By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
“Caritas is part of the Church’s mission, the mission of love. It is not right for Caritas to be taken as an NGO.” These were the words of Archbishop Jude Thadeaus Ruwai’chi of Dar es Salaam, during the opening of the recent General Meeting of Caritas Tanzania.
Archbishop Ruwai’chi, who is also the Chairman of Caritas Tanzania, stressed that ‘Caritas’, which means ‘love’, has its meaning in the main goal of the Church, which is “to provide services to the needy especially the poor and to provide answers to questions caused by various disasters.” Bearing this in mind, every member should contribute towards helping it fulfill its mission in the dioceses as well as at the national level.
The meeting, held at the Tanzania Episcopal Conference’s Kurasini Center in Dar es Salaam, saw directors of Caritas from the dioceses and from the national level in attendance.
Caritas highlights the Church’s vision
Archbishop Ruwai’chi noted that transforming Caritas into a non-governmental organization “is to enter into an unsatisfactory world, which contradicts the vision and goals of the Church.”
He pointed out that some people look at Caritas as a disaster management tool for writing projects to raise donor money to help the poor. But, as a Church, it must “recognize the existence of opportunities and responsibilities” and build an understanding that every baptized person has a responsibility to help, including the poor.
Urging Caritas to strategize on how to respond to the questions of disaster and poverty in the community, he encouraged the meeting’s participants to “plan carefully with the scope that satisfies the presence of the Church through Caritas.” At the same time, the Archbishop called for Caritas “not to be a disaster survivor, but to find ways to cope with crisis even under the most extreme circumstances.”
“When Covid-19 emerged in our dioceses, what answers did we give? How much were we involved? How much were we responsible?” Archbishop Ruwai’chi asked the meeting’s delegates, stressing that since Caritas has a unique mission of love and compassion, it must “seek answers in time” when tragedies arise.
Caritas not part of NGO culture
Deputy Secretary-General of the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference, Fr. Daniel Dulle also underscored Caritas’ responsibility to put in place sustainable strategies to help the poor.
“Do not be part of the NGO culture which is to be happy about the poverty of other people,” he warned the delegates, adding that Caritas should “rather provide sustainable assistance that will free the poor from poverty.”
Fr. Dulle further stressed that Caritas should not do its job in a spirit of competition as NGOs do. Instead, the implementation of Caritas’ responsibilities must be in line with the “Church’s mission to “serve the person physically and spiritually” especially through peacebuilding and the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims of various disasters.
Closing the meeting, Archbishop Ruwai’chi called on Caritas Tanzania to plan and develop strategies that focus on productive performance.