Ahado, a Somali refugee, at one of several refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya. Following a severe drought, many families faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Thousands of refugees are flooding into Dadaab every week. Photo by Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services

Once again, the world community is faced with a human crisis that cries out for a compassionate response.  Most of us by now have seen the evening news coverage of the tens of thousands facing starvation due to the drought conditions in East Africa, most especially Somalia.  For days now, we have heard of the thousands of refugees fleeing Somalia in search of food.  Most recent estimates are that 1,300 refugees arrive daily in the refugee camps across the border from Somalia in Kenya.  This crisis is proving most devastating for women and children.

Recent figures from Catholic Relief Services indicate that over 1 million people are affected by this drought and famine in the areas of Kenya and Somalia.  An estimated 11 million people across the entire region of the Horn of Africa are in need of assistance.

The drought conditions are extreme, and relief for this situation is not on the horizon until this harvest season in October.  Even then, if the usual rainy season of the Fall should not develop, this tragic situation could only grow worse.  Complicating this situation in Somalia is the presence of rebels who are making relief efforts hazardous.

The Gospel calls for a compassionate and generous response to this human suffering.  Before Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes, he asked his disciples: “Give them something to eat yourself.”  (Matthew 14:16)  Jesus was always moved with pity in the face of human suffering, and His presence within each of these who are suffering calls us to be moved to action and generosity.  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”  (Mt 25:35)

Today, I sent a letter to each of our pastors, asking that a Second Collection be taken up to assist Catholic Relief Services in their work to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation.  I know much has been asked of our local churches already this year to bring relief to flood, tornado, earthquake and tsunami relief.  However, human suffering continues on a tremendous level, and surely we can respond from our excess, even need, in order to demonstrate our compassion.  This is another great opportunity to practice our belief in the dignity and sanctity of all life.

God bless you for all you do to bring compassion and love to those whose needs are great!