Ukraine, Haiti, Afghanistan Anniversaries
All these anniversaries were marked during the last two weeks of August 2022.
- the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
- the one-year anniversary of devastating earthquakes in Haiti.
The war in Ukraine has created more than 13 million refugees and internally displaced persons. Thousands have been killed.
“Generous response to the United Church of Christ’s Ukraine Emergency Appeal demonstrates members’ commitment to walk with those impacted by the war today and for their long-term recovery,” said UCC Global H.O.P.E. Team Leader the Rev. Josh Baird.
The war in Ukraine is having a global impact. Ukraine normally exports oil and wheat. With the war, little of those commodities are going out, causing shortages and sending prices of food and fuel skyrocketing.
The Horn and East Africa are especially hard hit. This region counts on imports of Ukrainian wheat in good times, and depends on that wheat in bad times.
And this is a bad time.
Severe drought has destroyed the region’s own crops, leaving 15 million people food insecure and pressing some toward the brink of starvation. To date, the UCC has sent $45,000 to help people challenged by drought in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.
“Remember them when you think of Ukraine,” Baird said, “and other humanitarian crises such as Afghanistan, Tigray, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and others.”
Haiti – no stranger to earthquakes and tropical storms – was rocked by a deadly, destructive 7.2 earthquake in August 2021 and by Tropical Depression Grace two days later in the same Western region, adding flooding and mudslides to the misery in the earthquake zone. More than 2,000 died and additional thousands were injured due to the earthquake.
UCC ecumenical partner Church World Service has a long presence in Haiti, and set out to help with recovery despite political instability, severe economic crises, short supply of basic goods and building materials and recurrent fuel shortages, to name a few.
CWS carefully selected an intervention area and soon reported that “significant progress is being made and program activities are reaching those impacted by the disaster. These have included:
- psychosocial support recognizing that trauma interferes with students’ ability to learn for 62 teachers and community leaders, and 824 students.
- Construction of six cisterns, five for families and one for a school.
- 15 earthquake-resistant homes.
- Textbooks and other school supplies for 332 students in three rural areas.
- In progress: training on trauma awareness and resilience, psychosocial activities at school, mobile clinics, construction of houses and more cisterns.
The UCC is supporting this work out of the $373,175 contributed by generous donors as of June 30, 2022, in its Haiti Appeal.
After the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Taliban last August, thousands of Afghans who had worked for the United States, many as translators, had to flee Afghanistan for their lives. Most were airlifted to military bases in Europe and the United States, to wait for a place to resettle.
About 100 United Church of Christ congregations stepped up to welcome Afghan nationals. They coordinated locally by region to share resources. Churches in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Virginia coordinated with military bases to assure smooth processing of the Afghans.
Several came together to buy and refurbish housing specifically to host Afghan families. Dozens more attended UCC webinars on working with refugee resettlement offices, the new remote resettlement program and on cultural and trauma-informed practices.
“The Afghan crisis entirely changed the way refugee resettlement functions by being the largest mass of humanitarian parolees since 1976,” said the Rev. Irene Hassan, UCC Minister for Migration Services on Wider Church Ministries’ Global H.O.P.E. Team.
The crisis led to the creation of the federal “Sponsor Circles” program, which allows private citizens to resettle refugees independently of a local resettlement office.
Now churches are focusing their advocacy on passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act), would create a pathway for Afghans here on humanitarian parole to extend beyond the two-year limit.
“Today many Afghan families, while mostly all resettled and employed with help from local churches and professional partners, still struggle with finding the appropriate pathway to adjust their status.
“Also, almost every single Afghan that arrived in August 2021 left behind at least one family member or loved one,” she said. “This is an enormous source of grief for them. Many churches, including Shadow Rock UCC in Phoenix, Ariz., are working to find creative pathways to safety for those friends and families left behind.”
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