeds and agricultural tools;
  • through humanitarian assistance (sanitation, health, education, etc.);
  • by crisis prevention measures through its humanitarian activity, by monitoring the protection of the population, by minimizing risks and catastrophes, by capacity building and through prevention of violence. The extension of Caritas, through its networking in dioceses and parishes, makes it a major and indispensable player among humanitarian actors.
  • Caritas is also engaged in post-crisis projects of consolidation of peace (social cohesion) and of socio-economic reintegration of the households affected by the crisis.

Mr. President,

The humanitarian crisis in the RDC has placed some 13 million people at the very risk of survival. Hunger, as Pope Francis says, is not “an incurable disease […] Yet death by starvation or the abandonment of one’s own land is everyday news, which risks being met with indifference. It is therefore urgent to find new avenues, to transform the possibilities available to us into a guarantee that allows each person to look to the future with well-founded trust and not just with some wish” (Address at FAO, 16 October 2017). It is a matter of paying more attention to the needs of those who hold their hand towards us, to those in need of our help.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Copyright © 2017 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.