Ethiopia: The Church at the service of the poor and vulnerable

The Church in Ethiopia, through its Social and Development Commission, is working hard to provide much-needed support to people in need. Last year the Commission implemented 189 projects in various parts of the country. In 2021, the Church plans to mobilize over 2.8 million Birr ($6.05 million USD) to benefit more than seven million citizens.

In Ethiopia, amid socio-economic challenges further exacerbated by the Covid-19 health emergency, locust infestations and conflict in some regions, the Church is committed to come to the aid of those who have become vulnerable due to the massive negative impact of these situations.

Last year alone, the Church implemented 189 social and development projects in different parts of the country worth about 2.5 billion Birr (approximately $6.05 million USD), benefitting more than six million citizens.

A statement issued by the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) on Monday explained that the Church’s projects in 2020 were presented by an external auditor at the General annual Assembly of the Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission held on 31 March.

The Church also plans to implement projects worth 2.8 billion Birr ($ 6.78 million USD) to benefit more than seven million citizens in its work plan for 2021 which was presented, discussed and approved during the assembly.

The Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission provides charitable services to Ethiopians through its 13 diocesan development offices and religious congregations regardless of religion, race, gender or status. The services provided include health, education, food security, promotion of women’s and children’s life, amid others. The Commission also offers emergency responses and socio-pastoral care for refugees and returnees.

Conflicts, pandemic, disasters

In 2020, natural and man-made disasters have had a significant negative impact on the community the statement notes. “The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, desert locusts and floods affected the life of the society at large. War and conflicts have resulted in the deaths of many, displacement, looting and destruction of property in various parts of the country.”

For months, a conflict between the government and Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has cost thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Even before the hostilities, the country had been facing a deteriorating socio-economic situation because of the ongoing health emergency and an infestation of desert locusts, which greatly affected food security.

The Church’s closeness to conflict areas

To further complement the efforts directly implemented by the Commission, the Catholic Church in the country has raised over forty million Birr (approximately $969,000 USD) from international donor partners in response to the pandemic emergencies. These funds were used to purchase and distribute foods, non-food items, and Covid-19 protective equipment for staff working in Catholic health institutions.

The Church also raised over eighty million Birr ($1.9 million) and is providing financial and food assistance to people affected by conflicts and war, particularly those in “Tigray, Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz and other regions.”

At the same time, all Catholic Church Relief and aid organizations in the country who are members of the Caritas Network Forum of Ethiopia, Dioceses, Congregations and Church institutions have supported the people affected by war, especially in Tigray, to the tune of one billion Birr ($24.2 million USD) in food and non-food items, water trenching and health assistance.

Moreover, each diocese, particularly Adigrat and Bahir Dar-Dessie, directly affected in the conflicts, is “providing spiritual, socio-pastoral, financial and in-kind assistance to the victims.” Delegations of the CBCE have also made solidarity visits to these two Dioceses and visited the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful affected by the conflicts.

Appeal to warring parties

The Bishops took advantage of the opportunity presented by the statement to reiterate calls for an end to the conflict and for all parties to embrace dialogue. They stressed their denunciation of “all human right abuses, killing of innocent civilians, displacement of people and destroying of properties.”

The CBCE also restated its resolve to continue implementing various projects that could benefit people in the country.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ

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