Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs

Preference for the Poor: Responding to the COVID-19 Emergency

April 25 2020


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Newsletter from Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

Countless communities across the world are mobilizing to respond to the needs of people unable to earn their living through work or lacking care. Responses are focused at local levels, but there are some that build on long-standing approaches and policies of specific institutions or communities. In many instances the approaches and instruments reflect both experience and theology. An example is how the "preferential option for the poor," a central element of Catholic social teaching, shapes responses.

Various Catholic communities, including lay movements, are mobilizing. To take one example, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Rome-based Catholic lay organization that includes communities in over 70 countries, is focusing a wide range of efforts on vulnerable groups. These efforts, which echo initiatives among other communities, highlight a common religious feature: heavy reliance on volunteers. Three primary areas are the focus: 1) distributing food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and other essentials to homeless people; 2) providing groceries, medication, and social support to elderly people living alone or in retirement homes; and 3) raising awareness about virus prevention and treatment. Sant’Egidio is on the frontline of the COVID-19 response across Sub-Saharan Africa in countries such as Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, and Guinea. The Community is mobilizing its DREAM program, which provides HIV/AIDS and TB treatment at over 50 facilities in 11 countries, to provide COVID-19 treatment. Finally, Sant’Egidio is sharpening its focus on support to refugee communities, both at an individual human level and through policy advocacy.

(Based on: April 7, 2020, Stern article [German] and the Sant'Egidio website)

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