Mennonites send aid to Syria and advocate peace

By staff writers
1 Sep 2013

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Great Lakes office, located in Goshen, Indiana, USA, is among those collecting supplies and sending them to refugee camps in Syria.

It is one of a number of initiatives coming from the peace church's relief and development arm, which has a strong history of opposing war and supporting nonviolent, humanitarian responses across the world.

MCC Executive Director Zenebe Abebe says this is nothing new. The group has been sending aid kits and supplies to displaced Syrians in the MENA region since the war broke out in 2011.

Volunteers sort and assemble donated supplies into usable kits. They are then shipped to MCC headquarters in Pennsylvania, before being flown on to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Jennifer Steiner, communications coordinator for MCC Great Lakes, explained: "This is something that really gives dignity to people in a very chaotic situation... We find that they're really treasured things for families who receive them."

"We have good people working there who know what's happening," Executive Director Zenebe Abebe adds. "Also we have partner[s] who work there on the ground who are Syrians and Lebanese, who help us. We know [the supplies] get there."

Mennonites, along with Church of the Brethren and Quakers, are one of the historic peace churches in North America. They see a refusal to kill and creative nonviolence as necessary out workings of being a follower of Christ in this and every age.

MCC issued a statement on the Syrian crisis last week. It reads: "Mennonite Central Committee urgently calls on all governments and parties to the conflict to end the violence in Syria. We condemn in the strongest terms all forms of violence and war, including missile strikes, use of chemical weapons, targeted acts of violence against civilians, conventional warfare and suicide bombings.

"Further militarisation of the conflict will only increase the suffering of the Syrian people and the shattering of Syrian society.

"We call on all nations to immediately end shipments of military equipment and arms to the Syrian government and to rebel groups, and to increase contributions of food and other humanitarian assistance to civilians in all areas of Syria and to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries, and their host communities.

"We call on the international community, and Syrians from all sides, to negotiate with urgency and seriousness an inclusive political solution to the crisis, guaranteeing the rights of all Syrians.

"In the name of Christ, we pray and work for peace in Syria."

MCC's work with Syrian partner organisations is built on decades of relationships, beginning in the 1980s. Through those partners, the NGO "is responding to the basic human needs of Syrians by distributing food, blankets and kits, and supporting peacebuilding and education in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon."

* Mennonite Central Committee: http://www.mcc.org/

* In the USA: To find out what kind of supplies to donate to MCC, go to http://www.mcc.org/kits. For more information on how to volunteer and how to donate, call 574-534-4133.

* More on Syria from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/syria

[Ekk/3]

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