1985

Church World Service, Catholic Relief Services, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

For the uncompromising moral determination displayed in extending spiritual and material aid to the famished victims in the drought-ravaged abyss of Ethiopia …  blind to any considerations of race, religion, or politics …


For decades, three organizations have worked tirelessly to provide aid and support to any and all people desperately needing help, from Holocaust refugees in Europe to famine victims in Africa. And while each agency is founded upon certain religious principles and practices, they all base their missions on the simple humanitarian goal to relieve human suffering. 

 Agnes Onydo conducts a home visit with Jayo Benjamin. Since he lost his sight, he needs help around his home and to stick to his HIV drug regimen. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS.

Agnes Onydo conducts a home visit with Jayo Benjamin. Since he lost his sight, he needs help around his home and to stick to his HIV drug regimen. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS.

The first of the three recipients is Catholic Relief Services, “… the official international Catholic Relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.” Catholic Relief Services derives its mission in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to create a more just world and works with other organizations at the local, national, and international level to respond to emergencies worldwide. They are led by the principle that we all must work together for the common good, so that basic human rights are achieved, and all may live in dignity. 

Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the U.S. to help war refugees in Europe. Later, as Europe was recovering, it spread its reach to include Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Their programs are designed not only to give immediate aid in a crisis, but to establish agricultural and educational projects to help the local communities engage in their own recovery and become more self-sufficient. In the 1980s, Catholic Relief Services provided food and medicine to the people of Ethiopia suffering through a famine, and implemented programs to help those affected by HIV/AIDS. Their work continues around the globe. 

 CWS has been feeding the hungry and assisting the vulnerable for more than 66 years! Photo: CWS.

CWS has been feeding the hungry and assisting the vulnerable for more than 66 years! Photo: CWS.

The second recipient is the Church World Service. Like Catholic Relief Services, this organization is based in the Christian faith; its mission is to join with similar organizations both nationally and internationally “to build interfaith and intercultural coalitions to eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice.” Church World Service works with those most in need of help, respecting different faiths, with a view to creating a more just, sustainable world. 

Church World Service started in 1946 to help refugees after the Second World War, working with other relief agencies such as Lutheran World Relief and the National Catholic Welfare Program. At the beginning, they provided urgent relief, such as food, clothing, and medicine, to refugees, and over time expanded their work to sending large deliveries of staple foods to countries around the world. As the decades went on, the Church World Service began working with local agencies to develop and put in place programs to help people worldwide cope better when disasters strike, once immediate relief is given. Like Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service continues their work to relieve suffering and empower people to live with dignity. 

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, now known as JDC, is, according to immediate past CEO and Executive VP Steven Schwager, “in its mission and in its deeds… the 9-1-1 of the Jewish world.” The JDC works to improve the lives of Jewish people in need worldwide, reconnecting them to their faith and to other Jews. JDC believes in aiding both Jewish and non-Jewish communities in developing their ability to help and support themselves. 

 Jewish children wounded in a pogrom. 1920. (From the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) photo-book “I Live. Send Help,” published on the occasion of the Jewish humanitarian group’s centennial anniversary.)

Jewish children wounded in a pogrom. 1920. (From the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) photo-book “I Live. Send Help,” published on the occasion of the Jewish humanitarian group’s centennial anniversary.)

For nearly 100 years, JDC has provided food and medical supplies to Jewish people overseas, while funding diverse programs including vocational and educational training and emigration (emigration being of particular importance for Jews during the Holocaust and after the Second World War). Like Catholic Relief Services and the Church World Service, JDC increasingly saw the need for more than just immediate disaster relief; it also initiated programs which encouraged Jews worldwide to become self-sufficient. In the 1980s, JDC was instrumental in helping Ethiopian Jews with famine relief and recovery, while developing a global network of agencies to work locally in communities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, around the world. 

These three organizations, recognized by HUC-JIR for their work in drought-stricken Ethiopia, have developed their global mission to ensure basic human rights and dignity for all mankind.