As Caritas Nigeria celebrates its 13th anniversary in Abuja, the local Church’s humanitarian outfit highlights its efforts to assist people and hosts an international conference on Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’.
By Sr. Titilayo Aduloju, SSMA
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) founded the non-profit Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, known as Caritas Nigeria, in 2010, to provide for the fundamental needs of people, regardless of faith, country-of-origin, or ethnicity.
“Caritas”, a Latin word that means ‘love’ or ‘charity’, was established in Nigeria to coordinate the social development initiatives of the Catholic Church in Nigeria on a national scale.
The organization is celebrating its 13th anniversary with an international conference held in Abuja, on 19-22 September, reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’.
13th anniversary celebration
Fr. Peter Babangida Audu, the Deputy Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria, spoke to Vatican News about the organization’s work and achievements, as it celebrates its 13 years of existence in Nigeria.
“Celebrating Caritas’ 13th anniversary in Nigeria means the world, and to be really honest, it means everything, although 13 years is not that many compared to organizations like Caritas Internationalis and others who have been there for many years,” Fr. Babangida said.
Fr. Babangida believes that it is not the number of years that matters but the little impact they have been able to make in the lives of people and the joy it brings to them.
He said the mission of Caritas Nigeria is “bringing the fullness of life to people in our environment. This is to see that everybody is happy and living a fulfilled life.”
“For us, it means a lot,” he added. “We are grateful to God that we have this opportunity to render services and that we have been able to successfully implement some projects. And what leads us through all these is the spirit of love, the passion we have, and working as a team in Caritas Nigeria, setting up those structures.”
During these 13 years, Caritas Nigeria has been able to occupy the space of development and make an impact in terms of development and humanitarian interventions.
Improving lives together
Activities marking the celebration began on Tuesday, 19 September, with an opening Mass celebrated by the president of Caritas Africa, Msgr. Pierre Cibambo, who is currently in Nigeria for the statutory meeting of the Caritas Africa Commission.
Other Programmes include reaching out to the prisoners at Suleja Prison in Abuja to help them leave prison at the end of their sentences so that financial difficulties do not impede their release.
The organization is also providing medical assistance to residents of Abuja. “We have a group of medical professionals prepared to perform this service,” Fr. Babangida said.
Caritas Nigeria will seek to highlight the empowerment of women and young people on Wednesday by involving them in projects that strengthen their capacities and help them realize the realities of their lives.
Caritas Empowering Young Women
Then, on Thursday, Caritas Nigeria will host an international conference that will focus on Laudato si’.
Fr. Babangida said the conference hopes “to encourage people to care for the environment, to take responsibility for the environment in which we live. Mother Earth needs help.”
In order to achieve this, Caritas Nigeria will research the issue of plastic recycling and tree planting as already urged by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in February 2023.
On Friday, the 13th anniversary celebration will come to a close with a Mass of Thanksgiving and a gallery walk during which Caritas Nigeria will highlight its work in the country.
According to Fr. Babangida, Caritas Nigeria works in accordance with the several theme areas of Caritas, including health and HIV, good governance, humanitarian relief, and emergency situations, as well as livelihood and agriculture.
In all these areas, said Fr. Babangida, Caritas Nigeria has been able to achieve great things.
Listen to our interview with Fr. Peter Babangida Audu
Hopes for the coming years
In the future, “we want to see that Caritas Nigeria is better positioned to engage the space,” said Fr. Babangida. “We must work with several sectors to do this and develop our capacity.”
Given the size of the project, Caritas Nigeria hopes to continue to network and collaborate with national and international NGOs in order to serve local residents, in a variety of situations.
Caritas Staff with Frs Michael Banjo and Peter Bababgida
Fr. Babangida concluded by noting that Caritas Nigeria would like to hire professionals in the coming years who would provide important services, especially to help young people develop various professional skills.