Colombia, coffee and care for our common home

By Melissa Wheeler

Once again this Lent, we will be featuring stories connected with Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl. As many of you know, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades recently returned from a trip to Haiti with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) where he was able to witness the work of global solidarity done by CRS.

This year we can report that CRS is serving more than 1 million people in 100 countries around the world. Your support of CRS programs through CRS Rice Bowl helps our brothers and sisters all over the world provide for their basic needs and live in dignity. Our first country highlight this Lent is Colombia.

Colombia has the world’s largest number of internally displaced people: 4.7 million men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict. It is hard for most of us to imagine the anguish we would feel to have to leave everything behind to find a safe place for our children. Oftentimes these families leave with just the clothes on their backs and maybe one bag.

The land along the Colombia/Ecuador border is widely known for its coffee production. Here the Catholic Relief Services Borderlands Coffee project helps 3,200 small-scale farmers from the conflict-affected communities to increase their incomes and gain access to new jobs. Families are able to buy small parcels of land on which to grow coffee that can then be sold in the United States.

The Borderlands Coffee project also promotes environmentally sensitive agriculture techniques to increase crop yields, which helps communities overcome hunger while protecting God’s creation. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis has told us, “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

There is an intimate connection between social and economic ecologies. We are all called to care for those who are most in need in the world. The majority of hungry people around the world are closely connected to agriculture. As the environment changes, so must their growing habits.

The next time you are enjoying a cup of coffee, remember these words from Maria who is a beneficiary of the Borderlands project. “It is in my blood. Coffee is so much a part of everyday life — not just for me and my family, but globally. It’s not just a plant or something you drink, it brings people together.”

This Lent, let us all grow in our global discipleship by caring for our brothers and sisters around the world and for the environment that sustains them.

Posted on February 9, 2016, to: