With your support, we’ve achieved great things since SCIAF was founded in 1965.
In God’s love, we’ve walked in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. Millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America have been given the tools they need to work their way out of poverty, and hundreds of thousands have received life-saving aid after disasters. In schools and parishes across Scotland we’ve helped generations of supporters to put their faith into action and reach out to those in need overseas.
A huge debt is owed to our founders. Guided by the principles of the Second Vatican Council, Monsignor John Rooney and John McKee set up SCIAF in a Rutherglen classroom with a budget of just £8,000. The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland appointed Bishop Michael Foylan as our first Treasurer.
Their aim, which we still follow today, was to help the world’s poor and inspire Scottish Catholics to respond to the Gospel call for a just world.
The words of Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical letter On the Development of Peoples in 1967, were the inspiration for the growth and development of SCIAF and many other Church aid agencies around the world. In the encyclical, Pope Paul VI wrote,
The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance. And the Church, cut to the quick, asks each of us to hear the plea and respond lovingly.
From the start, the Catholic community responded, giving money to help people affected by the 1968 famine in Biafra (now part of south-eastern Nigeria) and drought in Bihar in India. In 1970 we were able to send vaccines and medical supplies to help survivors of Cyclone Bhola in Bangladesh, in which some 500,000 people lost their lives.
Our work continued through the decades, providing direct help to those in need overseas including Vietnamese refugees fleeing their country in the mid-1970s and Ethiopians hit by the terrible famine in the mid-1980s.
In more recent years we’ve continued to respond to the cries of those in need - promoting peace in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, getting life-saving aid and long term support to families devastated by the Asian Tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Nargis in Burma (Mayanmar) in 2008, Nepal earthquake in 2015, as well as helping Syria refugees up to the present day.
Thanks to your support, we've helped many more people to provide for themselves and their families, learn new skills, build peace and promote justice in their communities.
Our 50th year and Papal Blessing
We were honoured to receive a Papal Blessing from the Holy Father in 2015 to mark our 50th anniversary. In it, Pope Francis reiterated his Lenten message from 2014 in which he said,
“We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters; to touch it, to make it our own and take practical steps to alleviate it… Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution in the world.”
These words drive our work every day. They are the inspiration and life-blood that flows through SCIAF’s veins.
Campaigning for justice
The Church’s teachings also direct us to tackle the structural or root causes of poverty such as inequality, economic injustice and climate change. As the bishops of Scotland said in a pastoral letter to mark our 40th anniversary, poverty is often “caused and kept going by decisions taken by us or in our name.”
This has led us to play important roles in popular political campaigns over the years such as the Jubilee Debt campaign, Make Poverty History and most recently, Enough Food for Everyone IF. These led to the cancellation of debt for many poor countries, a massive increase in international aid, and help for people who are already being hit by climate change. Pope Benedict called this kind of response, “the political path of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly.”
With your support, we’ve given millions of families a better chance in life and hope for the future. We can end poverty, if we all come together. Let’s help the poorest survive and thrive.