Aloysius John's Interview to the Vatican newspaper
How are Caritas organizations trying to keep on as many services as possible in the face of mass disruption caused by Corona virus?
At this moment of high crisis and even a tragedy, Caritas continues working to receive, accompany and help those who are affected directly or indirectly by the Crisis.
For the COVID 19, information and awareness building are key focus. People, especially the most vulnerable must have the right to information and get the right orientation to avoid being contaminated.
This is done through awareness raising on the church operated radio and newspaper. In Rwanda Caritas relays the church media message to the communities and builds their awareness; in Singapore, local Caritas has put in place COVID-19 vigilance and recall to everybody the need to adopt good personal hygiene. Caritas Italiana is continuing its mission with the poor through soup kitchens, dormitories to receive people; it provides remote services to the elders through the young volunteers. These are some of the many examples of Caritas being active with the most vulnerable;
At Caritas Internationalis, we put in place a COVID-19 Crisis Cell ad a task forces to monitor, follow-up and provide information and guidance to our network.
Our service to the poorest cannot be stopped by the virus, but by being inventive and taking all the precautions, we will continue to serve the most vulnerable.
In your web site I read that one Caritas worker said that this is a time for an “intertwined net of responsibility” where each of us understands how we can help others. What do you think and what do you suggest about it?
The COVID-19 showed us how interconnected and fragile we are and fighting against the propagation of this virus is also a collective responsibility. At the same time, we also need to cater to the needs of those who are not affected but are collateral victims of this crisis. I wonder how the thousands of Bangladeshi’s who live by working in the open market are managing at this moment. In Caritas, we are also worried about the staff in the poorer countries who may go without a salary because they cannot continue their work. And what about those informal workers who do not have any social security? I think this is the moment to show solidarity, love and care. Pope Francis told us last Friday, “the Coronavirus must also bring out the best in us”. Yes, it must bring out Humanity and our loving care because we are all a human family and we need to live in solidarity as a community. This could be by sharing means, helping those who need support, the work of Caritas for example, and we will certainly need means to help the Caritas in the global south to help those who need help. This spirit will be needed all the more when we get out of this tragedy.
Moreover, I hope what is happening in Europe does not prevent us from caring and sharing with far away neighbors in other continents.
What are Caritas organizations doing in poor countries to defend against Covid-19? What is the situation in Africa or Asia?
At the moment the pandemic has not yet reached Africa. In Asia, countries like India and Sri Lanka have adopted drastic measures. Caritas along with the Church is contributing to building awareness, informing people on the right attitude to have before the propagation of the virus. The right to information and creative ideas are quite relevant inputs and our Caritas are doing that. At the level of the confederation we are assessing the Church medical structures that exist already so that if there is an outbreak, we can take up quick action. In Africa, we are reflecting on how to involve the local church and its institutions including Caritas, in preparing themselves. This is a moment we need high coordination and imagination.
One of the specificities of the Caritas network is to offer prayer services. In the end, when humanity cannot manage, we must have the courage and humility to believe that God can do the impossible. This is what they are doing in Sri Lanka where prayer services are organized, in the Philippines and India to name a few.
In this particular and difficult moment, the volunteers are available or afraid of contagion?
The volunteers have the goodwill and they want to continue working. But we need to impose the principle of precaution and invent ways we can continue to serve.
COVID-19 is a new phenomenon and nobody know how things will develop. I think we need to be careful. Caritas Internationalis has given strict instructions in the Covid 19 platform and the different Caritas have also offered lots of instructions and safety measures for people to be careful.
The global pandemic crisis can lead to discrimination of vulnerable groups in society, such as migrants and refugees?
The COVID-19 has taught us one lesson: humankind has no boundaries, race, caste, religion or economical status. Pope Francis is calling us to live the best in us, that is the humanity in each of us. We need to be aware that we are not immortal and COVID 19 has shown us how in three months the whole world could get into a total panic, lockdown and absolute isolation. It is the moment for us to open our hearts in a spirit global fraternity to receive the other, to welcome the other as oneself.
COVID-19 has shown that every one of us is vulnerable. It has made us understand that we need one another to fight against common enemies.
The Memory of the future must bring us to organize ourselves to fight against the virus of selfishness, to fight against the sin of indifference, and above all cherish the value of the human person.
This is something on which Caritas must continue to work.
How Caritas Internationalis plans to reach all social strata on the planet?
When we say Caritas, we are implicitly meaning the local Church. Caritas is the service of the Local Church. In this sense, Caritas is present in a capillary manner and is in contact directly with the local communities in the parish.
Moreover, Caritas also works with all the religious communities. In Mauritania, the Bishop of Nouakschot sent a press release supporting the government decisions and also asking people to abide by it. This was a means of being in dialogue with the local society and Caritas continues to support this.
So when we say Caritas Internationalis, we are talking about the 165 members who in their unique manner can act effectively and efficiently.
Can the pandemic divert attention to other critical issues such as poverty, violence and persecution? In this scenario, how Caritas Internationalis can act?
Yes, this pandemic must be a moment of “Kairos”. The world cannot be functioning the way it was doing before. We should orient our reflections with a memory of the future, to see how we could be imaginative to keep the momentum of togetherness and solidarity we have felt during the COVID-19.
We need to look for a new order, both economic and ecological, and it has to be integral. The piecemeal approach cannot continue.
We need to combat poverty as we wanted to combat the virus. The virus of poverty is even more serious than COVID 19. We must see how the international debt to the poor or developing countries can be written off and the money is used in each of the countries locally to help the poor to have micro-projects to get out of their situation of poverty. We need to advocate for this. A Church can be a major actor with Caritas because it has the infrastructure, the capacity and the means to do it. But this must be addressed urgently.
The fear for death created by COVID-19 and all that we did to save lives, must lead us to stop killing through war and violence. On one hand, we want to protect ourselves against death and on the other hand, we continue the war that takes away more lives than COVID. How incoherent we are and how selfish are we? If I reason in memory of the future, this is something that needs to be programmed an international conference and- stop the violence and the world leaders put before their responsibilities. This is an important aspect we need to nurture because everybody knows what it means to live in fear of death, losing somebody and this is the moment to address this and STOP THE WAR and CONFLICTS.
Are you convinced that the aid will be accessible to everyone ? How can injustices be avoided?
The Holy Father said, “ we need a new order a new development paradigm”. As said earlier Poverty and injustices are deadlier virus than COVID-19. We need to pray and take the appropriate action for the new order.
Sean Callaghan, President of CRS and Vice President of CI said during the Executive Board, “we must ask our government leaders to reach out to the Catholic network for promoting the different activities of micro development and integral human development”. It is through such activities of advocacy and getting the means, we can continue to serve and fight against the virus of injustice.