Pope Benedict XVI comes to Africa for his first pastoral visit at the end of this month. Then, in October, Bishops meet for the 2nd African Synod in Rome.
Caritas Africa President Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga from Uganda said: “The visits to Angola and Cameroon by the Holy Father and the Synod are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the work of the Church in Africa. It will also be a moment to reflect on the challenges that face people in Africa where, for many, poverty remains an unacceptable scandal. Caritas is at the heart of responding to the needs of the most vulnerable in Africa through its work on humanitarian crises, development and peace building. In Nairobi this week, we have discussed how to work better by meeting common standards, sharing best practices and information, and coordinating our global efforts on behalf of the vulnerable.”
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight said: “The global economic crisis will push more people into deeper levels of poverty. The crisis will also put strains on our work as sources of funding are impacted. The crisis also provides an opportunity to recast the global economic system from one which promotes the needs of the rich to one which promotes all our needs, especially those who have been excluded in the past.”
Delegates discussed the challenges facing the poor and vulnerable in Africa, especially with regards to responding to emergencies, the global economic crisis, climate change, migration, and peace building.
Disasters have increased across the world in both frequency and increasing numbers of people who are affected. Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo top the list of most severe humanitarian crises in the world. The poor are the worst affected in both natural disasters and conflicts. Responding to their needs is central to the work of Caritas.
Participants in Nairobi said putting into place effective measures to lessen the impact of disasters will save lives, such as promoting the use of drought-resistant crops or devising community evacuation plans for flooding. Responding to humanitarian crises that can be sudden or that can be long-term calls for Caritas members to be professional, to be compassionate, to respect the national context and realities of a global response, and fundamentally to be capable to respond to the needs of the poor. The poor guide all Caritas work.
Crises and acute levels of poverty are pushing more people to become migrants. Caritas is in a unique position as an international confederation to provide support to migrants and to advocate for their rights,
Climate change is a factor in the increasing number of disasters, and advocating for action at the international level on reducing its causes and providing the funding for developing countries to adapt to its impact will be a focus for Caritas in Africa.