Article by Scott Arbeiter and Tim Breene. Scott Arbeiter is president of World Relief. Tim Breene is CEO of World Relief. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.
This summer, Sudanese protestors began a strike to pressure the ruling army to hand over power to a civilian government. Next door in South Sudan, fighting resumed between government forces and the militant National Salvation Front. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, conflicts over land intensified and 21 people were killed when a fishing village came under attack.
A new report has found that the number of people internally displaced by conflict around the world is at an all-time high, at 41.3 million. In 2018 alone, conflict forced more than 10 million people to flee their homes. Americans don’t hear about many of these situations, especially as U.S. political battles heat up and the stock market tips precariously between recovery and a downturn. We Americans are also doers. Historically, we want to help others, but how can those of us on the other side of the world — with little cultural knowledge of these places — make a lasting impact?
The short answer is, we can’t. Barreling in with troops or even thousands of eager and well-intentioned philanthropic volunteers is not the answer and may even exacerbate the problem.
But there is a solution that we share with these faraway places, one that sits on many street corners in our downtowns and backroads in our country and theirs: local churches.
While Western aid organizations play an important role in providing emergency health, water and sanitation services to conflict-torn regions, these are short-term solutions to long-term problems. The United States Agency for International Development does valuable work in global health and emergency assistance in the DRC, for example, but violence often limits what it can do.
This is why local community organizations are so important to recovery from conflict and development afterward. The best use of resources is to effectively train and engage local churches to act.
For years, World Relief has been empowering local churches in conflict zones across the globe to serve their communities. We train farmers to improve their crops and offer loans through Savings for Life groups. Congregations are coming together to plant gardens for their elderly and send their orphans to school. They host peace dialogues between armed groups before tensions escalate into violence.
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Source: Religion News Service