Meeting the victims of war has an ‘impact on the gut’

Meeting victims of war

While it is important to follow news reports about the war in Ukraine, meeting victims of that war “has an impact on the gut”, says a leading Catholic cardinal.

“The impact on your eyes when you see (through the media) the bombing and the destruction and the blood and all that” is one of outrage, Cardinal Michael Czerny told Catholic News Service.

But, “when you meet people who are fleeing and have left everything behind, the impact is on the gut” and it triggers compassion.

Pope Francis sent Cardinal Czerny (interim president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development) to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border to show his closeness to the victims of the war and his appreciation for those helping them.

Speaking to CNS by phone from Budapest, Hungary, the cardinal said he met a woman from rural Ukraine who was forced to flee, leaving behind all her animals.

“I’m not saying she was weeping for her animals, but this has been her and her family’s life for generations. And now, suddenly, she’s uprooted from that, and she has absolutely nothing.”

The look in her eyes and the sorrow in her voice “lodges in your gut in a physical way,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Czerny was driven across the Hungarian border to Beregove, Ukraine, to meet with the local Eastern and Latin-rite Catholic bishops.

There he found bishops and representatives of the local Protestant and Jewish communities working together to assist the displaced.

“It was a happy surprise,” he said. “It seemed to be the most natural and normal and necessary thing to do.”

But the cardinal highlighted a potential evil lurking in the darkness of war: the danger of human trafficking.

Men of fighting age are not allowed to leave Ukraine, so the refugees are mostly women fleeing with their children.

“This is exactly when trafficking goes into high gear because they have such a large, vulnerable population of young women, young children,” he said.

“A stranger comes up to you when you are in total need and says ‘Do you want help?’ and you innocently say yes,” and the consequences can be devastating.

More than 2.3 million people fled Ukraine since the war began on February 24 according to figures compiled on March 9 by the UN Refugee Agency. More than 200,000 of the refugees crossed the border into Hungary.

The rapid organisation of assistance, he said, is thanks to the Hungarian government working with Caritas Hungary, other organisations and hundreds of volunteers.

Cardinal Czerny also met with Zsolt Semjén, Hungary’s deputy prime minister, and encouraged the Hungarian government to continue to widen its assistance to refugees.

“For this to be a real grace,” the cardinal told CNS, “it must be prolonged in time and applied universally. There is no category of person for whom it is justified closing the door and saying, ‘You don’t deserve help.’”


Catholic News

Vatican News

The Catholic Register

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,