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The Broader Meaning of Our Work

Chris Herlinger  |  February 23, 2013

Pakistan: Noor Paras

Noor Paras lived in a village along the Indus River that had been damaged by floods. He called the food packages CWS had provided “a gift from God.”

Photo: Chris Herlinger/CWS

It's not often that you get to write and explain the deeper meaning of your work. But that's what happened to me recently when America magazine, a Jesuit magazine based here in New York City, asked me to reflect on my time as a "humanitarian journalist" for CWS and others.

America published the piece in its most recent issue. The article, "To the Ends of the Earth," covers a lot of ground, including issues of where God is in disasters and the role of religion in how we respond in emergencies. I make the argument that we need to "treat all of those affected by disasters without discrimination or favor. Greatest need is, and should be, the priority for all of us who do humanitarian work, not factors like religious affiliation, political beliefs or ethnicity."

I also say that the question of how God can allow suffering in the places I have visited has "never meant as much to me as has the privilege of seeing so many people like my Kenyan brothers and sisters simply doing their jobs, often unheralded, as they work to alleviate that suffering." Among those I cite is my beloved CWS Kenya colleague Sammy Mutua.

I also talk about is my time in Pakistan a few years back, recalling my experience with one flood survivor, Noor Paras, who appreciated the food packages CWS had provided him and his family. "It did not matter to Paras where the food came from – in emergencies there is no Islamic food or Christian food, but merely survival food," I wrote.

The piece is here: americamagazine.org/issue/article/ends-earth. Hearty thanks to America magazine for asking me to write the article and for publishing it.

by Chris Herlinger, a writer with CWS

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