Vienna, 7 January 2003 - Today, on the last day of their nationwide fundraising campaign boys and girls dressed as the Three Magi paid a visit to Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner. With the money collected on their tours the Epiphany carol singers of the Katholische Jungschar (Catholic youth association) support relief projects in Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines. As a special gift Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar this year brought the Fair Trade seal which guarantees fair payment for producers in developing countries and thus promotes self-help. Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner welcomed the singers as "messengers of a more just and peaceful world" and thanked them for their untiring efforts at the service of the poorest of the poor.
Recalling the journey of the Three Kings, children dressed as the Three Magi and holding up a large star, hence their German name "star singers", go from door to door singing carols between Christmas and the feast of Epiphany. Following a years-old tradition, at the beginning of this year 80,000 girls and boys of the Catholic youth association have again taken the message of peace, justice and help for the poorest to the people of Austria. For the 49th time in a row the Three Magi have travelled singing from door to door to collect donations for needy people in developing countries. Since 1955 they have thus collected 191 million euros for relief projects. This year, the funds will be used, inter alia, to build schools for indigenous children in the Philippines, to support landless Indio farmers in Guatemala in litigations for their traditional land and to implement literacy programmes for the Turkana, a nomadic people in Kenya.
Assistance for self-help
Apart from announcing the message of Christmas and Epiphany this year's tour of the "star singers" has been dedicated to a special mission: when visiting people they encouraged them to buy products bearing the Fair Trade seal which guarantees that producers in developing countries receive fair payment for their work. "The Fair Trade initiative enables farmers and farm workers in developing countries to earn a decent living. Fair trade is thus an effective means of development cooperation to which each of us can contribute", the Foreign Minister stressed. "Austrian development cooperation attaches particular importance to this successful assistance for self-help. Therefore, together with the Three Magi campaign and numerous other organisations, we have been supporting the Fair Trade initiative for many years", Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner continued. The Foreign Minister then thanked the Epiphany carol singers for their untiring efforts at the service of the poorest of the poor and "all Austrians for opening the door to the Three Magi every year." Ferrero-Waldner stressed that she was very proud of her compatriots who had repeatedly demonstrated with their record donations that they always have an open heart for the disadvantaged.