Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

The Catholic Church serving people with HIV and AIDS

Please go to the following website reference to download a You-Tube video produced by Catholic Relief Services (USA) on the Catholic Church’s response to AIDS – this is the first of a series of such videos:

The Church is one of the biggest care providers for those who have HIV and AIDS around the world.

As AIDS affects every aspect of a person’s life, the Church takes a holistic approach to the disease, focusing on the physical, intellectual and spiritual needs of the person.

Up to 33 million people were living with HIV in 2007. It is a disease which is particularly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, where countries are often poor and services are not always available.

The Church has unprecedented access to people with HIV and AIDS across the world and on a grassroots level. It has a global network of schools, churches, orphanages, hospices, organisations such as Caritas plus an army of faithful who offer their services.

Besides healthcare, it gives counseling to people who have been affected by the illness and offers spiritual guidance to help them face what is possibly one of the toughest challenges of their lives. It also provides the nutritious food which is vital in ensuring antiretroviral treatment is successful.

Other areas the Church works in include educating and informing people about the risk of AIDS and how to prevent it. The Church also focuses its efforts on reducing the stigma and discrimination which often accompanies HIV and AIDS.

Advocacy is a big part of its work. For example, Caritas Internationalis is currently urging governments and pharmaceutical firms to produce child-friendly HIV and AIDS medicines and to improve testing, as many children currently die due to lack of medicines.

All in all, the Church works hard to help people with HIV and AIDS live in hope and, when the time comes, die with dignity.

Filed under: AIDS, Caritas, Catholic Relief Services

World Fair Trade Day is May 9

Because we’re going to break the world’s record for the largest Fair Trade break on World Fair Trade Day, May 9th! We’re an ambitious bunch even when we’re relaxing.

Breaking the Record: The World’s Biggest Coffee Break

Catholic Relief Services is rallying its troops to get ready for World Fair Trade Day on May 9.

The CRS Fair Trade Fund is a proud sponsor, and we invite you to join us in celebrating the power of economic justice! Fair Trade supporters around the country will take a Fair Trade Break in an effort to break last year’s record, when 50,000 people in Finland took a Fair Trade Break. Find out how you can participate .

Filed under: Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, consumerism, Fair Trade, Social Justice, Spirituality

EJ Dionne’s op-ed in WASH POST: Catholic Relief Services mentioned….

Living Their Faith in Afghanistan

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Thursday, December 25, 2008; A19


Each era depicts Jesus in its own way, and the late historian Jaroslav Pelikan wove a brilliant book around this theme. He traced images of Jesus from the earliest days of Christianity as “the rabbi” and “the king of kings” to more modern portrayals as “the teacher of common sense,” “the poet of the spirit” and “the liberator.”

The Jesus of Christmas, Pelikan tells us in “Jesus Through the Centuries,” owes a particular debt to Saint Francis of Assisi, who preached “a new and deeper awareness of the humanity of Christ, as disclosed in his nativity and in his sufferings.”

It was Saint Francis who, in 1223, set up the first creche in the Umbrian village of Greccio, depicting Christ’s infancy in the less-than-regal circumstances of the manger. Saint Francis founded a religious order that stressed liberation from the tyranny of material possessions and, Pelikan notes, the role of Christians as “strangers and pilgrims in this world.”

The world is still blessed with many actual Franciscans. But in our time, there is another community of “strangers and pilgrims” whose satisfaction comes not from accumulating material goods or political power. They are the relief workers and community builders lending their energy to the poorest people in villages and urban slums around the globe.

Many of them are motivated by religious faith, others by a humanistic devotion to service, but few who are in the trenches worry much about what their co-workers believe about an Almighty. These souls are among the happiest and most personally satisfied people I’ve encountered, suggesting that Saint Francis was on to something in preaching freedom from materialism.

Matt McGarry, at 30, has enormous responsibilities that he wears lightly. The coordinator of programs for Catholic Relief Services in Afghanistan, he has mastered many trades. His organization focuses on agriculture, water and education in places where the farms are very small, the water is often dirty and children, particularly girls, have never had the chance to go to school.

McGarry doesn’t think of himself as a saint or even as anything special. “I don’t pretend that my life is too arduous or difficult,” he says. “I get to work with incredibly intelligent, committed people. I’ll definitely be up to this for a while.”

Catholic Relief Services is, of course, a faith-based organization, but what’s striking is that the faith of its employees is inherent in what they do, not something they wear on their sleeves. McGarry says his co-workers are not in the field to preach Christianity, even if the fact that they are there bears witness to their faith. Indeed, in most Afghan villages, seeking converts among Muslims would be dangerous. The group avoids preaching the Gospel, and its Afghan staff is overwhelmingly Muslim.

McGarry explains: “We’re not in the business of getting people into heaven. We’re in the business of getting them out of hell.” That would be “hell” in the earthly sense, and it has a specific meaning in a country that has been ravaged by war for three decades.

Those who undertake the sort of work McGarry does are inevitably seen as idealists, but their passions are invested in highly practical undertakings: how to staff a school and protect its children; how to dig wells; how to improve production on small family farms; how to form cooperatives; how to market crops.

Underlying much of his group’s work, McGarry says, is a concern for improving the status of women, both by empowering them in the economy and by offering them educational opportunities they had been denied. He is struck, above all, by the passion of Afghan parents for the education of their children. When a threat arose to one of Catholic Relief Services’ schools, the villagers were indignant. “Nobody’s closing our school,” they told McGarry. “We don’t care if they kill us. We don’t care if they kill our children.” The threat was dealt with, and the school reopened.

It is strange how a faith that traces its origins to a stable, preaches love and demands good works is so often invoked to condemn, to divide and to denounce. “We tend to forget that charity comes first,” wrote Thomas Merton, the inspiring monk who died 40 years ago this month, “and is the only Christian ’cause’ that has the right to precedence over every other.”

McGarry and his co-workers understand those words and live by them. They represent, I suspect, what Saint Francis had in mind 800 years ago when he built his manger.

Filed under: Catholic Relief Services, consumerism, morals, Social Justice, Spirituality

Catholic Relief Services Hoping for More Aid

ZE07103007 – 2007-10-30

Catholic Relief Services Hoping for More Aid

Group Says It Needs More U.S. Funding to Get Food to Starving


BALTIMORE, Maryland, OCT. 30, 2007 ( Noting Benedict XVI’s affirmation that “food is a universal right” for all people, Catholic Relief Services says it needs more support from Congress to reach its goals.

Less than two weeks after World Food Day, when the Pope echoed the U.N. affirmation that food is a right, the U.S.-based charity organization is not sure it can keep its aid programs above water.

A sharp rise in the prices of commodities such as wheat, corn and soybean oil — in addition to the rising costs for shipping and freight — has forced the international development agency to press for increased funding from Congress.

Without additional funding, the organization said it might face a massive shortfall in its budget for the 2008 fiscal year, which could force it to abandon more than 800,000 impoverished people who are dependent on its food aid programs.

Spokesperson John Rivera says the situation is very serious, because once funding is delayed and a program is stopped, it becomes difficult to start up again.

Contingency plans

U.S. law stipulates that 75% of food aid resources should go to programs that relieve chronic hunger, however only 25% has been delivered in recent years, with most of it having been used for emergencies.

Catholic Relief Services argues that while it is obviously necessary to respond to emergencies, the efforts should not undermine long-term programs that help millions of people feed themselves and their families.

“Basically we’re doing a lot of lobbying on Congress; the big audience we need are congressional representatives,” Rivera explained. “We have staff on the hill that are constantly communicating with the staffs of key Congress people and members of the Senate, and it’s a matter of getting them to increase funding for the food aid in a particular program called Food For Peace.”

The Catholic organization anticipates it will require several hundred million dollars in order to maintain its programs at the same level it provided in the 2006 fiscal year.

Regarding the Food For Peace program, Rivera says “the U.S. government funds to the tune of about $1.2 billion per year and we’re thinking they’re going to have to increase that by between $100-300 million, which is a drop in the bucket in terms of the U.S. budget, but it is still a lot of money.”

Filed under: Caritas, Catholic Relief Services,