23 July 2012
By Michel Roy, Secretary General
Michel Roy on board a special Caritas anniversary train.
In 2011, we witnessed hope. We saw it in the line of Sudanese queuing up around the block at 5am in Juba waiting for the polling stations to open at 8am so they could cast their vote on independence for South Sudan. We found hope as young officials counted ballots late into the night with only torch light to see by. We found hope that after decades of conflict, a new nation was created through democracy.
Six months after the historic vote, I was fortunate enough to be in Juba for the birth of South Sudan on 9 July. People had travelled for days from all over the country to make it to the capital in time for the celebrations. There was no need for security because everyone was very happy. We celebrated and prayed together for unity for the future. And we look for ward to working with the new Caritas South Sudan as it seeks to help the country on its road towards peace.
We kept our hope alive through the challenges of 2011. Hunger swept across East Africa, bringing hardship to millions of people unnecessarily. I t’s a scandal that in the 21st Centur y we witnessed famine, this time in Somalia. We have the means to prevent hunger on this scale. The world must act more quickly in future.
Caritas brought short and long-term inter ventions to families in distress in East Africa. Caritas committed to expanding our long-standing development and immediate assistance programmes. I t’s in addition to the many programmes we already have there which reach millions of people. All of this is done by, with and through the local Church, Caritas and other groups.
2011 was also a year of hope for the migrants who work in our communities as maids, carers and labourers. Although involved so closely with family life in households and being entrusted with the care of children or elderly people, these domestic workers are too often badly treated. Now they have hope for a brighter future after a new international convention providing for greater rights came into place.
Governments, employers and unions meeting at the International Labour Organisation’s conference in Geneva voted to approve the Domestic Workers Convention. Under the new international legal instrument, domestic workers will have rights such as an entitlement to social protection, to rest days and annual leave, collective bargaining and protection from abuse.
It’s a milestone in breaking the prejudice they face ever y day, especially if they are migrants. We now need to follow this up by urging governments to ratify the convention.
We found hope at the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in May and at our 60th anniversar y celebrations. The General Assembly saw 300 delegates from around the world come to Rome to share experiences, discuss and plan better ways to overcome poverty and to renew their solidarity with the poor through working together as a confederation on humanitarian aid, integral human development and better international policies.
The General Assembly was the final step in agreeing to our new Statutes and Rules to be given to Pope Benedict for approval. We received this from the Holy See in May 2012 along with a General Decree. Our new Statutes and Rules will modernise our work in delivering humanitarian assistance, lobbying and promoting integral human development. They will provide us with the framework to carr y out our work as part of the mission of the Church as we start our next 60 years.