Catholic Relief Services extends our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers to the people of Japan, who have endured a horrific tragedy that has touched all of us. Because the focus of CRS is on the poor people of the world, we do not have operations in prosperous, developed countries such as Japan. Nevertheless, we stand ready to assist when called. And we are eager to pass along the generosity of Catholics in the United States and others of goodwill to our partners on the ground who will provide relief and recovery.
As I write to you from Maryland, spring is under way, with its longer days, a bit of warmth in the air, the first yellow of forsythia, the crocuses nudging their way out of the ground. In our liturgical calendar, we celebrate Christianity’s most important moment: Easter. On that glorious Sunday morning, the hope and promise of the Gospel was fulfilled—triumph over death.
It was literally a new beginning for the world, one filled with hope rather than despair. That is what CRS looks for every day in our work—hope. And every day we find it, just as you might when a daffodil blooms or a dogwood springs to life. You and I can see new beginnings all over the world: in a village, where people drink fresh water from a newly drilled well; in a woman who has started a business with money CRS helped her save; in a father with HIV who can now care for his children because of the medicine he receives at a mission hospital supported by CRS through funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
This spring, we see a new beginning in southern Sudan, soon to be the world’s newest country, created when its people voted in a referendum to secede. As you know, I have been talking to you about the situation there for more than a year now. In no small part because of your support of CRS efforts, the people of southern Sudan defied all odds and voted peacefully, with integrity, avoiding the violence that has plagued their land for decades.
And so the southern Sudanese face this spring feeling like the blossom on a new rose—fresh and bright and hopeful. But like that blossom, their country is very fragile. Violence, particularly in disputed areas, could still make the process of formal separation—set for July—difficult. Even if everything goes smoothly, southern Sudan will not just be the newest country, but also one of the poorest in the world. At the best of times, it was neglected. At the worst, it was destroyed by violence. Years of work are necessary to bring its people the peace and prosperity they deserve.
So that is why I am asking you to stay with Sudan. CRS plans to remain active in Sudan for years to come, working mainly through our Church partners who were so essential in making this transition peaceful. The journey did not end with the referendum; in some ways, it just began. CRS needs you to keep Sudan in your thoughts and prayers this spring, to reaffirm your solidarity with its people.
The story of Sudan reminds us of the story told to us in the Gospel. Only 2 days before the wonderful news of Easter morning, Jesus’ disciples despaired as Christ died on the cross. It was the journey through that despair that gave hope for the future. The people of southern Sudan took that journey during their years of violence. The people of Japan are on that journey now.
I ask you to join us in praying for them. We will stand with them, because we know there is hope in their future. We reaffirm that every Easter.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you.
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