Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service agencies, has pledged to continue its relief and development work in North Korea, which continues to suffer from famine.
The first Caritas food aid shipment reached North Korea Nov. 24, 1995. Ten years later, Caritas is in the process of shifting its involvement from humanitarian aid to sustainable development.
After a recent visit to North Korea, Kaethi Zellweger of Caritas Hong Kong said bad roads, erratic electricity supply, and poor water, sanitation and health facilities “still make life difficult” for the people. But she affirmed that Caritas food, health and agriculture programs continue to help.
Bishop Lazzaro You of Daejeon, president of Caritas Corea, said this is the 60th year that the nation is divided into North and South. He said he felt ashamed that Korea was the only divided nation on Earth.
But he added: “We have to clearly separate humanitarian assistance from politics. In other words, we should distinguish between the authorities and poor people. It is our Christian duty to give concrete help to those suffering from famine and disease in order to give them a better life.”
Bishop You expressed gratitude to Caritas Internationalis “for its evangelical love for the people suffering in North Korea.”
“Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said he always kept a special affection for the people of North Korea and prayed for them. I hope he continues to pray for us in heaven,” he said.
The response of Cartias Internationalis to the serious but little-known situation in North Korea over the past 10 years has totaled about $32 million.