This coming Sunday we observe, as we have since 1993, Overseas Aid Sunday when what we collect in all the Churches is shared with the poor in the world. This year, however, a new organization, Caritas Korea International, formerly Caritas Korea, will help with this work and will have a broader global outreach than in the past.
Caritas Korea International began originally in 1974 with the name "Human Development Committee," becoming Caritas Korea in 1991. Most of the relief work was done here in Korea but for the last 18 years $21 million has been allocated for foreign aid, some of it, in recent years, going to North Korea. The domestic relief services will now be conducted by the Bishops Social Welfare Committee.
The two Catholic papers, in front page articles, described the beginnings of the new organization. The Bishop responsible said there are many difficulties that have to be surmounted when setting up a network for receiving donations from the Korean Church. "But from now on," he said, "Caritas Korea International is going to take charge of these international dealings and pave the way for humanitarian aid to North Korea, which is currently at dead lock."
Father Gerard Hammond, the Maryknoll local superior, was asked to form the new group responsible for helping the North. Fr. Hammond has been to North Korea 60 times since 1995 and is familiar with the difficulties of working to the help the North. "The people are poor, the children and the women and the old are especially in need of unconditional help."
During the many times, he has made trips to the North, he and his group have brought aid to TB patients, given advice on farming methods and seed distribution, provided farming equipment and many other aids for self-help projects. Fr. Hammond said there is much poverty, and TB is a big scourge. He regrets that more help is not available for the North.
Expressing himself on the rigidity that exists in the present relationship with the North, he said help that was given by Korea Caritas and now International Caritas was sorely needed humanitarian aid. He hopes that it will not be distorted by the political infighting that goes on.
He wants to build more bridges of communication with the North and to see more flexibility on both sides of the relationship. He will do his best to be a bridge builder.