Development and Peace supporters attend a Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica April 27, marking the organization's 50th anniversary.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Development and Peace supporters attend a Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica April 27, marking the organization's 50th anniversary.

Canadian diocese have been invited to provide a square for a national solidarity quilt marking CCODP's 50th anniversary. Sheila Davidson created the square for the Edmonton Archdiocese.

Canadian diocese have been invited to provide a square for a national solidarity quilt marking CCODP's 50th anniversary. Sheila Davidson created the square for the Edmonton Archdiocese.

May16, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

For half a century the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has worked to transform lives in the Global South.

In Canada, it raises awareness of the root causes of poverty and injustice in the developing world and mobilizes Canadians to act for social change.

As the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada, Development and Peace works in partnership with local organizations in the Global South to create greater justice in the world and to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable.

The organization has contributed around $600 million to projects in the developing world in the last five decades.

This year the organization is marking its 50th anniversary with events across Canada. In Edmonton, Archbishop Richard Smith presided at an April 27 Mass, which was followed by a reception.

In his homily, the archbishop said the mission of Development and Peace is "to help those that have been crushed by life's burdens to rediscover and to embrace their God-given dignity as children of God."

Archbishop Richard Smith

Archbishop Richard Smith

In a recent letter on the 50th anniversary, Smith said the work of Development and Peace "assists in opening our hearts and eyes to the suffering of others."

CCODP has supported 15,200 agricultural, educational, community action and human rights initiatives in 70 countries around the world in Asia, Africa and the Americas, he observed.

Smith said the organization supports communities around the world in a wide range of work, "from ensuring community participation in the reconstruction of homes and lives in the Philippines, to building peace and resilience among refugee and host communities in the Middle East, to advocating for the rights to water, food and land for communities in South America."

CCODP, a member of Caritas Internationalis, was founded 50 years ago by the Canadian bishops as a response to the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World that, in 1965, called Catholics to engage the modern world and to promote justice for the poor.

The organization took its name and ethos from Pope Paul VI's influential 1967 social encyclical On the Development of Peoples, which proclaimed that "Development is the new name for peace."

CCODP has supported thousands of projects in developing nations, including this program in Cusco, Peru, which teaches men carpentry skills.

PHOTO | BOB SCHMIDT

CCODP has supported thousands of projects in developing nations, including this program in Cusco, Peru, which teaches men carpentry skills.

"It was the '60s; we were going to change the world," said Bob McKeon, who joined Development and Peace in the early 1970s. "It was a commitment by the Canadian bishops to bring to life the words of the encyclical and build an organization that would carry that forward."

The 1960s were marked by a strong sense of hope that we could bring change to our world in our lifetime, recalled McKeon.

"(But over the years) we came to realize it was incredibly more difficult. Change is harder, longer term. On the other hand, we root ourselves in our faith as a force for justice and change and I think that's stronger."

McKeon, a professor of Catholic social teaching, said, "For D&P to do its work, to truly live its dream, the Catholic Church in Canada has to become a Church that's truly committed to justice and that means (the idea of social justice) has to permeate the whole Church; and we are not there yet."

Nevertheless, Development and Peace is an interesting organization because it's an organization of the whole Church, he said.

"It's set up involving lay people, religious and clergy where the people themselves give leadership to it."

Kathleen Quinn

Kathleen Quinn

McKeon noted Development and Peace has been solid in the Edmonton Archdiocese from the beginning and has helped develop a number of lay leaders in the Church and society.

CCODP has brought in numerous leading bishops, priests and lay leaders from Latin America and other parts of the world "and we got to meet them," he observed.

Coming to the 50th anniversary was refreshing for the local theologian.

As he observed a new generation of local leaders mingling together in the middle of the basilica's hall, he exclaimed: "They are young and brilliant; they have global experience and bring a passion for social justice."

Over the years, Development and Peace has received plenty of criticism and once was even accused of funding overseas groups that support abortion.

"What I would say is that the very nature of the ministry that Development and Peace does, where they try to work for change with grassroots partners, is inevitably going to be difficult and controversial work," McKeon said.

Tim Hartnagel

Tim Hartnagel

When you do social justice work "you are going to challenge existing powers in our society," he said. "Development and Peace has been doing the mining campaign and a large percentage of the mining companies are registered in Canada and many have operations overseas. That's going to raise controversy; how can it not?"

Tim Hartnagel, a former professor at St. Joseph's University College, joined CCODP soon after arriving in Edmonton from the United States in 1980.

In his analysis, D&P's early motivation was simply to help the poor. "It's only gradually over time that (D&P's) vision expanded to incorporate more social analysis of the underlying causes of why people are poor, why people are suffering in various places in the world."

He thinks D&P, because of its interaction with its partners in the Global South, has learned a lot from those partners.

"One of the things that we learned is that they need to be agents of social change in their circumstances, not us. We can assist them in various ways, but they are the ones who know what the circumstances are."

LONG-TERM STRUGGLE

Back in the 1980s, when Hartnagel began his involvement, there was a lot of enthusiasm for social change. "We've learned that things are not as straightforward and simple; it's much more about long-term struggle."

Sara Farid (left), CCODP's regional coordinator for in-Canada programs, leads a share Lent workshop in February 2014.

WCR FILE PHOTO

Sara Farid (left), CCODP's regional coordinator for in-Canada programs, leads a share Lent workshop in February 2014.

While people in the Global South continue to need assistance, Canadians seem less interested in social issues.

"It's maybe because there is an overload of information about all kinds of different things and people are distracted," he said. "They understand earthquakes and coming to the aid of people who are suffering from earthquakes (but they don't seem to understand the need for development)."

D&P has come to recognize that the future lies with youth and so it is putting more effort and resources into reaching out to young people, Hartnagel said, adding that Development and Peace is part of the curriculum at Catholic schools.

Kathleen Quinn, who served as regional animator of Development and Peace from 1978 to 1992, says D&P was born out of the dream "to actively engage Catholics in the vision to create a more just world."

"The dream and the spark are still alive," Quinn said.

JUST AND INCLUSIVE

"I'm really encouraged by the people of all ages and the people from all the different communities (that make up Development and Peace). The quest for a more just and inclusive community speaks to people's hearts and is still alive."

Quinn noted that over the years D&P, through its solidarity visitor program, "has brought voices from different countries in the world who have been great teachers and who have helped ordinary Edmontonians feel connected to the global struggle for justice."

On the international front, Development and Peace is facing serious financial challenges.

In 2012 the federal government cut funding for CCODP's programs in the developing world. Funding dropped from about $10 million a year to close to $3 million and it may end in 2017.

Martin Blanchet

Martin Blanchet

Despite the shortage, D&P is committed "to try as hard as possible to continue to work in the countries that we do," said D&P national spokesperson Kelly Di Domenico.

"That's why our monthly donor program is so important for us; it's a way of having a reliable source of income that allows us to plan ahead of time."

SOLIDARITY

Martin Blanchet, a member of D&P's national council, said the organization continues to work in solidarity with the poorest of the poor as the Canadian bishops and Jesus mandate.

"In all our projects we find partners in the South that have similar objectives and views as we have and we support those partners," Blanchet said. "We help them achieve what they, as a community, want to achieve.

"We don't tell them what to do but if they want to develop an industry like small family farming, we support those things. Our main objective is to respect and enhance their quality of life."

In Madagascar, for example, D&P is supporting a partner organization that is defending the rights of poor farmers against mining companies that violate those rights, Blanchet said.