Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief
As concern among churches and NGOs continues over the fragile peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group in western Sudan, the North American relief and development agency Mennonite Central Committee is among those continuing to provide food and blankets to people displaced by violent conflict.
MCCís latest contribution is part of an aid response that has amounted to more than 5.5 million US dollars equivalent over the last two years. Mennonites are one of the ëhistoric peace churchesí with a worldwide membership of 1.3 million.
Violence spiralled out of control in Darfur after a rebellion began three years ago. Government forces and government-backed militias responded with a scorched-earth campaign that has led to over 200,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people, according to most estimates.
Mennonite Central Committee has coordinated the shipment of 3,000 metric tons of yellow split peas and 3,000 metric tons of wheat to displacement camps in Darfur since 2004. Of this food, which was provided by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, about 1,200 metric tons of wheat remains to be distributed.
The agency has also collected 81,755 blankets for displaced people in Darfur from constituents in Canada and the United States. Of these, about 26,000 remain to be distributed in Darfur.
MCC, which also advocates for nonviolence and social justice at a political level, has worked ecumenically in the region by financially supporting the Sudan Council of Churches in distributing blankets and constructing eight schools and 500 shelters for families in displacement camps. MCC also provided relief supplies and milk powder to camps for Darfur refugees in Chad.
Another MCC-backed shipment of food to Darfur and to Sudan's southern regions, where the need for humanitarian assistance is also great, is now being considered.
Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches are cooperating together through the Darfur Emergency Response Operation (DERO) - a collaboration between the Caritas network (an international Catholic group) and Action by Churches Together of the WCC,
DERO aims to improve the quality of life of the internally displaced communities most affected by the civil unrest in the southern and western regions of Darfur.
[With grateful acknowledgment to Tim Shenk and MCC communications. Mennonite Central Committee is a North American inter-Mennonite relief and development organization. Donations to the work of MCC may be made here].