Fr Frederick D'Souza speaks about the Catholic charity’s work in natural and human disasters around the world. He came to understand the words “shed for you and for all” when, whilst Christians were being slaughtered for their faith, Caritas was handing out keys to homes to Muslims affected by a flood.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – In the past ten years, Caritas has intervened on behalf of victims of natural disasters, some 205,000 in India and elsewhere in Asia, not counting relief operations in quake-stricken Nepal.
Caritas reaches out to those “affected by devastation,” bringing “food, water, medicines, clothes, and other survival material,” said Fr Frederick D'Souza, executive director of Caritas India. This is the experience of blood “shed for you and for all”.
Speaking to AsiaNews about the Catholic charity’s response to catastrophic events like floods, tsunamis, cyclones and earthquakes, he explained that this requires timely and prompt action that a well-structured organisation can offer. As “Jesus addressed and fed [. . .] men, women, and children, old, sick, and different ethnic groups,” so does Caritas, undaunted.
“Whenever a disaster strikes, it shatters the lives of the people,” Fr D’Souza said. Homes collapse, people are “buried underneath or washed away. Some, surviving such traumatic conditions, even after many years find it difficult to live a normal life.”
Caritas relief work is immediate, like in the 2014 Jammu and Kashmir floods, when it provided aid to 12,000 families and rebuilt homes affected by landslides.
“I was there in Kashmir after the huge devastating floods to hand over 150 specially built shelters to people. While doing so I was getting news through social and other media that a group of people (Christians) in Iraq were [being] crucified, some buried alive.”
“I was handing over the keys of houses to a community of people (Muslims). The experience was very humbling because in one place there was the news of persecution and death coming, and in another place, we were handing over the houses the needy.”
This brought back memories about the body and blood of Christ “shed for you and for all”. This means “for the followers and for the non-followers and non-followers I believe included those who persecuted him.”
The experience in Kashmir is just one of many occasions when the director of Caritas was able to put into action the passage from the Eucharistic celebration, as Jesus did, when a large crowd approached him “hungry, thirsty, sick, dejected, and like a sheep without a shepherd.”
When disaster strikes, people not only suffer physical trauma, but “physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation. One needs not only food and shelter but also a shoulder to cry. And Caritas India offers precisely that.”
In addition to emergency relief, Caritas has to deal with “many silent tsunamis, invisible devastations, and unnoticed calamities, experienced over the years through exploitation, disparity of income and power and dehumanisation, reducing people to abject poverty and slavery.”
“Over a million self-help groups, farmers’ clubs, women’s groups, youth groups, have been” created “to bring dignity to the people who have been denied such rights.”