Catholic Free Press

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  • Sep
  • 8

Action for Somalia

Posted By September 8, 2011 | 3:46 pm | Commentary
CNS PHOTO By Lori Pandiscio A few weeks ago, I clicked on my cnn.com homepage and was confronted by a disturbing picture of a malnourished child from Somalia. I was moved with compassion. At first I was going to email my Bishop and ask what “the church” is doing to assist the famine relief effort in Africa. Then I thought, Lori, you and fellow Catholics are “the church.” What are you going to do?

CNS PHOTO

By Lori Pandiscio

A few weeks ago, I clicked on my cnn.com homepage and was confronted by a disturbing picture of a malnourished child from Somalia.  I was moved with compassion.
At first I was going to email my Bishop and ask what “the church” is doing to assist the famine relief effort in Africa. Then I thought, Lori, you and fellow Catholics are “the church.”  What are you going to do?  I went to the CNN website, Impact Your World and learned that 12 million people are facing a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa.  A famine was declared in parts of Africa.  Thousands have been fleeing Somalia, walking for days in stifling heat in search of food, water and shelter. Nearly half a million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease.  A grim article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from Kenya, tells of a 6-year-old boy, Ahmed, whom he encountered in a refugee camp.  After walking 10 days with his father in sweltering heat, Ahmed was suffering from malnutrition. Dr. Gupta graphically explained the undignified death by starvation, which is neither quick nor painless.
So … what is the Catholic community doing?  Here is an opportunity for Catholics to evangelize – to give witness to our faith and make an impact in the world by contributing to this cause. I went to the Catholic Relief Services website (crs.org) and learned what CRS is doing to assist refugees in Africa.  CRS, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community, strives to “alleviate suffering and provide assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality.”  Though not implicit in their self-disclosure, CRS is an evangelizing organization. As with most humanitarian crises, assistance is needed through monetary donations.  On the website, there was an invitation to light a votive candle and offer a prayer, which I did:  “All loving God, may our world community feel the suffering of Your people in Africa and be stirred into action on their behalf. Tell each of us what we can do, and may we listen to You.”
Since seeing that initial picture of the malnourished child and other equally disturbing photos, I have been asking God, what can I do?  What I heard was:  pray, donate, be informed and raise awareness.  But how can my few dollars make a dent in such an overwhelming situation?  The answer: If millions of people donate it will amount to millions of dollars.
According to a 2011 Georgetown University study, “The US Catholic population is currently 77.7 million.”  There is hope.  Donations do make a difference.
Over the past 8 years, CRS has contributed to fight the effects of the recurrent drought in Ethiopia by drilling wells 1,000 feet in to the earth to tap water.  More wells need to be built to service a growing number of people who are flocking to water points, hence more monetary resources are needed.
During this time of economic hardship and natural disasters affecting many people in our own country, as well as Haiti and Japan and other areas, there are growing requests for assistance everywhere we turn. Many of us get weekly requests for donations.  Some may feel this is one more plea for yet one more crisis, for people who do not live in our country, may not be of our faith, and are not helped by their own governments.  Yet, I cannot look at another picture of a malnourished child, turn and shake my head, and not make some contribution or do something on their behalf.  The Gospel does not make distinctions about who we are to assist. Jesus does not exclude any groups of people from those we are called to give to. In the Gospel of Matthew 25,  Jesus tells us what we as a Catholic community are called to do, “…for I was hungry and you gave me food…thirsty and you gave me something to drink…sick and you took care of me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Our sisters and brothers in Africa are thirsty, hungry, sick and dying.  We can assist by donating, praying, getting informed, and raising awareness.  Have you prayed for the people of Africa personally or as a parish community?  Have parishes held a second collection for the CRS Relief Fund for Africa?  What do you hear Jesus asking you to do?
How we respond to those questions illustrates how we live out the essential mission of our church – to evangelize.
How we answer those questions speaks to how we manifest key principles of Catholic Social Justice teaching (the dignity of the human person and the preferential option for the poor).
How we answer those questions is an indicator of our faithfulness to the Gospel.
How we respond to those questions demonstrates how the Eucharist that nourishes us on Sunday is enfleshed in our everyday lives.
How we respond to those questions reveals the vitality of our parish communities and how well our diocesan community gives witness to our faith – evangelizes.  What do you hear Jesus asking you to do?  Will you listen and respond?
– You can donate to CRS by phone at 800-736-3467; online at http://crs.org; or by mail to CRS, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090.
Lori Pandiscio is a member of St. Anthony’s Parish, Fitchburg. She’s a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council’s subcommittees on Evangelization and Social Justice.