An Advent of dignity: the story of Zahoor Alam

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

In November 2022, Caritas Bangladesh invited Development and Peace and other Caritas Internationalis members to an international partners’ meeting to help review its emergency response program for Rohingya refugees. Delegates visited the camps in Cox’s Bazar that house the world’s single largest refugee population. This year’s Advent stories were gathered in and around those refugee camps.

Caritas Bangladesh built a new disability-adapted shelter for Zahoor Alam after he lost his land and livelihood in the wake of the Rohingya crisis.

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“I had a small shop and my own little plot of land,” 35-year-old Zahoor Alam recounted. It was not much, but the family got by on the knickknacks that Alam sold and the little he could cultivate.

All that changed drastically in 2017, when the first big groups of Rohingya refugees from Burma (Myanmar) streamed into Alam’s village in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. It was happening in dozens of villages across the Ukhia subdistrict.

A generous welcome

“We did not have a lot, but we helped them as best we could,” Alam said, recalling his community’s response to the arriving refugees. “We gave them rice if they needed rice. We gave them shelter if they needed shelter.”

That welcoming attitude was reflected in national policy. Speaking at the United Nations about the Rohingya, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that her country’s “choice was to save their lives or to close the border and let them face ethnic cleansing. We chose to save their lives for the sake of humanity.”

The decision was widely lauded, including by Pope Francis, who said, “[The] spirit of generosity and solidarity which is a distinguishing mark of Bangladeshi society has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees….”

Now, nearly a million Rohingya refugees, over half of them minors, live in Bangladesh.

Early on, Caritas Bangladesh realized that the host community’s needs were no less important than those of the refugees.

Alam said, “You changed the life of a homeless, disabled man. You gave me back my dignity!”

A massive crisis

Long persecuted like many other minorities, the Rohingya, a Muslim people in Burma’s northern Rakhine State, had trickled into Bangladesh in several small spates over decades. The 2017 influx, however, was of an altogether different scale.

In August 2017, violence erupted between a rebel Rohingya militia and the Burmese army. By that October, more than 600,000 Rohingya had fled the brutal persecution that Canada recognized as constituting genocide. Burma is now being sued in and investigated by international courts.

Now, nearly a million Rohingya refugees, over half of them minors, live in Bangladesh.

An overlooked people

It was the sheer numbers that changed the game. Alam and his neighbours wanted to remain helpful, but they were just too poor themselves.

The Bangladeshi government moved in quickly to control the situation. International humanitarian agencies followed close on the government’s heels, and formal refugee camps began being set up.

Caritas Bangladesh was one of the earliest respondents. With grants from Global Affairs Canada and generous contributions from ordinary Canadians, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada has consistently supported its emergency response program. The program provides shelter; water, sanitation and hygiene; protection; education; disaster risk reduction; and livelihood services to thousands of Rohingya refugees.

“But no one was helping us,” Alam said glumly. It was something many in the impoverished host community began noticing. “We really felt very bad.”

A sharp downturn

Life had never been easy for Alam. Providing for his wife and two daughters aged four and five was a struggle. “I am a disabled person. I need a crutch to get around,” he explained, adding, “Then, my shop and my land were gone.”

The shop was lost when the government widened the road it abutted to improve access to Camp 19, for which Alam’s land had been expropriated earlier. “I lost everything, even my dignity,” Alam lamented.

“There are hundreds of poor people like Zahoor Alam in this host community,” Caritas Bangladesh program officer Mohammed Shariful Islam said. “This crisis hit them hard and strained their patience.”

An effective response

Early on, Caritas Bangladesh realized that the host community’s needs were no less important than those of the refugees. With the support of Development and Peace, they began providing the most vulnerable host-community families with cash-for-work opportunities; agriculture and home gardening training; and training and support for small business development.

These initiatives help augment household food production, nutrition and incomes. They also reverse the resentment that some in the host community had begun to feel against the refugees.

A welcome transformation

Because of his disability, Alam was prioritized for receiving support. “We realized that his most urgent need was for housing,” Islam said, “So we built a shelter for him that is adapted to his mobility needs.”

Gradually, Alam’s life began turning around. Participation in cash-for-work schemes and the cultivation of subsistence crops like corn and vegetables on a small plot adjacent to his new shelter also allowed him to earn a small income. “I can now send my daughter to school,” he said contentedly.

Alam loves his new home, too. “It is very comfortable and convenient,” he reported. He especially appreciates being able to move around in his house and yard unaided. He gushed, “It feels khoob bhalo (very good)!”

“Many, many thanks to Caritas Bangladesh and to your Canadian donors,” Alam said, “You changed the life of a homeless, disabled man. You gave me back my dignity!”

In dozens of countries and hundreds of communities across the Global South, the lives of thousands of people like Zahoor Alam are transformed through the generosity of our supporters and the labour and love of our partners.

In this season of giving, please consider making a donation so that our partners can keep restoring dignity.

People and Planet First Part 2

By Dean Dettloff, Animator for Central Ontario

The year 2022 marks the 55th anniversary of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, and we are excited to continue our work together this fall!

Over the years, Development and Peace has supported many partners in their struggles for alternatives to unjust global political and economic structures. Our efforts contributed to the success of Nobel Peace Prize winners like Mayan K’iche’ activist Rigoberta Menchú in Guatemala (in 1992) and Nelson Mandela (in 1993), who led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. In 2017, another of our partners, PAX, received the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

But at Development and Peace, we know that no one becomes a hero of social justice alone, and for every person or group recognized by an honour like the Nobel Peace Prize, there are multitudes more on the frontlines of the struggle. In the first part of our People and Planet First campaign, we introduced three such frontline partners: CEHPRODEC in Honduras; Development and Partnership in Action in Cambodia; and the Development Council of Andohatapenaka in Madagascar. Each of these organizations has been instrumental in supporting grassroots activists, farmers and land defenders, and they are training the next generation. Who knows who the next Nobel Peace Prize winner supported by our partners might be?

In the meantime, as we continue our People and Planet First campaign this fall, we have two major tasks: renewing our movement and deepening our advocacy.

A new recruitment drive

To plant seeds for the next 55 years, Development and Peace launched an official recruitment drive on September 24 that will last until December 3. Our goal is to recruit 550 new members. Becoming a member costs a one-time fee of just $10 and is free for people under 35. Share Year-Round monthly donors are also automatically considered members.

At Development and Peace, everyone has a “who” and a “what”―who recruited them, and what makes them stay. You might have had a conversation during a coffee break, bumped into someone a few times at rallies, or heard a member give a parish talk during a campaign. Maybe you stay with us because of our unique practice of partnership, our commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, or a profound experience you had on a solidarity trip or during an advocacy action. These stories are what make Development and Peace a living and breathing movement. We want to multiply those “whos” and “whats” this fall!

Every new member recruited during this drive will be entered, along with the person who recruited them, into a draw for an all-expenses-paid trip to Montreal, where they will have the opportunity to meet one of our partners coming to Canada on an in-person solidarity visit*.

To help you with recruitment, Development and Peace is providing a new membership postcard, a new institutional brochure and more resources, all available to download and print on our website. We will celebrate our recruitment drive with a new member party on December 3, 2022.

Continuing our advocacy for legislation to rein in Canadian corporations

New members also mean more hands to carry out our campaigns!

Despite the pandemic, Development and Peace members turned out in force last fall, collecting nearly 25,000 petition signatures and meeting 36 Members of Parliament, calling for Canada to adopt mandatory human rights and due diligence (mHREDD) legislation.

We know the road will be long to achieve such legislation that would compel Canadian companies to prevent abuses of human rights and the environment throughout their supply chains and would give affected communities outside of Canada legal recourse when things go wrong. That’s why this fall, we will continue to push for this legislation and expand our efforts.

Since launching the campaign in 2021, we have already seen new developments. Private Member’s bill C-262 touches on aspects of mHREDD. One of our partners, CEAS in Peru, also wrote an open letter in the spring, calling for mHREDD legislation in Canada. Through due diligence advocacy, we have a chance to amplify the voice of people in the Global South.

Have you already run the petition campaign at your parish? See if you can encourage a neighboring parish, another justice group or a church from another denomination to take it on!

Have you already met with your MP? Follow up with them and find out what they’re doing to advance due diligence legislation in Parliament. There are 338 MPs in Canada. See if there are any nearby who have not heard about mHREDD. We want to make it so that no MP can say they have never heard about mHREDD, thanks to the hard work of Development and Peace members across the country.

As we take our People and Planet First campaign back into our parishes this fall, let us come together in a spirit of solidarity, ready to multiply our efforts as we join with our partners in the Global South! Let us plant good seeds that can be celebrated and harvested 55 years from now and further.

* Because visa regimes in Western countries like Canada are deliberately and unfairly restrictive against people from the Global South, we cannot predict which of the international partners we invite will actually be able to visit Canada.

A call to Canada’s collective conscience

By Kiegan Irish, Animator for Eastern and Northern Ontario

At the event co-hosted by Development and Peace animator Kiegan Irish (top left), author Joan Kuyek questioned common assumptions about the indispensability of mining and charted a course of action for international solidarity. (Jeremy Milloy/Providence Centre)

In capitulating to mining industry interests, the Canadian state is complicit in gross abuses of the land and environmental rights of Indigenous and impoverished communities across the Americas. That was the stark takeaway of an event I cohosted for Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada on September 22 at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library in Kingston, Ont.

Over 50 people from across Canada attended Chains of Gold: Extraction, Repression, and Solidarity in Canada and Latin America, a trilingual webinar (English, French and Spanish) co-organized with the Providence Centre for Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation.

The panelists were Donald Hernández, a human rights lawyer who directs CEHPRODEC, one of our partner organizations in Honduras and Joan Kuyek, a noted activist and the author of Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry. Their presentations underscored the importance of our People and Planet First campaign and the connections between our advocacy work in Canada and our partners’ work in the Global South.

Defending the defenders

Hernández gave an overview of the accompaniment and legal aid that CEHPRODEC provides to land defenders standing up to the extractive industry. This work is critical in Honduras, one of the world’s most dangerous countries for land and environmental defenders.

Hernández explained that because poor rural communities lack the time and resources to acquire expertise in complex mining and property law and international trade frameworks, CEHPRODEC also educates them about these issues and their rights and legal protections.

He said that although much hope is vested in the new Honduran government’s progressive election manifesto, the repression of land defenders continues, and legal structures remain disadvantageous to Indigenous communities. Hernández recalled the criminalization and persecution of Víctor Vásquez and Sonia Pérez, whose cases Development and Peace has highlighted.

Hernández decried the jarring disproportion between the tiny quantities of minerals extracted and the enormous amount of waste and destruction by the mining industry. He lamented the incalculable social and ecological harm inflicted by unscrupulous mining companies, many of which are Canadian. Asked by an audience member what Hondurans thought of Canada, Hernández replied, “For those whose lands are stolen and poisoned by mining companies, Canada is synonymous with mining!”

Indefensible ideologies

Kuyek elaborated on Hernández’s discussion of the logic and logistics of mining. Examining its ideological foundations, she noted that the mining industry describes everything besides the ore it covets as “overburden.” In this worldview, rock, soil, plants, animals and whole ecosystems are waste products.

Mining profits are short-term benefits derived by externalizing profound harms onto communities, miners and the environment, Kuyek explained. She described how the mining industry expertly exercises control over governments and policymaking through lobbying, financial incentivization and crafty mythmaking. It portrays itself as completely necessary to modern life, jobs, green technology, progress and development. The Canadian state enthusiastically reproduces these myths, Kuyek said.

Activists organizing to oppose mining must seize the narrative, Kuyek urged. We must ask hard questions. Are there not more just, more sustainable ways to meet our needs? Once the real costs of mining are considered, does it really constitute development?

How we can build a better future

Hernández and Kuyek made the case for us in the new imperial core of the wealthy West to organize against abusive extractive projects, in solidarity with their victims. This is in line with Development and Peace’s mission of pursuing “alternatives to unjust social, political, and economic systems.”

To dismantle what Kuyek has called “the power structures in Europe and North America,” we need to transform Canadian society to reflect a vision of justice and peace; to not purchase our comforts at the expense of the poor and the Earth; and to ensure that our desired energy transition for a liveable climate does not depend on the voracity and craven destructiveness of the mining industry.

You can do your part by signing and sharing our campaign petition for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence laws to prevent and redress Canadian corporations’ overseas abuses of human rights and the environment. You can also meet your Member of Parliament to apply pressure to act. Contact your local animator to discover other ways of supporting our movement. Please also consider making a donation to support the frontline work of organizations like CEHPRODEC.

Will we ignore starving Somali children?

By Dr. Abdi Tari Ali, Deputy Country Director, Trócaire Somalia

A child is screened for malnutrition with the mid-upper arm circumference test at a camp for internally displaced persons in Somalia. (Trócaire)

To mark World Food Day, we bring you a guest editorial by Dr. Ali, whose lifesaving work in Somalia is partly funded by Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada through our membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

World Food Day is October 16, and all I can think about is how so many people in my country are desperate to access food.

Millions of Somalis are already living with famine-like conditions. And it is the most vulnerable who are paying the deadly price. When will an official famine be declared? Tomorrow? Next week? But to the children, women and men who are struggling to scrape together a meal, such a declaration only means that the world didn’t care enough to act in time.

The last official famine the world saw here was in 2011, when many estimate that half of the 250,000 people who died because of hunger had already passed away before the famine was “officially declared.” At that time, I was serving in Trócaire Somalia’s stabilization centre.

We treat malnourished children under the age of five as well as pregnant and lactating mothers. And yet, I have never seen conditions as bad as they are now.

When children come to our centres, they are so weak they are gasping for breath. Children like Hodhan who, at 12 months old, weighed just 5.1 kilograms when she came through our doors. She was so malnourished and dehydrated that even the colour of her hair had changed.

“I did not have food to feed her every day. We needed to buy water and food, which are expensive, and we do not have the means to earn a living… it has not rained for the last four seasons, this has hiked food and water prices. We can’t afford to meet the needs of all the family members,” explained Hodhan’s mother, Lulu.

For one month, we supported Hodhan by giving medical care, including therapeutic milk which cost $120. One hundred and twenty dollars to save a child’s life! But right now, nutrition service delivery is completely overstretched: the response and funding are not keeping up with the scale of this crisis.

We work with communities who are used to living with poverty. In an average month, we used to treat 160 patients in our centres, but we are currently treating five times that number. What you see in the clinics is heartbreaking. You struggle to even put in an IV when the children have no muscles. Right now, we are trying to save as many lives as possible.

And every day it is getting worse.

More than a million Somalis have had to leave their homes because of the prolonged drought. They would have struggled with feeding their families even if food prices had stayed the same. Last year, families needed approximately $55 a month for food. Now with the price of food and clean water skyrocketing, they need more than $150. What are these families to do now?

We live in a global village, where news can move throughout the world at the speed of a click. Yet, on this World Food Day, how many will ignore the millions starving in Somalia? Will you?

Please consider making a donation to help Dr. Ali and our partner Trócaire continue saving Somalis from starvation.

The trial of a truthteller: defending a persecuted Honduran journalist

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

Honduran journalist Sonia Pérez faced persecution and intimidation after reporting on the eviction of an Indigenous community from its land. (Radio Progreso)

United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 21/12 “Calls upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference, including by means of legislative measures ….” In Honduras, however, legislative measures have been used to persecute rather than protect a journalist.

A voice from below

Sonia Pérez is part of a network of grassroots Honduran journalists trained and mentored by the Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC) and Radio Progreso, with the support of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada. These community correspondents serve a vital social function, reporting from remote areas on issues and events affecting impoverished peasant and Indigenous peoples.

Pérez’s journalism draws on the training she received through a rural human rights diploma program run by CEHPRODEC, another of our Honduran partners.

An eviction and an arrest

On May 18, 2022, Pérez went to cover a police operation in San José, in the La Paz Department. Following a complaint by Juan Argueta, a powerful local businessman, the Public Prosecutor’s Office had ordered the eviction of a Lenca Indigenous community from its lands in Nueva Palestina.

That day, 70 National Police officers, accompanied by some 200 of Argueta’s employees, violently executed the eviction order, destroying homes, irrigation facilities and foodgrain stocks. They also arrested Pérez and 30 others on charges of usurpation and the illegal modification of boundaries.

Radio Progreso challenged Argueta’s claim on the land, citing the National Agrarian Institute’s 1999 recognition of the local Lenca Indigenous Council’s title to it and denounced Pérez’s arrest for simply doing her job (article in Spanish). The Public Prosecutor’s Office insisted it was not criminalizing Pérez for her journalism but prosecuting her for her alleged role in a complex land dispute (statement in Spanish).

A pattern of abuse

Pérez’s supporters counter that clubbing a journalist with her subjects is itself abusive. She is being defended by ERIC’s lawyer, Dunia Pérez, who said, “There is no doubt that criminal law is used to deter legitimate resistance by Indigenous communities and peoples defending their territories. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed concern about a pattern of the misuse of the criminal justice system in Honduras.”

All I have done is cover the truth…. But I now feel impotent, threatened and slandered for my work.

Sonia Pérez, correspondent, Radio Progreso

Last year, Development and Peace had highlighted CEHPRODEC’s defence of Víctor Vásquez, a Lenca leader who was similarly legally persecuted for resisting a land-grab.

A measure of justice

On June 15, a court released Pérez and the other detainees from jail on conditions that included not contacting one another or Argueta, staying off the disputed land and regularly signing a police register (article in Spanish). A human rights collective noted that this effectively muzzled Pérez, who asserted that although she was ethnically Lenca, she was not a member of the council (article in Spanish).

ERIC continued fighting the case tirelessly while Radio Progreso publicized it nationally. Then, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Coalition For Women In Journalism brought international attention to the matter.

Finally, in late June, a court vacated the charges against Pérez and her co-accused, ruling that they were based in a retroactive misapplication of the law and a failure to recognize the Lenca people’s land title (article in Spanish).
Relieved, Pérez reiterated, “I know the guys from the Indigenous council, and their struggle is a just one. They have lived on their lands from generation to generation, and the lands belong to them.”

A continuing threat

Despite the vindication, Radio Progreso reported in August that the Lenca community remains fearful for its land tenure and is struggling to recover from the disruption and destruction that the eviction caused (article in Spanish).

Pérez’s privations, too, have not ceased. She is being harassed by hostile media who have bought into Argueta’s narrative. She has also noticed intimidating strangers prowling around her neighbourhood. Fearing for her family’s safety, Pérez even moved from home temporarily. Another constant fear is that there may be an appeal against her acquittal.

“All I have done is cover the truth, and report a news story,” Pérez said. “But I now feel impotent, threatened and slandered for my work.”

Our response

ERIC-Radio Progreso is part of our ongoing Voices Without Borders in Defence of Lives and Lands project funded by Quebec’s Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie under its Nouveau Québec sans frontières program.

Latin America programs officer Mary Durran said, “This project supports defenders of rights like Sonia Pérez. It is training a network of rural correspondents in Honduras to cover issues concerning poor, remote communities that commercial media often ignore in addition to helping threatened journalists. This is an important contribution to independent journalism.”

Thanks to ERIC’s efforts, Pérez was admitted into a government program for threatened human rights defenders in July. This gives her access to a dedicated police helpline. Unfortunately, such nominally protective measures have proven ineffective in the past.

That is why Development and Peace’s executive director, Carl Hétu, wrote to Elizabeth Williams, Canada’s ambassador to Honduras, urging her to raise Pérez’s case with the Honduran government. He framed this request in the context of Canada’s commitment “to defend human rights and freedom of the press.”

Grateful for this support, Pérez said, “Your concern for my fate makes me feel better. It makes me feel that I am not alone; that my work has not been in vain.”

How you can help

You can help Sonia Pérez by sharing her story widely to raise her profile. Also ask your local animator about sending her messages of solidarity.

To help protect rights defenders on a larger, more global scale, please back our petition calling Canada to adopt strong laws to prevent its corporations from abusing human and environmental rights overseas.

Devastating floods in Pakistan: a chance to help twice over

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada has allocated $40,000 to help our partner Caritas Pakistan cope with the worst flooding in the country’s history.

We are also calling on Canadians to give generously right now, while the Government of Canada is matching donations dollar for dollar (up to $3 million) until September 28, 2022. We are participating in this Humanitarian Coalition scheme as a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Millions affected; thousands displaced

While Pakistan’s lowlands have been lashed by unusually heavy monsoon rains since June, a heatwave linked to climate change has been rapidly melting glaciers in the highlands. Consequently, one-third of the country was reportedly under water by the end of August.

Across 116 of Pakistan’s 160 districts, international agencies, including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the World Health Organization (WHO), are reporting that:

  • Over 33 million people have been affected by the flooding
  • About 1,400 people have died and 12,700 have been injured
  • With over 1.72 million houses damaged or destroyed, nearly 800,000 people have been displaced
  • Some 755,000 heads of livestock have been lost
  • Over 6,700 kilometres of roads have been damaged
  • Over 1,460 health facilities have been damaged

The WHO also fears the exacerbation of ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19, diarrhoea, typhoid, measles, leishmaniasis, HIV and polio. Worryingly, the meteorological department is forecasting fresh wet spells over the upper catchments of all major rivers.

Pakistan’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, has lamented the injustice of this climate disaster, noting that her country contributes less than one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, Pakistan is one the ten worst-affected countries in terms of long-term climate risk.

An immediate, effective response

With Development and Peace’s support, Caritas Pakistan will support 13,500 flood-affected households in 17 districts. Over the coming weeks, Caritas Pakistan will provide:

  • Food packages to 4,500 households
  • Hygiene supplies, drinking water and portable toilets to 4,500 households
  • Kitchen and bedding sets to 4,500 households
  • Debris clearing supplies to 1,200 households
  • Health services to 10,000 people through 60 free mobile clinics
  • Educational and psychosocial services to 300 children at six temporary learning centres

Caritas Pakistan will use its long-established community connections, extensive local knowledge and links with the authorities to ensure that these relief efforts are culturally sensitive, well-coordinated and effective and that they reach the most vulnerable households.

It is up to us to step up

To deliver and expand on this response, Caritas Pakistan is counting on our support. Please give generously to help the people of Pakistan. Your donation will be doubled until September 28.

After the deluge: responding to the floods in northeastern India

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

For over a month since mid-May 2022, northeastern India experienced torrential rainfalls that left catastrophic flooding and landslides in their wake. Affected areas include much of the state of Assam and parts of the neighbouring Meghalaya state. Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada has committed an allocation of over $136,000 to help our partner Caritas India respond to this emergency.

Widespread devastation

Although it has received little Western media attention, the problem is immense. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations estimated that 1.1 million people in over 1,700 villages across 35 districts had been affected by mid-June. A month later, Caritas India estimated that the number of affected people had increased fivefold. In Assam alone by the end of July, India’s National Emergency Response Centre was reporting that:

  • Nearly 200 people had drowned or been buried under landslides
  • Over 25,000 houses had been destroyed and over 280,000 were badly damaged
  • Livestock losses had exceeded 54,000 heads
  • More than 742,000 people were living in over 4,000 relief camps
  • Over 240,000 hectares of cropland had been affected

There is almost nothing left in my home―neither food, nor materials to cook food. Everything was washed away by the flood.

Parboti Chawra (right), Thepelaguri village, Assam

These reports have been borne out by Caritas India’s own field observations. They are deeply concerned about food security because over half the households in a region already impoverished by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have lost 30 to 70 per cent of their food resources to the floods.

Help where it is most needed

In responding to this situation, Caritas Canada will focus on the most underserved populations, who have been identified in consultation with government agencies, other non-governmental organizations, local dioceses and grassroots community partners.

Relying on its strong local networks and experience, Caritas India will reach people in isolated areas of five of the worst-hit districts, where food security was already known to be precarious. Priority will be accorded to households that are headed by single or widowed women and those that include young children or disabled persons. Additional care will be taken to target tribal and low-income families and other traditionally excluded groups.

I was woken by the flood at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning. By the time I got out of the house, the water was up to my chest. I waited, trying hard to find the road. When the army came by with a boat, I was finally able to reach high ground. My family escaped, but we had to leave everything behind. Here in Camp 2, we don’t have enough shelter from the rain. Sometimes, we cannot even find food.

Shefali Das, Jathera village, Assam

A multi-pronged approach

With Development and Peace’s support, Caritas India will reach 40,000 people in 8,000 households over the coming year. Women and girls will constitute over half of the people served. The immediate and medium-term response will include:

  • Cash transfers to 800 households to help the poorest people meet basic nutritional needs
  • Financial support to 400 families to help them repair their homes
  • Hygiene, sanitation and health and safety information sessions for 40,000 people
  • The distribution of 2,000 hygiene kits to 10,000 people
  • The repair of 225 toilets serving the sanitation needs of 1,125 people
  • The repair and maintenance of 175 handpumps, restoring water supply to over 5,000 people
  • Livelihood support for 1,200 farmer households through the provision of seeds, supplies and training and help with restoring connections to markets

How you can help

Please consider making a donation to help our partners sustain such efforts that save lives and restore dignity to our most vulnerable sisters and brothers in India and around the world.

Over the years, the solidarity and generosity of people like you have allowed Development and Peace to respond to many emergencies. In India, these have included the COVID-19 crisis; floods in 2017, 2009, 2008 and 2001; the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004; ethnic violence in 2003; and earthquakes in 2005 and 2001.

Development and Peace pays tribute to a partner and colleague killed in Mali

The staff and members of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada are deeply grieved by the death of Koman Barry. Our dear friend and partner headed the Kayes regional office of the Association malienne pour la sécurité et la souveraineté alimentaires (Malian Association for Food Security and Sovereignty, AMASSA).

Mr. Barry lost his life to an armed attack on June 1, 2022, while he was returning from a mission in Yélimané, in southwestern Mali.

AMASSA is the Malian member of the Afrique Verte International network and one of the partner organizations involved in our recently announced SANC2S project, which focuses on food security in the Sahel. Since 1994, AMASSA has worked to strengthen the production and marketing capacities of small farming collectives and local food processing units.

Programs officer Ann Dominique Morin, who worked with Mr. Barry on the SANC2S project, said, “Mr. Barry was a pillar of partner Malian partner organization and of the Afrique Verte network. He with passion and dedication with the communities of Kayes for many years, and his commitment was a source of inspiration. We can only imagine the pain that his family and colleagues must be feeling since his death was announced.”

Development and Peace’s executive director Carl Hétu said, “We are totally shocked and extremely saddened by the death of Mr. Barry in such brutal circumstances. He was well known to us and respected throughout Mali as a man of conviction and compassion. This is a major loss for all who worked with him. On behalf of Development and Peace, I extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Barry’s family and colleagues.”

Development and Peace recognizes the commitment, hard work and courage of the staff of our local partner organizations, who take risks in carrying out their mission. Today, we pay tribute to a colleague who died at the hands of criminals while working to improve the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable people. In communion with us, we invite you to bear Mr. Barry and his colleagues in your thoughts and prayers.

A plea from Peru to the Canadian mining industry

The Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social (Episcopal Commission for Social Action, CEAS) has written an open letter to delegates at the 2022 Convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), which will be held in Toronto from June 13 to 16.

CEAS, a long-time partner of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, is the official organization of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference that works for the defense and promotion of human rights in the light of the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

In the open letter, Bishop Jorge Izaguirre Rafael, president of CEAS, notes that the Peruvian mining sector, in which Canadian companies play a major role, “has not brought the promised improvement in quality of life for most communities in the mining areas.” He also calls on the PDAC to support Bill C-262, “which would require Canadian companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence before beginning operations in another country.”

Orientation Assembly: meet our keynote speaker

One of the highlights of the Orientation Assembly, which will be held from June 16 to 19, 2022, in Halifax, N.S., will be the keynote address by His Eminence Michael Cardinal Czerny, SJ, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Cardinal Czerny has had a distinguished career as an institution builder, educator, peacemaker and advocate for the poor and the dispossessed.

He was born in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and moved to Canada with his family at the age of two. He attended Loyola High School in Montreal, Que.; was ordained a priest in 1973; and earned a doctorate in human sciences, social thought and theology from the University of Chicago in 1978.

In 1979, he founded the centre that is now the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto, Ont., and directed it until 1989. From 1990 to 1991, he was director of the Central American University’s Institute for Human Rights in San Salvador, El Salvador. He helped mediate the United Nations-led negotiations that brought an end to the 12-year-long civil war in the country.

For a decade ending 2002, Cardinal Czerny was secretary of the Jesuits’ Secretariat for Social Justice in Rome. In 1995, he served on a UN inquiry commission sent to Haiti in the wake of a coup d’état.

From 2002 to 2010, the cardinal worked in Africa, founding and directing the African Jesuit AIDS Network, a collective of Jesuits responding to the HIV epidemic; teaching at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya; and collaborating with the Episcopal Conference of Kenya.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as an expert for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The next year, he was recalled to Rome as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In 2017, Pope Francis appointed him under-secretary responsible for migrants and refugees to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He participated in the 2018 Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment and served as special secretary of the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region.

Pope Francis created and proclaimed him as Cardinal in 2019 and appointed him prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in April 2022.

We are honoured that he will be joining us for this important moment in the life of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada.