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Imagine compassion in a crisis: Ballots not bullets

Imagine compassion in a crisis: Ballots not bullets

2008 began badly for Mary, her three daughters, and six grandchildren. Post-election violence in Kenya escalated into ethnic conflict that saw families driven from their homes.

“I don’t even want to remember the picture of that day. They were running in all directions, setting fire to crops and houses,” said Mary.

Her family was taken into the home of an ordinary family who stood up to the forces of division. Caritas helped Mary and her hosts Peter and Margaret Wambui with rations and clothing, as well as working in camps providing food, medical help and counselling.

Zimbabwe’s decline took on frightening momentum. A bloody election left the country without effective leadership. Caritas reported that nine out of ten people were short of food.

A major cholera epidemic pointed to the collapse of healthcare, schools, water and electricity supply. Caritas distributed chlorine tablets to stop the epidemic, repaired water points, and trained people to avoid passing it on.

Caritas supports over three million out of a population of 12 million in Zimbabwe. That work faced a major challenge when aid agencies were suspended temporarily from operating. Sadly, stopping aid workers from providing support was repeated in Darfur, in Sri Lanka and in Myanmar.

War returned to Europe as Georgia and Russia fought over the breakaway province of Southern Ossetia. It was another failure to address long burning tensions. Caritas responded with food, medicine, counselling and advocacy.

“Caritas does not make distinctions when it comes to borders or nationalities. We care for people in need,” Fr Erny Gillen, Vice President of Caritas said during a visit to Tbilisi.