Caritas urges global solidarity on "Zimbabwe Sunday"

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight is sending a message of solidarity to the people and Church of Zimbabwe for "Zimbabwe Sunday" on 15 February on behalf of all 162 national Caritas members.

The Southern Africa Catholic bishops declared the date as Zimbabwe Sunday in an attempt to raise concern for the humanitarian, political and economic crisis engulfing the country.

Half of Zimbabweans rely on food aid to survive, a cholera epidemic has killed 3,500 so far out of 71,000 cases, and the country's economic, health, educational infrastructure has collapsed.

Lesley-Anne Knight said, "The people of Zimbabwe need our solidarity in this time of crisis and tragedy. Reports from Caritas staff on the ground are of acute need among the majority of people. The lack of food will be peaking over the next few weeks, a cholera epidemic has already killed too many, and the suffering is deepening.

"Catholics and people of good will around the world will be seeing the tragic events unfold in Zimbabwe and wondering what they can do to help. We can follow the example of the Southern African bishops by marking 15 February as Zimbabwe Sunday with our thoughts and prayers."

South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier spoke about the reasons for declaring a Zimbabwe last week. Cardinal Napier said, "There was a delegation of two bishops that came to address the bishop's conference and one of them put it, I think, in the most graphic way anyone could put it. He said it was 'passive genocide' for the world to be standing by and watching what's going on in Zimbabwe. I think one could say the situation is worse than desperate."

Cardinal Napier says he hopes to accomplish two things on February 15th.

"The first one is simply to express our Christian solidarity with our brothers and sisters, who are suffering. And secondly...to do something towards alleviating some of their suffering by collecting funds, food, clothing and medicines and things of that nature," he said.

Collections will be made at Catholic churches across southern Africa February 15th. Caritas Internationalis, the international coordinating body for Catholic charities, will help distribute the charity items through its national member and Church partners.

Caritas is appealing for $7 million to help a quarter of a million people avoid starvation, provide health care, and clean water to 16,000 homes The appeal will provide monthly food rations for 164,212 people to prevent them suffering from malnutrition and death.

Contact Patrick Nicholson on 0039 334 359 0700 or nicholson@caritas.va