Peacebuilding

In mid-July, concerned members of the world community will be gathering in Bangkok for a summit on HIV and AIDS. CRS will be among the leading faith-based organizations attending. This global “town meeting” is of vital importance to the lives of millions.

We must stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, and stop it soon, because projections are staggering. Right now there are 42 million people living with AIDS. It's predicted that there will be 45 million more new infections by 2010. That's just six years away. That's a blink of an eye. But we cannot close our eyes to this scourge. AIDS has created 14 million orphans around the globe.

Our field reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan are also very troubling. Civil wars rage and simmer in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and tenuous truces.

It's obvious and imperative that we move from short-term cease-fires to long-term peacebuilding. Although it's still a new term for many, peacebuilding is exactly what it implies: the building-block by block-of peace. It is a process of preventing, resolving and mitigating the effects of conflict by changing unjust structures and establishing constructive relationships at all levels-local, national and global.

And although peace is most colloquially understood as the absence of war and violence, it is truly far more than that negative definition implies. Indeed, peace is the presence of justice and love, an atmosphere in which individual and community dignity are respected.

All too often, the media portrays the concept of peace in Africa as something warring parties can declare or rescind at will. But peace is too precious a commodity to be left to belligerents to trade in the marketplace of power.

CRS is very actively engaged in peacebuilding. We have been urging the United States government to help resolve the Chad-Sudan conflict. CRS is also involved in 37 countries across the continent of Africa: 40% of our resources were directed toward Africa in 2003, an amount that exceeded $200 million.

At its core, our work is about justice and helping people improve their lives. This ranges from simple efforts to support the Missionaries of Charity in their work caring for people dying of AIDS to arranging countrywide food relief responses in the face of famine. CRS remains committed to treating the whole community affected by HIV and AIDS, not just dispensing drugs. Our programming also focuses on advocacy, counseling, training, and tolerance for those living with HIV and AIDS, and their families. It involves assistance to local civil society and community groups to help amplify their voices and views on issues like World Bank policies and microcredit encouragement provisions. It includes educational programs that help stop child trafficking and agricultural reform that helps rural communities achieve food security. Our programs reach into and across the societies of the countries where we work. And we work in partnership with the Catholic Church, local governments and many local agencies.

Your generous and loyal support along with your prayers make our peacebuilding efforts possible. Please also pray with me that the extraordinary international conference in Bangkok produces a major milestone in our global fight against HIV and AIDS.

Thank you for your interest in CRS. May God bless you.

Ken Hackett
President

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