Written by Phyllis Richards
OGHS Supports Just Peace
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Every day hundreds of refugees struggle across the northern border of Kenya from South Sudan. Since violence broke out in the world’s newest nation on December 15th nearly 900,000 people have been uprooted. A ceasefire in January 2014 offered hope, but violence has continued unabated. At refugee reception centers in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia people are offered shelter, food and relief after their arduous journeys to safety. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Response, about 80 percent of the South Sudanese refugees are children and aid agencies are concerned about their well-being and safety. The men are fighting in the war, have been killed or, in the case of young men, have been conscripted by one side or the other.
Life in the Kakuma refugee reception center in Kenya is difficult. Not only have people’s homes and lives been uprooted at home, but the lack of resources at the camp is creating social pressures in the camp. The water supply is limited, and some water has to be trucked in. Inadequate shelter and overcrowding – especially in the reception area – creates the environment for potential conflict and gender-based violence.
Difficulty, however, does not demand despair. Through One Great Hour of Sharing, you are there – not with easy answers, but providing safe accommodation, food, health services, social services and education for the many arriving children. You are combatting gender-based violence and providing support for the growing number of people with HIV and AIDS arriving in the camp. You are part of local efforts to secure land and construct dwellings for the asylum seekers in Kakuma, Kenya. You are providing education as children continue studying and livelihood support programs for those needing to work.
Through OGHS, you are there – not with easy answers, but supporting a just peace that means abundance and well-being for all, especially the most vulnerable. You are part of the work of the ACT Alliance, the All Africa Conference of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the South Sudan Council of Churches, supporting church-led peace and reconciliation efforts nationally, regionally and internationally. Through these partner organizations, you are advocating for a quick return to normality and sustained peace in the long-term. At the time of the January cease-fire, ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna, reminded the people, “We hold out hope that South Sudan can return to peace. Now is the time for that peace, but it must be a peace built on reconciliation, healing and the inclusion of all parties if we are to overcome the damage this conflict has incurred. Women, churches, local leaders and civil society organizations need to take part.”
Through One Great Hour of Sharing you are meeting immediate needs of refugees and displaced persons. Through OGHS, you are part of the complex process of people shaping a new society and nation for themselves. Through OGHS, you are part of “just peace.”
OGHS is one of the All-Church Offerings of the United Church of Christ. Your congregation can be 5 for 5 by participating in the One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need, and Christmas Fund offerings and through generous support of Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM).
Your place of employment may offer the opportunity for matching grants. Multiply your gift to One Great Hour of Sharing. Check out this list.
Hurray – the OGHS Endowment is here. Provide long-term stability for the UCC’s systematic and relational participation in disaster recovery, sustainable development and refugee relief. Contact Phyllis Richards at: firstname.lastname@example.org in the Wider Church Ministries office, to get involved.
Sharing in God’s Love,
Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss
UCC Global Sharing of Resources Team Leader