PEACE AND JUSTICE UPDATES
February - March 2014
Referendum for Unification with Russia, Ukraine - The Crimean people will vote on a referendum widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region (Crimea) from Ukraine to Moscow, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West. The vote, dismissed by Kiev and Western governments as illegal, has triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War and marks a new peak in turmoil in Ukraine. It follows events in November when the now ousted President Viktor Yanukovych walked out on a trade deal with the European Union sparking violent protests in Kiev. More than 2000 polling stations and two million ballot cards have been hastily printed since the referendum was announced more than two weeks ago.
Pope Francis' Letter to Families, Vatican - Pope Francis issued a letter to families on February 25 in which he asks for prayers for the upcoming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. In the letter, he asked for the prayers of families with the intention "that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task." He also notes that the Extraordinary Synod on the family will be followed a year later by an Ordinary Assembly with the same theme, as well as by the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia in 2015.
UNAIDS-Caritas Internacionalis, Rome - The United Nations, the Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations pledged to work more closely together to try and bring an end to the global AIDS epidemic at an international conference in Rome February 25-26. UNAIDS and other agencies leading the fight against the disease recognized that Churches provide up to 50% of all HIV-AIDS community care in some countries. Participants at the two-day meeting also noted that faith-based groups offer a unique combination of access to life saving drugs and care for the dignity of the individual, which other medical or scientific partners cannot provide.
Starvation and Refugee needs in Central Africa - A massive food shortage continues to worsen as refugees displaced by violence in the South Sudan and the Central African Republic arrive in regions of Central and East Africa, e.g., Chad, Cameroun, and Ethiopia, where the needs of the refugees far surpass the availability of aid and resources. UN bodies such as the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the World Food Program (WFP) struggle to provide for the needs of the refugees. The UNHCR has received only 9% of the $112 million it is asking for in 2014 while the WFP is airlifting tons of rice and cereal as many of the roads remain impassible and will become even more so as the rainy season approaches.