OTTAWA (CCN) — As the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) marks its 90th anniversary this year, CNEWA Canada celebrates 12 years.
CNEWA Canada came into existence Feb. 12, 2005, said Carl Hétu, its national director, and since then the Holy See charity has seen “an increased trust from Canadian Catholics towards our agency.”
“We are transparent and we deliver on our mission,” he said. “We’re good at delivering on what we say we’re going to do.”
“Our niche is always to work with the church, wherever the church is present,” he said. “If you want to reach out to Christians, whether persecuted or not, to the church that cares for the poor and the marginalized, CNEWA is very strong in working with the local church in providing social service support.”
Pope Pius XI founded CNEWA in 1926 to support members of the Eastern Catholic churches in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, India and Ethiopia plagued by conflict, poverty and natural disasters. Hétu pointed out the needs in these parts of the world remain strong.
Over the past year, 4,500 Canadians have contributed $4.3 million to CNEWA Canada to help local churches provide food, shelter, education and health care.
With the ongoing crisis in Iraq and Syria, CNEWA has added aid to refugees and displaced persons to its programming, Hétu said. CNEWA has also maintained a focus on the Horn of Africa afflicted by a major drought.
It also supports churches in Ukraine where there is “great tension between pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine confronting the Ukrainian government,” he said. “This has destabilized the economy of Ukraine. Inflation and unemployment are very high.”
“Of course, this means poverty is also increasing; people in need are increasing,” he said.
“When people donate to CNEWA they know it will be well used and we are doing our best to keep administration costs as low as possible,” Hétu said. Ninety per cent of donated monies go directly to mission; four per cent is spent on administration and six per cent on fundraising.
Canadians donated $991,141 toward projects in the Middle East; $277,583 to projects in Africa, primarily the Horn of Africa; $500,000 to projects in Ukraine; and $700,000 toward spiritual formation, training, and humanitarian programs in Armenia, Georgia, Egypt and India.
Hétu said on the surface the situation may seem bleak, but the projects help the churches build bridges, serve the vulnerable and defend against hate.
“This is precisely what Pope Francis calls us to do and the opportunity around which Canadians are rallying.”
“Canadians have shown immense charity over the years,” said Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA’s international office based in New York. “We greatly appreciate the support as our Canadian donors have been a pillar of encouragement, helping us to maintain a variety of active programs in key regions at risk.”