In recent years, religious organizations have been making effort to offer real assistance to the disadvantaged. For example, catholic charities help to alleviate poverty and suffering by providing emergency relief, health services, and social assistance. Nonetheless, some faith-based organizations have been accused of impoverishing people through seed sowing, tithes, etc. Others have been criticized for legitimizing poverty and inequality. In light of this, how is religion related to poverty?
A survey done by Gallup poll revealed that there is a positive and strong connection between privation and strict adherence to religion. Also, another study suggests that people in places without strong social safety structures turn to religion for comfort. Indeed, this is a reality in many places across the world. Unfortunately, some spiritual leaders take advantage of people who turn to the church for help and deprive them of their finances and other possession.
Such actions have raised a lot of questions regarding the role played by religion in the lives of the poor. But the Catholic Church seems to live by example through the works done by its affiliate organizations. That said, let’s look at Catholic charities in Africa and some of the projects they have accomplished.
Catholic charities in Africa
1. Jesuit MissionsIgnatius de Loyola established the Jesuit Missions in 1534. The charity is headquartered in London and its mission is to support the poor around the world. Jesuit Missions serves communities in various ways including providing financial help and promoting social justice. Its vision is to have a world where the dignity of poor and marginalized people is defended. Also, the charity envisions a world where justice, compassionate service, and generosity of spirit are practiced as the church demonstrates Christian faith.
One of their core values is to empower local communities. They work with and respond to the need of people in a sustainable way. In Africa, Jesuit Missions are very active in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Chad, and Zimbabwe. They mainly help the marginalized and vulnerable people to live a peaceful and stable life. This Catholic charity has carried out different projects in several African countries. In Uganda, it has supported many refugees who have sought safety in the country. Also, it has offered education aid to many refugee children.
In Kenya, Jesuit Missions has helped many students in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, to develop skills that afford them employment. Also, the charity has over the years supported orphans whose parents have succumbed to HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, it has been active for over 150 years. It has supported urban refugees by offering health services and helping them to access education. Besides, Jesuit Missions welcomes people of goodwill to support its work through donations.
2. Catholic Relief ServicesCatholic Relief Services (CRS) is a humanitarian agency established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1943. The agency is among the catholic charities that offer emergency relief around the world. It is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland while offering its services in five continents. The charity has about five thousand employees around the world. Initially, its purpose was to offer support and help to refugees of war-torn Europe.
However, in the mid-1950s, a confluence of events including the end of colonization in many countries enabled CRS to expand operations. It opened up programs in 25 countries on different continents including Africa. Other than offering emergency relief, the agency nurtures peaceful and just societies and supports development programs. In Africa, Catholic Relief Services has offered help in over 30 countries. Its service in the continent is around three main areas: disaster relief, agriculture, and health. CRS is most active in Nigeria, DRC Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
In recent years, CRS has offered hygiene and water services to internally displaced persons affected by the conflict in Borno State, Nigeria. The aim is to alleviate suffering and disease for the displaced people particularly women and children.
In 2019, the Ugandan government called on the UN, catholic charities, and other humanitarian agencies to help families affected by floods. CRS responded and offered a five-month food emergency assistance to the affected families. It also supported existing health systems and provided agricultural assistance to about 4,900 households. Since 1996, CRS has run peace-building projects in Chad. It supports communities that have been destabilized by conflicts and food insecurity.
3. Catholic World MissionThe Catholic World Mission (CWM) was established in 1998 by a Legionary priest. Like other Catholic charities, this nonprofit organization works to help and support the spiritually, intellectually, and physically poor. CWM aims to ignite the spirit, illuminate the mind, and alleviate suffering. It achieves this goal through disaster relief, education, evangelization, and promoting dignified living.
CWM uses the trinitarian approach to achieve success in every project. This involves identifying the community in need, having a dedicated overseer, and working with generous supporters. Catholic World Mission is active in 10 African countries including Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi. After the COVID-19 outbreak, the organization attended to the sick in Ghana by providing hand sanitizers, food, gloves, and liquid soaps. Also, it offered mattresses, thermometers, face masks, and other essential supplies.
Since 2007, the Catholic World Mission has been working in Kenya to alleviate poverty. The organization runs a school in the country that offers education to children. Also, it engages adults in community work. Other than that, CWM cares for dozens of homeless individuals including the disabled. In 2015, the organization offered education and proper care to orphaned Congolese children. CWM graciously seeks donations from well-wishers and donors to help the physically and intellectually poor.
4. Catholic MissionCatholic Mission is one of the oldest Catholic charities that date back to 1893. Other than proclaiming the Gospel, this charity seeks to serve people in need. Also, it promotes justice and peace among communities across the world. Catholic Mission funds and offers project-related support to some critical church initiatives in Australia, South America, Asia, and Africa.
This is one of the African charities operating in Ethiopia. It established a scholarship program in the country through which vulnerable children access education. The program provides quality education to children who are not able to go to school. Catholic Mission invites donors to support this and other projects.
In Cameroon, the charity has trained future church leaders in areas that have experienced civil war. Also, it has supported homeless families by providing them with food and medical services. In Ghana, Catholic Mission established a Youth Skills and Enterprise Development Centre. So, the aim of this project is to reduce poverty by empowering youths with skills that widen their employability.
5. Caritas InternationalisCaritas Internationalis, a confederation of more than 160 members from different countries, works to support the vulnerable and poor. It responds to emergencies as well as advocates for a just and fair world. Regardless of religion or race, Caritas aims to build a world that is based on fraternal love and justice. This Catholic charity’s headquarters is in Rome. Caritas Internationalis was founded in 1951. The spiritual and moral principles of stewardship, solidarity, justice, and dignity still guide Caritas today.
Africa Caritas constitutes 46 charity organizations. In the past, these national catholic charities have responded effectively to humanitarian emergencies in their respective countries. Caritas Uganda started in 1970 and some of its main objectives are poverty eradication and providing emergency relief. Besides, its core programs include water and sanitation, agriculture, humanitarian relief, and youth empowerment. So, this national organization has transformed the lives of many Ugandans across the country.
In Sierra Leone, Caritas Internationalis was one of the Catholic charities that responded to the Ebola outbreak in 2015. The charity offered food and medical services to affected families. Also, it provided education aid to orphans and many vulnerable children. Like other African charities, Caritas Internationalis is open for support.
Catholic Charity accused of Distributing Contraceptives
In the past, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has used its funds in partnership with a population control organization to distribute contraceptives in Madagascar. Also, in a different case, the Charity has been accused of offering a grant of $2.789 million grant to a pro-abortion organization. These acts are contrary to the Catholic faith.
In the wake of these discoveries, different groups joined to condemn those acts and even showed dissatisfaction with the services offered by Catholic charities. Also, some pro-life Catholic leaders raised concern that funds intended for good projects were being used to advance the wrong mission. When called upon to dissolve CRS, U.S. Catholic bishops said,
“Based on thorough investigations into the concerns, we wish to assure the Catholic faithful that CRS fully and faithfully adheres to Church teaching in fulfilling its mission of mercy, … The U.S. Catholic bishops stand firmly behind CRS in its commitment to promote and defend human dignity and the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and at every moment in between.”
These accusations come at a time when Catholic charities have been making effort to alleviate poverty and suffering in different parts of Africa. Their emergency relief, medical, and social services have been a source of hope to many desperate families. Also, they have empowered children and youths and made their future brighter. But will such accusations influence donor support in the coming days? Do you think some faith-based organizations are doing more harm than good in Africa? We would love to hear your thoughts.