Church is uniquely placed to provide effective relief in times of disaster

Food distribution in the village of Akoradji, Tahoua, Niger. | Photo: Daniel Auf Der Mauer, HEKS/ACT

Global: Ten Years of Action By Churches Together

“Covering humanitarian issues for more than two decades I always marvel at how international agencies coordinate and get their aid so quickly to those needing it. After working alongside the ACT International Coordinating Office on many a rest day, I realize how it is done – with true grit, slog and teamwork.”
Peter Kenny, Editor-in-Chief, Ecumenical News International
Geneva, August 23, 2005–Ten years ago, on August 25, 1995, a new ecumenical organisation came into being. It was called Action by Churches Together International, or simply, ACT International.
Through the last ten years, ACT International has provided a humanitarian way for Protestant and Orthodox churches and their related agencies to respond together – compassionately and professionally – to people caught in life-threatening emergencies.
Its formation came about as a result of the world witnessing, in 1994, a human-made catastrophe it had hoped would not be repeated in the 20th Century – that of the genocide in Rwanda. The churches had responded to this disaster through a mechanism that would be ACT’s precursor, the then Church Action Aid.
Drawing its members from the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation – the two founding organisations – ACT International is today a 126-member global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.
Rev. White Rakuba, the director of the ACT International Coordinating Office, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, recounts a quote by a woman who had received assistance through ACT. She said “the presence of the church around me at this hour means that God is with me and I do not feel abandoned.”
Over the ten years of coordinated humanitarian response, ACT members have offered support and assistance to people surviving emergencies big and small. Hurricane Mitch, the war in the Balkans, massive earthquakes in El Salvador, India, Iran and Turkey, in the Palestinian Territories, the lingering droughts in Africa and Asia, floods and famine, volcanic eruptions, wars and civil conflicts and more recently, the tsunami that struck parts of south and south east Asia and the east coast of Africa with such force – all humanitarian crises that have seen ACT respond through its members.
“After ten years of being together as an alliance, we can safely say that the church is uniquely placed to provide effective relief in times of disaster,” says Rev. Rakuba.
Past interim director of the ACT Coordinating office Jenny Borden, says: “ACT has also played an important role in advocating for the forgotten emergencies – a volcano, a cyclone, a hurricane which barely makes the news, but which devastates the lives of perhaps thousands of people, and the long silent famines and droughts of especially Africa which the world tires of and which ACT constantly tries to keep on the agenda.” Borden was part of the first consultations a decade ago when ACT came into being and has supported ACT International also as a member of its governing body.
In 2004, ACT International raised nearly US$60 million for humanitarian assistance in 37 countries.

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