BUTUAN City, Agusan, Oct. 7, 2014—Just months ahead of the“Year for the Poor” opening on Nov. 23, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace (NASSA) launched the “Alay Kapwa 40 for the Poor”, which aims to raise P4 million in 40 weeks to jumpstart a program that will benefit the poor in the country.
“We intend to support Self-Help Group (SHEG), a project that has microfinance component to it, and which differs from all other similar ventures in that this one seeks to empower whole communities,” Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of CBCP-NASSA said, saying the project aims to address the culture of mendicancy in the Philippines.
‘Culture of self-reliance’
In his interview over Church-run Radyo Veritas, Gariguez explained that besides improving their condition in life, the program is designed to encourage a “culture of self-reliance” among its would-be beneficiaries, instead of teaching them to depend on ”dole-outs” given by the government.
The priest shared that one of the Church’s missions also include raising the awareness of the faithful on the Christian duty of helping others.
“Earning money is just one of its many components, because Alay Kapwa (AK) also involves formation. Each Lent, when we commemorate the Lord’s Passion, it’s been our practice to give away to different dioceses modules that invite the faithful to connect the salvific death of Christ with our Christian responsibility of serving those most in need,” explained Gariguez.
The priest added that AK, which is CBCP’s Lenten evangelization program for the poor, is in keeping with Pope Francis’ ideal of the Church of the Poor, one that reaches out to people “in the margins” of society.
Social transformation, resiliency
“The Church is constantly challenged to take the side of the poor and the oppressed, particularly in the situation where there is a continuing violation of human rights where in justice is being denied for sectors like farmers, indigenous people, fisherfolks, labor and even the victims of calamities,” Gariguez explained.
Founded in 1974, the AK program responds to the signs of the times as “good stewards taking responsibility to care for our neighbors and creation through evangelization and resource mobilization of the local church”.
It also supports NASSA’s disaster emergency and advocacies toward social transformation and resiliency.
“AK40 for the Poor”, which also stands for the program’s 40 years of serving the poor, was launched on AK’s 40th anniversary held during the the 37th National Social Action General Assembly (NASAGA) hosted by the Diocese of Butuan on Monday, Oct. 6. (Raymond A. Sebastián)