Catholic practical help for the extremely poor

1 September 2000

(Anyone interested in Zambia will enjoy a book Zion in Africa. The Jews of Zambia. By Hugh Macmillan and Frank Shapiro. In association with The Council for Zambia Jewry, I.B.Taurus Publishers £39. The local library would get it, perhaps. Early European Jewish life in Livingstone, and also the Copperbelt and Lusaka.)

A Jewish doctor mentioned in the book runs a medical clinic in Lusaka. He has worked in Zambia for over thirty years and he visits the Chilanga Hospice run by the Sisters of Mercy of Charles Borremeo. Most cases in the hospice are seriously ill with AIDS. Greatly impressed by the staff, he indicates that “without Catholic help, particularly in the field of health” this country would be in a sorry state.

This opinion from a knowledgeable Jewish doctor, who helps out in a Catholic run hospice, reinforces what we have known for decades; namely that Catholics throughout Africa and Latin America and many other parts of the world provide much of the health care, and much other care as well, for the poor and for the very poor. And they do it better than anyone else.

For over 40 years I have noticed that when some drama happens in a poverty stricken area, the TV crews home in on a Catholic priest or, more often, a Catholic nun, who has been working there for years, to get the low down. Non-gospel based Catholic theology – Humanae Vitae and the opening to Marxism – may be a major contributory cause of much of the extreme poverty in the world, but gospel based practical help for the very poor is provided by Catholics more effectively and more widely than by any other group – by a very long way.

March 2006. Dr Mike Bush, the doctor noted above, has recently been awarded an OBE for the time he has spent as voluntary consultant and clinician at the Chilanga Hospice, which was started by the energetic and dedicated Sister Leonia. (Information courtesy of Zambia Society 4 Ashurst Way, East Preston, Littlehampton BN16 1AG. There are few more effective ways of helping the very poor in Zambia, or in Africa generally, than by supporting the Zambia Society Trust)