Long History of Helping Refugees

Dear Friend,

In 1943, as war raged across Europe, thousands of bedraggled Polish refugees fleeing Soviet forced-labor camps streamed across the border of Iran. Most were women, children or very old men, their bodies emaciated, their feet swollen and bleeding. Realizing they had reached sanctuary, many fell to their knees and wept.

There to meet them were representatives of a newly formed agency, War Relief Services, representing the mercy and goodwill of American Catholics. From these beginnings, that charitable organization would become Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community.

Today, the work of CRS covers a much wider range of programming. We respond to emergencies and disasters, and carry out an array of programs in sectors that include agriculture, health, education, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, peacebuilding, and safety-net initiatives for those who are most vulnerable.

In the mid-1960s, CRS' refugee resettlement work was spun off into a newly created agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – Migration and Refugee Services. This agency works with the federal government and local churches to resettle refugees admitted to the United States into caring and supportive communities. It also assists the U.S. bishops in advocating on behalf of immigrants, refugees, migrants and people on the move.

Six decades later, CRS is still responding to the needs of people who are uprooted from their homes, whether they are immigrants, refugees, people displaced within their own country's borders, or victims of human trafficking. Around the world, poverty, injustice and armed conflict continue to force millions of people to flee their homes.

CRS supports the right of people to remain in their country in safety and with conditions worthy of human dignity. But we also support the protection and promotion of the rights of those who have little alternative but to migrate or flee their homes. CRS works overseas with local church, governmental and nongovernmental organizations through development, emergency, peacebuilding and human-rights programming, as well as policy and advocacy efforts, to address many of the root causes of displacement while responding to the needs of uprooted people.

Our work with migrants and refugees spans the globe. It takes place as far away as Africa, in Darfur, Sudan, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.5 million have been displaced within the country. Another 230,000 Sudanese have fled across the border into Chad and northern Central African Republic.

And our work is as close as our own border, where we are assisting the Archdiocese of Hermosillo in northern Mexico with its Migrant Ministry. The Ministry's staff and volunteers operate several outreach centers, including one in the tiny town of Altar, where as many as 1,200 migrants arrive daily from southern Mexico and Central America in anticipation of a border crossing. The Migrant Ministry offers food, shelter, medicine, information and simple kindness to the vulnerable migrants it serves. CRS also continues to work closely with Migration and Refugee Services, as well as with the diverse efforts of U.S. dioceses to serve migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond.

For the coming year, CRS is preparing to respond to the flood of refugees fleeing violence and instability in Iraq. We are collaborating with Caritas partners in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt to meet this mounting humanitarian crisis.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers,

Ken Hackett

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