2021.10.25 Giovani di Caritas Internationalis al lavoro in Libano

Webinar focuses on Caritas solidarity action in Europe

Caritas Internationalis is hosting a series of online Conferences until December 12 marking the 70th anniversary of its foundation in 1951. Following the webinar on Caritas work in North America, a second webinar was held on November 4 with a focus on Europe.

By Lisa Zengarini

Caritas Internationalis held the second of its seven online Conferences being organized in the context of its 70th anniversary on Thursday. Titled “Solidarity in action following the signs of the times”, the webinar was focused on Caritas work in Europe, and specifically in Germany, Ukraine and Georgia.

Introducing the session was Aloysius John, Secretary General of the Confederation, who highlighted that, since its foundation on 12 December 1951, the poor have always been at the heart of Caritas work across the world.

Caritas never closes

Bishop Michael Landau, President of Caritas Europe, noted that, along with bringing aid and relief to the needy the 160 members of the Confederation bring hope.

In Europe, he said, Caritas has worked relentlessly for the most vulnerable amidst incredible suffering, wars and natural disasters and even under dictatorships. This work continues today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has become a social crisis, the Austrian prelate added, recalling the Catholic organization’s slogan during the crisis: “Caritas does’t close”.

“Our fundamental mission remains unchanged: to see the needs and act,” he pointed out. “We must be a ray of light, the crack through which the light of hope passes.”

Fighting the causes of poverty

For her part, Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa, highlighted the importance of Caritas work on the underlying causes of poverty, including unemployment and inequality in education.

“We deal with projects aimed at stimulating employment and social policies and international cooperation, focusing on young people, innovation, and integral ecology in collaboration with Caritas Internationalis," she explained.

She noted that many people have become poor and lost their jobs because of the pandemic showing the inadequacy of the existing welfare system in Europe. “If we want to overcome this crisis we need to address these issues,” Nyman pointed out.

Other speakers at the webinar included directors and spokespersons of Caritas Germany, Ukraine and Georgia, who spoke about their work in their respective countries.

Caritas in conflict-torn Ukraine

Tatiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine, focused on its work in the conflict-ridden Eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhanska, with the support of Caritas Germany and Caritas Austria.

She explained that overall there are 2.9 million people needing relief in the area and that Caritas aid is focused on the growing number of displaced people. Since the conflict broke out in 2014, over 800,000 people have received humanitarian aid. Stawnychy said support from partner organizations in Germany and Austria has been crucial to meet the growing needs of the population affected by the conflict.

Andryi Postnikiv, head of the humanitarian aid office of Caritas Ukraine, pointed out to the difficulties of conducting humanitarian operations in the two regions, where civilians live under the constant threat of landmines and many people don’t have access to drinking water or health services.

Caritas staff is prevented from operating in the area controlled by the separatist Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic and is also limited by landmines, he explained.

In this context Caritas does its best to provide relief to the most vulnerable, including elderly people, disabled and children. It also supports development and peace building projects.

Caritas Germany managing over 25,000 facilities

Mathilde Langendorf, spokesperson for Caritas Germany, which is the oldest Caritas in Europe, spoke about its 125-year history and present activity.

She highlighted that the organization survived during the Nazi regime because of its work for the poor. Today, Caritas Germany is still working for the needy and people living at the margins of society with a number of social projects and advocating for their rights.

Presently, Caritas Germany manages over 25,000 facilities and services and is staffed with 700,000 employees, 81% of whom are women, and thousands of volunteers. The main challenges for the future, Langendorf said, are digitization, staff training as well as resisting the “rules of the market” to preserve its Catholic identity.

Caritas Georgia: the youngest in Europe

Also speaking at the webinar was Anahit Mkhoyan, director of Caritas Georgia, the youngest in Europe.

It was founded on 3 November 1994, and entered Caritas Internationalis in 1998. He said that becoming a member of the Confederation helped Caritas Georgia improve its humanitarian work for the most needy in the country.

The organization played an important role during the humanitarian crisis caused by the second war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 over the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Since then, Mkhoyan said, Caritas Georgia has further increased its activity, especially with young people of all faiths. The organization has also been on the frontline during the pandemic.

05 November 2021, 13:56