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Caritas Not an NGO, Emaswati Priest Says, Appeals for Support of Charity Initiatives

Fr. Dumisani Benedict Vilakati Director of the IMBISA Secretariat. Credit: IMBISA

The Caritas entity of the Catholic Church is not a Non-Governmental Organization that exists as a separate entity from the Church, a Catholic Priest from Eswatini has said in his appeal to the people of God in the entire Southern African region to support activities undertaken by the charity arm of the Church. 

Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, the Director of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) Secretariat, said that many people view Caritas as an NGO, a situation that he said is detrimental for some countries within the region.

In his address at a Caritas IMBISA workshop earlier this week, Fr. Vilakati said that there is need for a deeper Christian formation within the IMBISA region to enable the people of God to assume the duty of contributing spiritually and materially to the welfare of those in need.

“The danger, which Caritas may face in certain countries, is that some people simply see it as an NGO,” Fr. Vilakati said during the on Monday, November 8 session, and added, in reference to the charity arm of the Catholic Church, “It is far more than that, as it shows the love of Christ in the communities where Christians themselves live.”

The Catholic Priest expressed regret that though Caritas sometimes works as an NGO, some people have failed to distinguish the two entities and exclude themselves from charitable initiatives of the Church.

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He addressed other topics during the Caritas event that was held at Padre Pio’s Spiritual Centre in South Africa’s Pretoria Archdiocese. These included the care for the environment and earth “as our common home” as well as the need to safeguard children and the vulnerable in society.

“Speaking for and on behalf of the poor is very important and fundamental in our task as Christians,” he said, and added, “However, we have to go beyond that and roll up our sleeves, doing something practical for their well-being.”

“The concern and care for the little ones is basic in living out the gospel of Christ. This can never be separated from caring for the earth, our common home,” Fr. Vilakati said.

The member of the Clergy of Eswatini’s Manzini Diocese also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and how the restrictions that had been put in place to limit contagion had been exploited by those in power.

“In some countries, we have witnessed more desperation just to survive,” he said, and explained, “Some governments have used the COVID -19 restrictions not so much as to keep people away from harm, but rather as a way of achieving political ends in the preservation of the status quo.”

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The Catholic Priest also addressed the security situation in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province, Lunda-Norte Province in Angola, Eswatini, and parts of Zimbabwe and lauded the efforts of Bishops in the IMBISA region to speak openly about the causes of conflicts in the countries.

IMBISA is an organ of Liaison and Pastoral Cooperation between Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Angola and Sao Tome & Principe, Kingdoms of eSwatini and Lesotho, Republics of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. IMBISA Secretariat is based in Harare, Zimbabwe