How many Catholic bishops' conferences would have a symposium to discuss giving aid to needy countries? In preparation for today's Foreign Aid Sunday, (a collection for the foreign poor was taken up in all the parishes), the bishops sponsored a symposium to deal with the present situation of aid, and determined directions for the future.
The Catholic Church intends not only in doing something meritorious but in developing a network to help in the eradication of world poverty.
Only recently has she become a giving Church. The amount given is small, for the number of Christians, but this is beginning to change. Not only is the Church interested in the giving of money, but in how and to whom to give.
Some of the problems seen in the symposium was the competition among the different groups: How much has been raised? How many countries have been helped? How many different works sponsored? Although this is to be expected-- the same problems have been seen within the Church; efforts are being made to remedy the situation.
Catholic have given only about 2 dollars a piece in aid to the foreign poor and it was suggested that the reason for this was a lack of transparency in the reports; no people specified, lack of continuity and no results returned to the Christians. The Church has not always been clear in the use of funds as some of the other Non-Governmental Organization have done.
One of the representatives of the Official Development Assistance Watch had a few suggestions for the Church. The Church should be an example of giving aid. The receiving country should not be dependent on aid but should be helped to help themselves. The society being helped should work with those who are trying to rid the country of corruption: Develop their need for democratization, equality of the sexes, and to guarantee that the poor and alienated in the society receive benefits. It is possible to give aid in a bad way, you can subordinate the one receiving to the aid given. You can remove them from the democratic process, and if aid is standardized and given as the West has traditionally given, you can destroy the diversity in the culture.
Aid given in a bad way can strengthen the authority of men at the expense of women. The help can separate the different peoples and different tribes in a country. Aid not given well can help not the poor and the alienated but the wealthy, those with power and the small privileged groups in the society.
In the future, countries joining the world-wide effort to help the needy in other countries may find it useful to learn how this is best done by emulating the current efforts of a country and Church that have in a very short time moved from receiving aid to giving aid. The bishop sponsored symposium has focused attention on doing more in this are of world-wide need and may be a heartening sign of the times. It seems that we can be optimistic that wealthier nations of the world will be more aggressive in giving to the poorer nations in the coming years, and very likely Korea and the Korean Church will be prominent in these efforts.