VANCOUVER—When Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Populorum Progressio stating “development is the new word for peace,” in 1967, his words inspired Canadian bishops eager to put that phrase into practice.
The bishops launched the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, an aid organization based on the principles of social justice and sustainability. Now, known more simply as Development and Peace, the same institution still sends funds and volunteers to poor, disaster-stricken, or war-torn areas around the world.
“For 50 years, you have brought us together to work and to accomplish great things,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, told Development and Peace members at a Mass and reception in Vancouver Sept. 22.
The organization founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops five decades ago “is making us all aware that no single member of the Body of Christ is superfluous and together so many good works have been carried out.”
Archbishop Miller travelled with Development and Peace to the Philippines, where millions were struggling to rebuild after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
“I was extraordinarily impressed, especially by the attitude of the workers in the Philippines who were Development and Peace partners and employees. Their attitude towards development was certainly not: ‘Canadians come as big brothers and sisters to do good things and then skip out of town,’” he said.
“It was very much the notion that the Canadians listened to what was needed, served people on the ground, and responded to those needs. It really wasn’t an imposition.”
Their attitude towards development was certainly not: ‘Canadians come as big brothers and sisters to do good things and then skip out of town.’ The Canadians listened to what was needed, served people on the ground, and responded to those needs.
In the aftermath of that historic storm, Development and Peace donated nearly $1.5 million for emergency relief efforts, then launched a long-term plan to help local people rebuild their homes, jobs, and lives.
Archbishop Miller said the experience left him feeling “humbled” by their gratitude.
Sara Farid, a Development and Peace member, employee, donor, and advocate for seven years, has travelled to Burkina Faso, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone to witness outreach programs there.
“It continues in regions of the world that are little known, little cared about. It continues when the media attention decreases and people forget, even though the crisis does not stop,” she said.
“What a delight it is to be here today, celebrating 50 years of compassion, commitment, engagement for life, human dignity, and the common good.”
Development and Peace claims it has invested more than $600 million in more than 100 countries since 1967. In recent years, the organization has raised funds and support for people facing poverty, violence, or natural disasters in Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Syria, and West Africa.
It raised $3.8 million to aid millions suffering severe famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. According to a press release, those funds are being spent on delivering food, water, sanitation, shelter, medication, and treatment for malnutrition.
The Development and Peace model, as the Canadian branch of Caritas International, is to collaborate with local people to learn their specific needs and create short term plans for survival and long-term plans for getting out of poverty or promoting peace.
Archbishop Miller praised the organization his predecessors founded 50 years ago for this approach. “Pope Francis is at pains to stress this need for individual and personal care of the marginalized, those on the periphery. But he does not, of course, overlook the need to work for overcoming the causes of such conditions,” he said.
“This is why Development and Peace’s work to remove the underlying reasons for marginalization, violence and war also belong to the Church’s mission of evangelization.”
Several local members of the organization received awards for longtime service, including Mary Reilly, a member of Development and Peace for all 50 years.