Refugees are a "forgotten people. They have no legal status, no land and often have to flee with only what they can carry. Sometimes it's just their sick and their elderly."
These people are a concern for the director of church affairs for a worldwide relief organization that assists refugees and hundreds of thousands of other people suffering from famine, civil war and earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, typhoons and other natural disasters.The Rev. William P. Joy, a Catholic priest on loan from the Boston Archdiocese to Catholic Relief Services, an overseas relief and development agency of the United States Catholic Conference, was in Salt Lake City this week to update officials on the work of the Baltimore-based organization.
He met with Bishop William K. Weigand and Deacon Silvio Mayo of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese
and with Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales and Berkley Spencer of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the Rev. Joy said has provided $2.4 million in aid since 1986 through the relief agency. Most of the money, he said, went to aid people in the Sudan.
One of the largest organizations of its kind in the world, Catholic Relief Services operates in 75 countries. Its 1991 budget totaled $261 million. The Rev. Joy said 94 cents of every dollar contributed to Catholic Relief Services goes for direct services to people.
The agency, which works closely with the International Red Cross, CARE, Red Crescent and other agencies, is now concentrating much of its relief efforts in war-torn and drought-stricken Somalia. Despite attacks on convoys and airlift crews, he said better headway is being made in getting food and other supplies into remote areas of the African nation. He said the death toll is dropping substantially in some areas where food is reaching the people.
Catholic Relief operates extensive emergency and agricultural development programs in places such as the Philippines and has been in the vanguard of assisting people in Asia, Latin America and many other parts of the world. Until security problems forced its closure this past August, the agency had an office for 18 months in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Rev. Joy, who has seen the plight of refugees on the Afghan-Pakistan border and other places, said there were 3 million classified refugees throughout the world 12 years ago. That figure has now risen to about 20 million. There are still 3.5 million to 5 million Afghan refugees along the Pakistan-Afghan border. Some have been there since 1980. Their children have never known anything other than the life of a refugee, he said.
In a Deseret News interview the priest told of visiting a refugee camp on the Afghan border before Christmas about two years ago.
"I will never forget seeing two young boys taking care of sheep. One boy had a staff as he moved the sheep along. When the other boy turned around, I could see that he had an AK-47 rifle slung across his shoulder to protect the other boy and the sheep. . . . My image of the little shepherd boy suddenly changed. The shepherd boy of the 1990s doesn't match the words of the Christmas carol," the Rev. Joy said.
The clergyman praised the generosity of Americans and other people, who he said often tire of hearing about famine and disasters around the world. But despite their own economic hardships, he said they generally respond to pleas for financial help.
"We have a tradition of generosity and caring for others in this country that we often take for granted," he added.
LDS cooperation\ Keith B. McMullin, managing director of Welfare Services for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made this statement Wednesday regarding Catholic Relief Services:
"The church has worked closely with Catholic Relief Services on a number of humanitarian projects over the years and we have enjoyed that relationship. We appreciate and respect their good efforts in helping to relieve the plight of the poor, the needy and the distressed."