D&P partners praise Canadian generosity

  • April 6, 2011
Gatineau Archbishop Roger Ebacher displays gifts from Sr. Clare Garcillano, a missionary in East Timor and a D&P partner.OTTAWA - A delegation with members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, East Timor and Sierra Leone have embarked on a tour of Ontario and Quebec cities to tell Canadian Catholics how much their nations have benefited from Canadian generosity.

Among them was the president of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, Tshumbe Bishop Nicolas Djomo, who spoke of the work the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) has done in his country.

“Development and Peace has been helping us a lot,” said Djomo, who spoke of the work the Canadian bishops’ development agency did first in addressing emergency needs in the aftermath of the country’s civil war, and now in helping the central African nation address justice and human rights, fair elections and concerns over mining.

Djomo and other representatives of various D&P partners were in Ottawa March 31 as part of a tour to highlight the projects Catholic donors help fund.

Djomo said D&P was funding projects in good governance that included a fight against corruption, as well as civic education to encourage people to vote and to know their human rights. The mining issue is “a big, big problem,” he said. While most of the country has been pacified, in the eastern part of Congo, “armed groups are exploiting illegally these resources.”

Foreign mining interests are buying minerals from this region from these groups, who are then using the money to buy weapons, he said. These groups are also committing atrocities, including rampant sexual abuse and rape of women and small children.

“Rape is a weapon of war and the intention is to prove to the community ‘you are so weak, look what we can do to your women and you are nothing, you can’t resist,’ ” said Sr. Marie-Bernard Alima, general secretary of the Congo bishops’ justice and peace commission.

“What gives me strength is the joy of serving and to see the people we are working with stand up, to take control, to take responsibility with lots of dignity,” she said.

The D&P projects stress reconciliation, reconstruction and rebuilding of the productive capacities of communities, said Africa program officer Serge Blais. D&P has a small office in Congo.

Caritas Zambia director Samuel Mulafulafu was in Canada to highlight the two main programs D&P supports in his country: democracy and governance; and economic and environmental justice.

Zambia is also holding elections at both the national and local levels, so D&P is supporting a voter and public education program, he said, and a fight against corruption. Mining is also a key issue, because Zambia is considered one of the poorer countries of the world, but is rich in natural resources. “If we are going to confront the issue of poverty, it is not sufficient to look for donor aid,” Mulafulafu said. “There is a lot we can do with our own natural resources.”

D&P is helping Caritas Zambia confront unfair trade practices, the low taxes foreign mining companies pay and making sure the country gains “more revenue from mining companies and that it is invested in social programs such as education, health care and infrastructure development.”

Sierra Leone’s Network Movement for Justice and Development director Josephine Koromo said D&P has been a long-standing partner, helping them in four areas: governance and accountability, mining and extractives, peace and security and youth empowerment.

Sr. Clare Garcillano, a sister of St. Paul of Chartres, spoke of her missionary work in East Timor, where she is acting director of the Commission of Justice and Peace. D&P is helping in the “capacity building” of staff, especially in developing the skills of unemployed or out-of-school youth.

“We have no human resources in Timor,” she said, stressing the help D&P has given in training the predominantly youthful population. “You can’t imagine” the poverty where the “majority live below the poverty line.”

D&P is also involved in a human rights program to raise awareness of the human rights of women and of children, as well as the general human rights of all the people.

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