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.

Mourning a tragedy in Mariupol

Seven lives were lost in a Russian tank attack on this Caritas centre in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Caritas Mariupol)

With Mariupol, Ukraine, just starting to become accessible, news emerged yesterday of a devastating tank attack on the Caritas centre there, on March 15, 2022. Seven people, including two staff members, are known to have lost their lives and the building has sustained significant damage.

Strongly condemning this latest atrocity, Carl Hétu, executive director of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, said, “We are united in sorrow with the entire Caritas family. Our grief and outrage only strengthen our conviction in peace and redouble our solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”

Development and Peace joins Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, in his appeal to the international community to “bring this violence to an end,” expressed in the following interview with Alessandro Gisotti of Vatican News:

“This dramatic news leaves the Caritas family horrified and shocked. We join in grief and solidarity with the suffering of the families and our colleagues of Caritas Ukraine who are living a tragedy”. With these words, the Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John, expresses his condolences for the death of two female employees of Caritas Ukraine in Mariupol. According to local Caritas sources, on March 15 a Russian tank fired shots at the Caritas center in Mariupol, killing the two employees and five of their family members who had taken refuge in the building. The tragic news only emerged yesterday. “We need your solidarity and prayers for the families of the victims”, said the president of Caritas Ukraine, Tetiana Stawnychy. In an interview with Vatican Media Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, emphasizes the value of the testimony of those who, at the risk of their own lives, are helping the Ukrainian people devastated by the war and makes a heartfelt appeal for an end to this conflict.

The Caritas Center in Mariupol has been attacked. At least seven people died, including two women staff members. What are your feelings on this tragic news?

I feel deep sadness and shock at the news of the attack that led to the loss of lives. Caritas Internationalis expresses its profound sympathies and closeness to the families of those who lost their lives and were wounded. Our sadness turns into an appeal to the international community to exert every effort to bring this violence to an end, to return to dialogue, and to see a brother and sister in every person.

What would you say to all the women and men that every day – even risking their lives – are doing their best to help the people of Ukraine?

To the women and men risking their lives, we extend a word of sincere gratitude. You are doing a holy action, holy work. For every good action done selflessly, you are sowing seeds of truth, justice, love and peace that will change the world. God will make sure that your efforts will not be in vain. They will bear fruit.

What can we do to honor the sacrifice of these humanitarian workers of Caritas and all the victims of this terrible war?

We honor the sacrifice of humanitarian workers by praying for them and their families. We believe that God hears the cry of the poor and the just. We honor them by affirming the value of the service rendered by humanitarian organizations that must be respected. We honor them by praying to God and appealing to people of goodwill to think of and work for peace.

Goodbye, but not for good

By Serge Langlois, Executive Director

There have been many challenges over the past few years, including those pertaining to governance, interorganizational relations, funding, union relations and national and international positioning, to name but a few. When I took office on February 1, 2017, the organizational chart did not reflect that there were many vacancies to fill and a management team to reconstitute. At that time, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had also frankly conveyed to me their dissatisfaction with their relationship with our organization. They thought that we did not communicate with them adequately and, as a result, felt that they were being deliberately and intentionally sidelined.

And about our organization’s financial health, the less said the better. It was deteriorating because of a structural deficit that had persisted year after year, threatening to lead us to a disastrous fate if no solution was found quickly.

I came with a professional background in which I had been fortunate enough to work for several years as vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and president of its North America and Caribbean Region; with the United Nations; and the World Health Organization, among others. I had therefore experienced and been involved in relief work after many disasters over the years. I also knew and appreciated the tremendous work done in and the significant impact upon the communities supported by Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada’s partners.

The road we have travelled over the past five years has been fraught with many pitfalls. Yet, always and against all odds, it was important that we stood up for our values and convictions. We had to set our egos aside and invest ourselves in finding solutions for Development and Peace and its partners. Today, I am proud of the work we have accomplished. The achievements of the past few years are a testament to the many positive outcomes that are now the reality of our organization.

We now have a management team that boasts a high level of expertise and enjoys great professional and personal cohesion and fellowship. The human resources climate is healthy and positive and union relations are good and transparent. We have agreed on a new collective agreement in harmony and mutual respect, for which I am very grateful. Relations with the bishops are now consistent and a sense of trust has been restored.

Our sources of self-financing and philanthropy are growing, and the Solidarity Fund, now worth nearly $10 million, will generate a significant annual income to support our activities. Our position within Caritas Internationalis is secure, including our participation in the RepCo (representative council) and internal committees. The recurring structural deficit will be a thing of the past because we have successfully undergone a year of transition. We are now in a consolidation stage that will ensure our future financial security, without a deficit, so we can fund projects and programs with our international partners.

It was with pride in this record that I informed the national council of my intention to not seek another five-year term as executive director of Development and Peace.

As you know, I have dedicated myself without tallying hours or effort, because the values and mission of Development and Peace are close to my heart and part of my deepest convictions for a more equitable world that hears and responds concretely to the cry of the poor.

I wish Development and Peace the best for its future, and I thank the members of the national council and the entire management team for their support and involvement over the past five years. I also salute and thank all the members of the Development and Peace family who make it possible every day for us to achieve our vision and mission, despite the obstacles and setbacks along the way. To all of you, I offer my sincerest tributes and say goodbye, but not for good.

Serge Langlois
Executive Director
Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada

An Advent of resilience: the story of the hardy houses

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

The house in which Laroche Carole lives with her three children survived a major earthquake in Haiti earlier this year.

I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.

Luke 6:47-48

“They still stand tall, although destruction stretches as far as the eye can see,” wrote Vincent Larouche in Quebec’s premier French-language daily, La Presse, on August 19, 2021.

The journalist was referring to a group of exceptional houses that withstood a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that had struck Haiti just five days previously. The houses that Larouche found standing owed some of their sturdiness to the solidarity of thousands of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada’s supporters.

Solidarity after the storm

Days after the devastating Category 5 Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October 2016, Development and Peace launched an appeal for donations, to which Canadians responded with characteristic generosity. That allowed our partners to meet the affected populace’s immediate needs for shelter, hygiene supplies and food and to help women ensure their communities’ food security over the medium term.

Development and Peace had decided to support partners who could help the most vulnerable groups in the remotest regions of the country, where most agencies lacked the connections and capacities to operate and where relief efforts usually reached last.

That decision was pivotal to how the houses that survived the August 2021 earthquake were built.

For the people, with the people, by the people

Our partner, the Institut de technologie et d’animation (ITECA), spearheaded the post-hurricane reconstruction program in the rural Haitian commune of Cavaillon, where hundreds of houses had been damaged beyond repair. Given the limited budget, it was initially decided to rebuild 100 houses.

Before breaking ground, ITECA extensively consulted the local community to properly understand its needs and aspirations. ITECA’s director, Chenet Jean-Baptiste, also did not want “people to passively wait on handouts and relief operations.”

The community wanted the new houses to be earthquake- and hurricane-resistant. To preserve people’s sense of agency, it was decided to make the building process as participatory as possible. These twin imperatives posed several challenges.

Given the added costs that higher-quality, more participative construction would entail, it was finally decided to limit the project to building only 25 new houses. Families were asked to do the site excavation work on their own and to contribute building materials worth just under a third of the $9,000 cost of each new house.

Even this relatively modest contribution proved quite burdensome. Although it took them some time, the families met the conditions cheerfully and proudly. Still, it was not until many months later that the houses were finally built, after scores of logistical hurdles connected to the remoteness of the region were overcome.

Noé Lacombe, the head of a local civil society coalition that collaborated with ITECA on the project, said, “Today people are proud of their houses and the sacrifice they made, in order to build them. It was a process that respected their dignity.”

A proven approach

After she moved into one of the new houses, which she had worked hard to help build, Laroche Carole, a mother of three, said, “I like everything about my new home. I had nothing, but today I have a house where my family can live.” Her sentiments were echoed by Exil Jean-Claude, who called his new house “a great wealth,” especially appreciating that it came with a water tank, a precious amenity in an area where clean water can be scarce.

Built with their sweat and to their specifications, the houses were always cherished by the people. Their worth in the people’s eyes, however, appreciated manifold after the August 2021 earthquake. In addition to claiming over 2,200 lives, the quake destroyed or damaged more than 137,000 houses1. But barring minor damage, mostly sustained by owner-added extensions, those 25 houses stood strong.

Nor was it the first time that houses built with Development and Peace’s support had survived a disaster. Not even the gusts of Hurricane Matthew could destroy houses that ITECA had built after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

These hardy houses are concrete proof of the value and validity of Development and Peace’s long-term, people-centric approach. Only sustained, patient and farsighted work can make communities thus resilient to natural disasters, conflict and climate change. And such work is not possible without your support.

Also read:

  1. Reported by Haiti’s Directorate General of Civil Protection (see report in French).

An Advent of freedom: the story of Víctor

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

Like many human rights defenders in Honduras, Víctor Vásquez was falsely criminalized and imprisoned on questionable charges.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

John 8:36

To some in Honduras, Víctor Vásquez is a habitual troublemaker. He gets in the way of powerful businessmen’s schemes. He thinks the poor have rights. He sheds light on what many would rather keep in the dark. And he doesn’t shut up. Not even when he’s shot!

To his Lenca Indigenous people, Víctor is an embodiment of the quest for justice.

An irrepressible defender of rights

Víctor is a member of the Consejo Indígena de Simpinula (Indigenous Council of Simpinula) and a leader of the Movimiento Indígena Independiente Lenca de La Paz (Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz, Honduras – MILPAH) in Honduras. In these capacities, he advocates for his people’s rights to their ancestral land and helps them resist its illegal privatization.

For this audacity, Víctor and many other Indigenous and human rights defenders like him have been threatened and persecuted for years. Víctor was even shot in the knee when the army violently broke up a farmers’ protest in January 2017.

Unsurprisingly for those who know him, Víctor remained undeterred. His recent troubles have been documented by Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (see original report in Spanish).

An unjust incarceration

In 2018, the poor peasants of Nueva Esperanza heaved a sigh of relief when the state recognized their title to the little land from which they eked out a meagre living. Their joy, however, was short-lived.

Powerful local businessmen who had designs on their land began sending armed thugs to threaten the 32 peasant families, occupy and block access to their land and destroy their crops and livestock. When repeated formal complaints fell on deaf ears, the community sought the help of Víctor’s group, who took up their case with the local authorities.

Stung by this intervention, the businessmen alleged that on July 20, 2020, Víctor and his colleague, José Santos Vigil Girón, trespassed on and damaged their property. Víctor and José, who maintain that they were not even present in the vicinity on that date, were arrested on trumped up charges of criminal damage and aggravated theft in December 2020 and placed in “preventive detention.”

A long-drawn fight

While the theft and damage charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, perversely, a charge of forced displacement, of which the community was actually the victim, was laid against Víctor and José!

Fortunately, their case was taken up by Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada’s partner, Centro Hondureño de Promocion Para el Desarrollo (the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development, CEHPRODEC).

For over a decade, the generosity and solidarity of Canadians has allowed Development and Peace to help CEHPRODEC train, support and safeguard the human, social, cultural, economic and environmental rights of many vulnerable Honduran communities.

CEHPRODEC’s legal team represented Víctor and José through the tortuous legal process. As hearing after hearing went against them, Víctor and José languished in prison. Meanwhile, CEHPRODEC also helped organize protests outside courtrooms, drawing local and international attention to the case.

Canadians, too, became aware of this story when it was highlighted in our ongoing People and Planet First campaign.

Freedom, at last

Finally, after months of unequal courtroom battles against a justice system seemingly stacked against them, CEHPRODEC secured the release of Víctor and José on October 15, 2021.

In his first moments of freedom, held aloft by jubilant supporters, Víctor said, “Firstly I’d like to thank God. I also thank the legal team that took charge of my defence….”

Placing his organization’s concern for Víctor and José in its larger context, CEHPRODEC’s executive director, Donald Hernandez Palma said, “CEHPRODEC has long supported the defence of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the region of La Paz, …where we first accompanied the leaders… to regain possession of the titles that the Honduran State had already granted them.”

Víctor gratefully added, “In this prison, I did not feel alone. I felt strong because of the warmth and support of all my brothers and sisters at the national and international level.”

Víctor Vásquez and José Santos Vigil Girón were released from prison on October 15, 2021.

More struggles, and some hope

Although Víctor and José are free, their charges still stand. CEHPRODEC will continue defending them and several other human rights defenders who face similar intimidation through the abuse of the law.

There is some hope, however, that the tides are turning in Honduras.

In the November 2021 polls, Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Libre party was elected president on a progressive platform. Her party, which enjoys strong support among the Lenca people, has promised to fight corruption and support pro-poor social programs.

While cautiously optimistic, CEHPRODEC, like other civil society groups, remains vigilant.

To continue helping the most vulnerable people defend their precarious rights, our partners in Honduras and around the world need your support.

Also read:

An Advent of transformation: the story of Halima

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

A herd of 15 goats, a communal farm plot, a kitchen garden and a small shop have helped Halima Mohamed Arab secure a dignified living for her large family.

He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Philippians 3:21

Somalia has been ravaged by years of civil conflict and unfavourable weather. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that these adversities have driven 2.9 million Somalis from their homes, 520,000 of whom were displaced in the first 10 months of 2021 alone. Moreover, 1.2 million Somali children are malnourished, and 3.5 million people are facing acute food insecurity.

But for a near-miraculous turnaround, Halima Mohamed Arab and her family would been among those making up these grim statistics.

Many mouths to feed

Like many in rural Somalia, 48-year-old Halima earned a living from her livestock. When recurrent drought wiped out her herd, she was forced leave her home in Yurkud village in the Gedo Region. She and her family settled, with thousands of others, in the Jazira camp for internally displaced persons in the town of Luuq.

With few assets and fewer prospects, Halima had to support an extended family of 20, including her husband, their nine children, her ailing and visually impaired mother, and eight other relatives. “My family had no income, and we were struggling to meet basic needs,” Halima recalled. “We could not afford three meals a day, and most of my children were malnourished.” She could not send the children to school, either.

From poverty to productivity

Halima’s fortunes turned in 2020, when she began participating in a project run by the Centre for Research and Integrated Development (CeRID) in partnership with Trócaire and with the support of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada.

CeRID trained Halima in agroecological food production techniques and gave her access to communal farmland and farming inputs. She also received two goats and joined a women’s savings group.

In the first year, Halima planted tomatoes, squash, green pepper, cowpeas, sorghum and maize. She sold much of her two harvests and even some of their residue as fodder, earning a life changing US$310. She reported using the money “to pay school fees, buy clothes and food, and start a small kiosk.”

From strength to strength

In the second year, a single harvest netted Halima US$570, allowing her to buy six additional goats. Along with the old stock and new kids born over the year, this has taken her herd strength to 15 goats. Halima’s children now enjoy milk in their diet. She also intends to fatten four of the goats for a more lucrative bulk sale.

Halima has also restocked her kiosk with popular merchandise like candies, detergents and food items.

Meanwhile, Halima’s daughter, Qali, has been taking agribusiness and entrepreneurship classes at CeRID’s Agricultural Training Centre for youths. She helps her mother run a kitchen garden that grows tomatoes, peppers and lettuce that the family regularly uses to supplement its breakfasts. There is even enough to often share with neighbours.

Young Qali is also deploying her new skills on Halima’s communal farm plot, using manure and organic pesticides to improve yields.

Lives transformed

Halima’s growing income has substantially improved her family’s lot. One indicator of just how much better things are is that Halima could spend US$210 on her mother’s eye treatment (in a country whose per capita gross domestic product is US$310). ‘‘Thanks to Allah, my mother is no longer in need of someone guiding her all the time,” Halima said. “Her vision is as good as anyone’s after the surgery.”

Across the world, your generosity enables our partners to help thousands of people like Halima take charge of their destinies and achieve health, education, nutrition, security, justice and dignity.

Also read:

Celebrating “a true advocate in heaven”

By Emily Lukasik, Animator for Southwestern Ontario

We join the Diocese of London in sorrow and prayer after the sudden death on Monday, November 15, 2021, of Fr. Matthew George, a beloved priest and an ardent supporter of the mission of Development and Peace — Caritas Canada.

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Matthew 24:36

This was the Gospel reading this past Sunday, which, prophetically, would be Fr. Matt’s last Sunday mass before a car accident tragically took his life the next day. It was also the fifth World Day of the Poor. To those who knew Fr. Matt and his commitment to social justice, this timing was the work of the Holy Spirit.

On Tuesday evening, the members of Development and Peace’s London diocesan council gathered for their monthly meeting with heavy hearts.

Council co-chair Kim Frias, a good friend of the late father, opened with a beautiful prayer from the Dutch theologian, Henri Nouwen that cites Jesus: “It is for your good that I leave, because unless I leave my Spirit cannot come.” She went on to conclude, “Now we have a true advocate in heaven.”

To offset their grief, the group shared joyful memories of Fr. Matt.

Fr. Matthew George is fondly remembered for his charisma, passion, generosity and personability (but not for his chilli-cooking skills).

“I always admired Fr. Matt because he was so much in solidarity with us,” said Bonnie Drago, recalling his passion for the poor and his personable approach to pastoral care. “He was right in there with the people.”

“We were blessed to know him pretty well,” Frias declared, her face lighting up as she described Fr. Matt’s “gift of hospitality,” which included dropping by with “a bag full of groceries” and “multiple types of meat.” She laughed as she recounted a now legendary church chilli contest in which Fr. Matt had wooed the judges with his guitar rendition of Ring of Fire, only to later confess that he’d bought his chilli at Wendy’s!

Diocesan council co-chair Erma Weernink said, “He gave me a voice,” appreciating how strong of an advocate Fr. Matt was for Development and Peace. “When he came to Zurich [Ont.], he introduced Development and Peace to a church that was initially resistant; but that didn’t matter. He had such charisma and genuine honesty that people listened…. He was able to enact change.” She noted that Fr. Matt was on the parish’s social justice committee and even joined the diocesan council for a while.

Members also remembered signs of Fr. Matt’s generous spirit, from his crocheting of a baptism gift during a diocesan council meeting to his renting of a bouncy castle for a high school retreat.

Fr. Matt acquired true national fame in the Development and Peace community when he set up his Buns of Solidarity fundraising page for Share Lent last year. He raised over $3,800 by doing 100 squats a day for 28 days. He clearly knew how to put faith into action!

Because Fr. Matt was such a pillar of his community, his passing was covered on the local news.

During his homily last Sunday, Fr. Matt shared Development and Peace’s fall campaign, a fitting link to the World Day of the Poor. He asked, “Do you look at this world that is so disjointed, such a mess…? What do we choose to see? Do we say, ‘Well that’s just the way [it] works?’ Or do we see God calling us, in the midst of this tumult, in the midst of this brokenness, to proclaim the coming of the Son of man, the day of the Lord? It comes with justice.”

Closing the diocesan council’s meeting, co-chair Frias prayed, “May he look over us and advocate for us and intercede for us because we can’t do it alone.” The group responded with a fervent “Amen!”

Editor’s note: Before fate intervened to turn it into an obituary, this article was to have appeared a few weeks later in our Start supporters series. Fr. Matthew George will, however, remain a star who inspires Development and Peace supporters.

Education: an investment in Afghanistan’s future

By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor

Community-based education entails holding classes in discreet locations within the children’s neighbourhoods, often in teachers’ homes.

“Ignorance is God’s prison; knowing is God’s palace,” wrote the revered medieval Persian mystic, Mawlana Rumi.

In Rumi’s native Afghanistan, Development and Peace — Caritas Canada is helping deliver children from ignorance to knowing through an education project that addresses pressing needs.

Challenges and opportunities

Despite two decades of progress, education in Afghanistan, especially of girls, is expected to suffer significant setbacks after the August 2021 Taliban takeover. Security concerns have forced several aid organizations, including some of our partners, to curtail many activities, especially ones targeted at women and girls. This when under a third of adults and only 17 per cent of women are literate1, and over 43 per cent of primary-school-aged children are not in school2.

However, not all is bleak.

Once enrolled, Afghan children persist in school. Of the kids who start primary school, 85 per cent finish and over 92 percent of secondary school entrants complete all grades3. Investing in Afghan education is therefore as worthy as it is vital.

Bringing the school to the children

In a largely rural province of Afghanistan, many children, especially girls do not go to school simply because the nearest school can be up to 20 kilometres away. That is why Development and Peace is partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for a community-based schools project to bring education to these remote communities.

The three-year project will allow 180 students (92 girls, 88 boys) who are currently in Grades 1 to 3 to continue through Grades 4, 5 and 6. CRS was already supporting these students with remote learning resources when schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To make education safe and feasible for the children, CRS is basing the project in communities in which it enjoys broad-based support and buy-in; running classes in the children’s neighbourhoods in discreet locations, often in teachers’ homes; and delivering the government-mandated curriculum.

To ensure the project’s sustainability, CRS will also work with state schools, school management shura (committees) and government officials to build capacities and plan for eventually integrating the students into mainstream schools.

The government-mandated curriculum is taught in an engaging, child-friendly manner.

A continuing commitment, a capable partner

This community-based education project continues Development and Peace’s commitment to Afghanistan, which began with emergency relief in 2002 and evolved into a broader, longer-term women’s empowerment program.

We have had a longstanding relationship with CRS who, through years of working judiciously and diplomatically across Afghan regions controlled by various rival factions, are well-equipped to manage the challenges posed by Afghanistan’s new realities.

Being run in partnership with CRS, which is one of the few remaining agencies that can operate effectively in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, this project is a means for Development and Peace to continue serving and investing in the future of the Afghan people.

Education is an especially important determinant of Afghan girls’ life trajectories. Girls who stay in school tend not to be married off early and are known to become the anchors of several beneficial longer-term socioeconomic outcomes for their families and communities.

That is why Development and Peace is funding about half the cost of the project. As significant as this is, more funding is needed to expand the project’s scope and scale for wider impact. Your generosity can help sustain and spread this work and give more Afghan children, especially girls, a brighter future.

to help us spread the light of education to more children in Afghanistan.

  1. UNESCO Institute of Statistics. (2021). Literacy Rate. Afghanistan: Education and Literacy. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from
  2. Ministry of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), & Hall, S. (2018). All in School and Learning: Global Initiative on Out-Of-School Children – Afghanistan Country Study.
  3. Ibid.