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Aid groups told to contribute, not convert in relief work

Ecumenical disaster response gathering in Manila told to put human life before faith

Aid groups told to contribute, not convert in relief work

A Catholic priest speaks with displaced Muslim families from the besieged city of Marawi at an evacuation center in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Mark Saludes)


August 10, 2017

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An official of the Catholic Church's social action arm in the Philippines has warned faith-based groups involved in humanitarian response not to use aid to advance their religious agenda.

"We must always remind ourselves that we are driven by our desire to give value to human life rather than to convert them to our faith," said Father Edwin Gariguez of Caritas Philippines.

The priest told a gathering of some 30 Catholic and Protestant faith-based organizations to ensure that humanitarian work was driven "by our common humanity."

The organizations gathered in Manila this week to reflect on their "contributions" to humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction especially in conflict areas in recent months.

Father Gariguez said the "strengths" of faith-based organizations could still be maximized for a more effective and efficient humanitarian response.

The groups' "strengths" include their sustained presence and inherent link to affected communities, knowledge of culture, and existing infrastructures like churches.

"We are well placed to offer a unique contribution," said the priest, adding that with the network of faith-based groups across the country, they become "first responders" during emergencies.

The priest cited the "strong link" between faith and disaster risk reduction, which was noted by international humanitarian organizations.

The gathering titled "Transforming Faith into Action" also discussed ways various faith-based group can collaborate on humanitarian work.

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