by Tony Magliano, CNS

What a wonderful season is Christmas! It is that beautiful, mysterious time when we contemplate and celebrate heaven touching earth. But for so many of our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa, it’s more like hell on earth! Instead of it being the wonderful season of Christmas, it is the driest season in 60 years.

Catholic Relief Services’ president, Ken Hackett, said, “The drought in the Horn of Africa is the world’s worst humanitarian crises – and will remain so for some time to come. He told me that over 12 million people there are facing malnutrition and starvation: “In many places there is simply no food.”

The United Nations has declared a famine in Somalia. Families are leaving what little they have, and are pouring into refugee camps in neighboring hard-hit Ethiopia and Kenya desperately looking for help. “But thousands of children are dying on dirt roads before even reaching the camps,” said Hackett.

This life and death crisis is sadly reminiscent of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 when hundreds of thousands of human beings died, and millions were left with absolutely nothing, because of war and a delayed inadequate response from wealthy nations.

But unlike the delayed response of rich governments, Irish rock singer Bob Geldof, after seeing a BBC report highlighting the famine, immediately decided he wanted to help. He phoned musician Midge Ure, and together they wrote a song to raise money to aid the starving Ethiopians.

Geldof then brought together some of the most famous musicians in the world to record his song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”In the United Kingdom alone, it quickly sold 3.5 million copies and reportedly raised $14 million dollars for Ethiopian famine relief.

The music and lyrics of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” are quite compelling. Here are several lines from the song:

Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time. …
Say a prayer – pray for the other ones.
At Christmas time it’s hard, but when you’re having fun.
There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dreaded fear.
Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears.
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.
And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life. …
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
Here’s to you, raise your glass for everyone.
Here’s to them, underneath that burning sun.
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
Feed the world. … Let them know it’s Christmas time!

Now that’s got to move you! Let it move you to give generously to the poorest of the poor, struggling desperately to survive in the Horn of Africa.

Catholic Relief Service’s president, Ken Hackett, said they need to raise another $13 million to keep key operations going to get those in harm’s way from the dry season to the rainy season.

Please send your Christmas gift to: Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090. And kindly earmark your check for “East Africa Drought Emergency.” Or you can donate online.

It’s also critically important to contact your congressional delegation, strongly urging them to increase, not decrease, poverty-focused international assistance in the 2112 federal budget.

“Feed the world. … Let them know it’s Christmas time!”

Tony Magliano is a Catholic News Service columnist whose work appears in diocesan papers throughout the United States. If your diocesan paper does not carry his column, we encourage you to call them and request that they do.

One thought on “AFRICA: Do they know it’s Christmas?

  1. I am a citizen of the U.S.A. and unfortunately must say we have little to give these poor Africans in the Horn – for all our tax-payers funds are being used to murder so-called enemies in Afghanistan ! So, sorry from an endangered Free man in America !

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