by Peter Stanford
ON the eve of the forthcoming summit of EEC heads of state in Dublin, Cardinal Basil Hume, in his capacity as President of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, has written to the host, Dr Garret Fitzgerald, to demand a "bold and imaginative initiative" by the community in responding to the crisis in Africa.
While praising the "unparalleled generosity and human solidarity" of the people of Europe with the starving millions in the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa, the Cardinal spoke of the "considerable surplus of grain and of other foods" in EEC stores at a time when "Africans starve to death". "Not only Christians, but people of every creed and none are justifiably scandalised by this situation", he wrote to Dr Fitzgerald, who is President of the Council of Ministers in the EEC. Noting that on the evidence of his recent trip to Ethiopia "the immediate and disastrous consequences of this famine" will last for at least another 12 months, the Cardinal called for a "dramatic response" from the Community. There are an estimated 3.7 million tonnes of grain in the EEC silos at present after a record harvest.
He also spoke of the need for "long-term development" projects in the affected regions, and added that despite the "very real political and economic problems involved, aid for development should also be among the Community's priorities".
Yesterday in the piazza outside Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Hume took delivery of five 30-ton Leyland, trucks, purchased by Cafod with the assistance of the Overseas Development Administration. The trucks, which cost £200,000, will transport food and medicine to the famine areas in Ethiopia. Earlier in the week Cardinal Hume had signed a petition, organised by the World Development Movement, and supported by Cafod, Christian Aid and the major development agencies. It called on the Government to provide "appropriate" emergency relief for at least 12 months to Ethiopia and other affected countries, urged other goVernments, the EEC and UN agencies to do likewise; and asked the Government to increase the "quality and quantity" of long-term aid to avoid a future crisis on the recent scale.
On Wednesday, the Director of Cafod, Julian Filochoski, and his counterpart at Christian Aid, gave evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. They condemned the 20 per cent reduction in the aid budget since 1979 and the fact that it now stands at only half the UN recommended level as a proportion of the GNP.