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On the Ground Report from Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

Posted: April 29, 2016

This afternoon I heard a ground report from Kevin Hartigan, CRS Regional Director for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, when I attended a meeting in St. Paul sponsored by the Global Mission and Outreach Office of the Archdiocese. Kevin has worked throughout the world for Catholic Relief Services. Any place there is conflict, war, famine, refugees or conflict, Catholic Relief Services is on the ground bringing clean water, setting up mobile clinics, distributing food, sharing valuable information, proving hygiene and sanitation, and offering trauma counseling. They are also creating “child friendly centers” to help refugee children. Many children have already missed three to five years of school due to war. They are educating refugee children so they will not become a, “lost generation.”

One of CRS’s greatest strengths is over 30 years of experience building capacity with local Catholic Churches, religious orders, governments and non-profits. They are working in-country with local staff and volunteers to rehabilitate abandoned structures and create safe places for women and children to live so they no longer have to live on the streets. Currently over 50,000 refugees are stuck in Greece. This has forged new alliances with the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has spoken eloquently on the refugee crisis.

In the last five years, the Syrian War has created 4 million refugees, 10 percent live in camps. Over 250,000 people have died. Catholic Relief Services has spent over $95 million dollars in the Middle East trying to build peace, to restore communities and to alleviate suffering. The majority of refugees want to return to their homes when peace returns.

Catholic Relief Services is considered a trusted partner in countries where they have operations. They have a long legacy of serving in war torn countries and bringing hope. Kevin’s message from the field is gratitude. He wanted to thank all of the generous supporters at local parishes who make it possible for them to carry on their good work. He sees first- hand how solutions are built from the ground up and change people’s lives. Operation Rice Bowl is one of the largest sources of funds for Catholic relief work.

One of the other critical roles that CRS plays is doing interfaith peace building. They support anti-trafficking measures, helplines, safe houses, and efforts to end abuse and all forms of exploitation, including legislative advocacy. CRS also works with local farmers to develop “fair trade”, local cooperatives and “fair trade” global supply chains for their crops. This allows farmers to support their families and to stay on their land.

Although the picture on the ground in the Middle East is harsh, the good news is that wherever there is suffering the Catholic Church is in the center, extending love, hope and compassion. Thank you for supporting Operation Rice Bowl! If you would like to learn more about the work of CRS, please visit www.catholicreliefservices.org and http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-christian-persecution-20160326-story.html