Written by Gregg Brekke
The General Assembly of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International today decided to unify with ACT Development with the aim to create one of the world's largest humanitarian and development alliances.
Pending a similar decision to be taken by the development network at the end of May, the new coalition, to be named the ACT International, hopes to bring together close to 150 churches, agencies and other faith-based organizations with a combined budget of more than US$1.5 billion.
The UCC participates in ecumenical and global response to international disasters as a member of the ACT International network of partners. Susan Sanders, the UCC’s Minister for Global Sharing of Resources, is a member of the ACT Emergency Committee.
Zambian-born ACT International director, John Nduna, said, "The future ACT Alliance will be able to better show who we are by combining emergency and development work. And our profile will be clear: we are on the side of the poor and oppressed and we will fight for their rights to a dignified life."
"We have a lot of anticipation for the new body and we expect a lot from it in terms of guidance, leadership and visioning - particularly for southern members and churches," said Rose Muendi Kimeu, representing the ACT members in Kenya.
"The inspiring wind of change and the power of our network together has succeeded," added Lisa Henry of DanChurchAid. "We have risen to the challenge and the need to improve our impact for local populations across the world."
Today's decision follows after close to three years of consultation, planning and work within the ACT membership and wider ecumenical family.
"Churches and the agencies are united together, because it is in our fight against injustice and our assistance to the vulnerable that we are all part of the global church," stressed Sushant Agrawal, moderator of ACT International.
The motions to revise the ACT International statutes, mission statement and by-laws passed 18 to 1. The motion to unify with ACT Development passed 17 to two. The new structures will take effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and will be followed by a General Assembly and launch event to be held in March 2010.
Challenges to be faced
Speaking to the difficulties ahead, Donna Derr, from US-based Church World Service said, "Certainly we acknowledge that there will be multiple challenges to address, not the least of which will be financial in the midst of the global economic crisis. Yet we are hopeful and today is just the beginning of better assisting those we aim to serve."
"It is going to be an enormous task ahead. We are creating something new, while still building upon the past," added Sushant Agrawal. "And we express our special thanks to the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation for their continued support to this process."
Burundian Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi shared, "Our concerted effort to eradicate poverty will be more efficient and effective as we work together in this new alliance of churches coming together for justice and restoring humanity into the world."
"This is a victory and important achievement for the ACT members in Central America. Since 1998 after Hurricane Mitch, we have been trying to put together advocacy, humanitarian response and development work," said Carlos Cardenas from Nicaragua. "Today, our sense of belonging to ACT has increased."
Following ACT Development's decision on whether to unify with ACT International at its own General Assembly in Buenos Aires, the unified alliance will legally come under the auspices of ACT International with the new name of the ACT Alliance.
Established on Aug. 25, 1995, ACT International came into being partly as a result of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, when churches and their related agencies around the world responded to the disaster through a mechanism that was ACT's precursor - the then Church World Action.
ACT International members are made up of Protestant and Orthodox churches and their related agencies, drawn from the membership of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation. Last year, ACT International issued 42 appeals for disaster response and preparedness across the world.