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US Caritas calls Govt funding for aid agencies 'double-edged sword'

When Catholic aid organisations operate with government funding in places like Iraq, they must take pains not to be identified with military operations, the head of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the US told a Vatican meeting.

Along with Caritas Australia, CRS is one of 162 Catholic organisations in 200 countries that comprise the Caritas Internationalis aid and development confederation.

"If our staff are perceived as being part of the military apparatus or war effort, we lose our credibility and trust with those we serve," said CRS executive director Ken Hackett.

"We also worry about the reverse, where military personnel are perceived as aid workers," he said. "Beyond the obvious contradictions, this kind of blurring of roles puts our staff in harm's way."

Hackett made the remarks in a speech to a plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," the Vatican's coordinating agency for Catholic charitable agencies. His talk examined the arguments for and against the use of public funds by Catholic organizations.

Meanwhile last week staff members of the Caritas Nassiriya in Iraq expressed their desire to resume work after the 12 November bombing of the nearby Italian police headquarters. The blast injured 12 members of the Caritas staff.

Caritas Iraq president Faiq Bourachi echoed the sentiments of the Nassiriya staff: "We are a local Church organization, we played a major role in the past and we will continue our work even under these difficult circumstances."

Yesterday Care Australia announced that it had joined a growing list of non-government organisations in pulling out of Iraq as the security situation continues to deteriorate. The aid agency decided to suspend its operations following a rocket grenade attack on its offices at the weekend. All six foreign staff including four Australians left Iraq immediately, and 70 local staff were told not to come to work until the security situation is reviewed.

Government funding double-edged sword for aid agencies, CRS head says (Catholic News Service 21/11/03)
Caritas Iraq Continues Its Work Despite Dangerous Setbacks (18/11/03)
Care Australia quits Iraq (ABC 24/11/03)

Catholic Relief Service
Pope says charity work has higher purpose (24/11/03)
Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Australia
Care Australia

25 Nov 2003