by Joseph Chebli
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. Motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching to promote human development and serve Catholics in the United States to live in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world. Guided by the 7 principles of Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs), CRS operates in more than 110 country.
Created in 1943, the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States established Catholic Relief Services to help war-torn Europe and its refugees recover. During World War II, CRS’ work focused on the resettlement of war refugees in Europe. Unfortunately, CRS’ work did not end when the war ended, and 75 years later, the world continues to be plagued with wars, natural disasters and abject poverty. Regardless of the reasons of human suffering, and god knows they are many, we are constantly called to be our “brother’s keeper”.
CRS works with local organizations around the world to help poor and vulnerable people overcome emergencies, earn a living through agriculture and access affordable health care. Invited by local bishops of the recipient countries, CRS assesses and assists the local communities to become independent and fulfill their full potential as a community as well as individual members of society. CRS expertise in the fields of agriculture, health, education, micro-finance, water and sanitation, justice and peace-building, youth development and emergency response and recovery has earned them the respect and appreciation as one of the top non-governmental agencies worldwide. The amazing thing is that they are Catholic, and uphold Catholic teachings without wavering.
One of the health projects CRS is embracing for the next few years is to stop the spread of malaria in the African continent. In 2017, CRS implemented a $315 million portfolio of 18 malaria programs worldwide reaching more than 105 million beneficiaries in 14 countries.
Another aspect of CRS’ projects is to promote social justice, solidarity and compassion through timely emergency and recovery actions that address the needs of the most vulnerable. In taking a comprehensive approach to international disaster relief, and as experienced first responders, CRS provides lifesaving help to get survivors back on their feet. Then they assist people to obtain the tools and skills they need to manage their own recovery. These projects build on local systems to ensure long-term success. One example is the Syrian refugee crisis. While Many Syrian refugees across the Middle East have been displaced for several years and struggle with family separation, grief and finding how and where to live with stability and dignity, the toll on children is significant. CRS, and the various local Caritas, such as Caritas Lebanon, and other local partners continue to expand support for them.
While providing assistance to the international community, CRS also offers us, living miles away, the opportunity to enter meaningfully into solidarity with our neighbor. The Act of the Apostles (3:1-10) describes Peter healing the lame beggar on the way to the temple. The beggar who asked for alms was “gazed” upon by Peter and John who then asked him to “look” at them. To enter into full and deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters we therefore must “see, judge and act”. CRS presents us the opportunity to understand and to open our heart and mind to the rest of the hurting world. From its inception 75 years ago, CRS has not stopped reflecting the generosity of the American Catholic society, by simply offering to the world what God has so gifted each one us.
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