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Nun in Ghana Calls for “deepened social protection interventions” for Deprived in Society

Sr. Regina Ignatia Aflah, HDR, the Co-ordinator for Human Rights and Justice of Caritas Ghana.

A Ghanaian nun has, on the occasion to commemorate the fourth World Day of the Poor, called on the government and other stakeholders in Ghana to make every effort to promote and safeguard the vulnerable in society through humanitarian interventions.

“We urge the government and all stakeholders to deepen social protection interventions that promote long-term survival, security and safeguard the vulnerable as they are easily prone to illness, illiteracy, abuse, exploitation and violence,” Sr. Regina Ignatia Aflah told ACI Africa Correspondent in an interview Sunday, November 15.

The Coordinator for Human Rights and Justice for Caritas Ghana noted that addressing poverty and inequality poses a difficult challenge and highlighted the need to avoid “duplication of efforts” to tackle poverty in the West Africa country.

“A major solution can be as simple as adopting a unified multi-sectoral approach of practical planning, synchronization and consultation by all actors and stakeholders to avoid duplication of efforts,” Sr. Regina said on the day that Caritas Ghana also marked Caritas Week.

The fourth World Day of the Poor was marked and observed in all the Ecclesial communities in Ghana from Sunday, November 8 to Sunday, November 15.

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The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) established the Caritas Week, aligning it to The World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis instituted to be marked on 33rd Sunday.

In his Sunday, November 15 homily, Pope Francis urged Catholics to take risks to help the millions of people worldwide who live below the poverty line.

“Do not forget: the poor are at the center of the Gospel; the Gospel cannot be understood without the poor,” Pope Francis said, adding, “The poor guarantee us an eternal income and even now they help us become rich in love. For the worst kind of poverty needing to be combatted is our poverty of love.” 

As a convention, Caritas Week is celebrated in Ghana a week preceding the World Day of the Poor.

The theme for the World Day of the Poor adopted by the Caritas Ghana for the Week celebration is, “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” as found in the book of Sirach.

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Explaining the theme, Sr. Regina who is a member of the Handmaid of the Divine Redeemer (HDR) Congregation said it presents an opportunity to address the continuing challenges facing the poor and vulnerable especially in the era of COVID-19.

According to her, the tragic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was at the peak of its spread during the partial lockdown in Ghana where access to food, healthcare, education, jobs among other livelihood coping mechanisms were lacking for the less privileged.

“It is important to acknowledge the role of benevolent individuals, groups and organizations who extended support to the marginalized and are still doing so,” the HDR member who has been at the forefront of direct interventions to vulnerable populations in Ghana told ACI Africa correspondent.

Meanwhile, as part of the Caritas Week and the World Day of the Poor celebrations, Caritas Ghana on November 12 organized a Webinar on the Topic, “Building Inclusive, Welcoming and Equitable Societies in the COVID-19 and other Humanitarian Crises.”

In his presentation, Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu who is the Episcopal Chairman of Caritas Ghana said that since COVID-19 has impacted the lives of many people, reforms are needed to serve the poor in society.

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According to Ghanaian Bishop, the celebration should be a means of popularizing the service of charity as an integral part of the Church’s Mission.

“Through the annual celebrations of this dedicated Week, support for the poor should be more felt in Communities, Church Groups, Civil Society, public policy spaces and indeed, all of society,” Bishop Osei-Bonsu said.

Sr. Regina who also made a presentation during the Webinar Session on Caritas Ghana’s COVID-19 interventions, noted that “through the support of the faith community as well as the hard work, dedication and commitment of its team, Caritas Ghana has not relented in living advancement of its motto inspired by 1 Timothy, “Good Works, Generosity and Sharing.”’

She said at the November 12 Webinar that with the help of partners, Caritas Ghana had provided essential goods and services such as food, shelter and medicine for the poor and vulnerable. The group has also fed indigenous population during the lockdown in Accra, Kasoa and Kumasi.

She indicated that campaigns on capacity building in humanitarian standards were intensified particularly in response to humanitarian emergency, safeguarding, and reporting standards.

“Our advocacy is targeting inclusion, civil social organizations, government, social protection, the poor of the poor, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies on accountability of government on humanitarian resources.,” she added.

On his part, Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana, Samuel Zan Akologo who moderated the Webinar said that the words in the theme for the fourth World Day of the Poor “remain expedient considering the difficult times we are facing globally.”

“The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, especially its economic adversities have been felt all around the world with its harsh realities mostly affecting the vulnerable in the society living in poverty; women and children, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups,” Mr. Akologo bemoaned.

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera published 20 November 2016, at the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

He decreed that it should be celebrated on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, in preparation for the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe “who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy.” 

“It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes, there can be no justice or social peace,” the Holy Father wrote. 

He added, “This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy.”

In his Angelus address November 15, Pope Francis reportedly urged Christians to discover Jesus in the needy. He said, “At times, we think that to be Christian means not to do harm. And not doing harm is good. But not doing good is not good. We must do good, to come out of ourselves and look, look at those who have more need.”

The Holy Father added, “There is so much hunger, even in the heart of our cities; and many times we enter into that logic of indifference: the poor person is there, and we look the other way. Reach out your hand to the poor person: it is Christ.”