CRS Forum: Protecting the World’s Most Vulnerable

Catholic Relief Services was proud to welcome people from around the world to a conference in Baltimore entitled “For Whom There is no Room.”

The focus of the three-day gathering was to debate and discuss issues relating to extremely vulnerable populations—refugees and people forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict or disasters.

Sean Callahan, CRS executive vice-president for Overseas Operations, said, “At CRS, we speak of ‘emergency response’ as critical to our mission. By this we mean that we see responding to emergencies as a foundational and core role for us. Responding to the needs of refugees and internally displaced people, most often through our partners in the Caritas Internationalis family, has always been a priority for us.”

In 1992, CRS staff concluded—in an internal document—that “when political authorities fail to protect the common good, (understood as the safeguarding and protection of civil, political, economic and social human rights), it falls to others, including social institutions such as CRS, to act on behalf of the rights of a deprived population, when that population is unable to protect itself.” Since then, CRS has renewed its commitment to the protection of vulnerable people.

In his opening remarks, CRS President Ken Hackett said “Massive numbers of refugees, many in situations that have lasted for decades, know all too well that for them, there is no welcome anywhere. Millions of people displaced within their own countries are learning equally well that there is no room in their own homeland. Movement from one part of the country to another—as a result of conflict, disaster, climate-induced scarcity—is not open to all.”

The conference will examine how to protect these populations within the larger context of ensuring the human dignity and development of the whole person—two of the key tenets in Catholic Social Teaching and two guiding principles at CRS.

Daisy Francis, coordinator of the event and policy advocate for Protection at CRS, said,“These groups are extremely vulnerable. In this three-day gathering, we’ll review and debate some of the global trends—such as armed conflict, disasters, scarcity of food and the increasing flow of refugees to urban areas—and how these trends impact the safety of displaced people. We’ll also talk about the theory of protecting people vs. the reality on the ground, and look at future challenges in the field.”

Conference planners are piloting the use of a ‘live’ discussion/blog site during this consultation (moderated by CRS staff). You are welcome to track the debate here.

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