Wage Peace

Life-giving Water in Darfur - A Mother's Story of Survival

World Relief is on the ground in the midst of unstable communities in West Darfur, where the lack of natural resources can easily increase conflict between communities. Not only do we help to reconcile inter-communal conflict, but we also provide important resources like water, which can be lifesaving in cases like Batol Mohamed’s. Batol, a 34-year old mother of six, lives in Kongok village of West Darfur. Just one week after she delivered her youngest child in November 2014, conflict erupted when her village was attacked. The village was looted, homes were destroyed and Batol’s own family experienced the violence first-hand. While many chose to flee to safer areas, Batol stayed. She was concerned that if she left her home, both she and her child would get sick. So she remained in the village despite the conflict that was happening around her.

Because so much had been destroyed and everyone had fled, Batol had to find a way to care for her family all on her own. And she had no water to cook and worried her family would go hungry – it’s dangerous to venture too far out of the village in search of water, because she had just given birth and some of the attackers remained close by.

Thankfully, the water tank built by World Relief had not been destroyed when the attackers moved their animals into the farms around the village, and she was able to retrieve water for her family. “I was able to cook breakfast for my children and I thanked God for this gift,” Batol told our staff on the ground. She said that the availability of the water in the center of the village helped them survive for six days until the conflict was resolved and people were able to return back to the village. She said “our life is spared, thanks to World Relief, by the water the organization provided to my village.”

World Relief partners with local churches and organizations to empower the vulnerable to pursue peace and have access to tangible resources. To learn more about World Relief’s work to build peace and save lives in West Darfur, visit www.worldrelief.org/WagePeace.

Celebrating World Day of Social Justice – The Justice Conference

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As stories of injustice continue to grow in the news and in conversation, it’s easy to feel defeated, turn our heads and block our minds to these difficult topics. But as Martin Luther King Jr. explained, “There is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” Whether advocating for immigration reform, waging peace on violence, or working to eradicate extreme global poverty, we have an obligation to respond to the ever-present issues of social justice.

Since 2007, February 20th has served as a day when the international community works together towards justice for all. Organizations, academic institutions and churches unite to promote development and human dignity.

Moving beyond a one-day event, a movement of justice is forming as The Justice Conference, an international conference that serves the discovery of ideas, celebrates the beauty of justice, and fosters a community of people who live justice together, continues to take shape. This premier gathering of Christian leaders, justice practitioners and students from all over the world leverages the power of community and catalyzes the work of justice globally, nationally, locally and personally.

This year, The Justice Conference will be in Chicago with simulcast partner sites all across North America. Now, more than ever, we are positioned to come together to address the injustices in our world, create a movement of justice and spark hope that produces change. Will you join us?

To register or learn more about The Justice Conference, visit www.thejusticeconference.com.

Moses, a Peacemaker in South Sudan

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Some of the most unnecessary conflicts happen when we forget our common humanity. “Us” and “Them” become not just terms of distinction, but of violent division. In South Sudan, divisions along ethnic lines have become a key element of the conflict, as leaders appeal to tribal loyalty by belittling other groups. Tragically, people have been injured or killed solely on the basis of which ethnic group they identify with, or are suspected of identifying with. The increased tension that has come in the past year has left many believing that only their people will listen to, represent, and protect them: whether that be Dinka or Nuer, or one of the other dozens of people groups in South Sudan. But World Relief’s staff member Moses Kenyi has refused to allow ethnic differences to become a catalyst for conflict in his interactions with others. Moses has served as World Relief’s Food Security Officer in South Sudan for three years. His work saves lives and dignifies the labor of farmers; and as South Sudan faces an increased threat of famine, his work has become even more important.

Recently, he visited Unity State to do a food security assessment as a part of World Relief’s response to the acute crisis in the region. Despite the risk this posed to his own well-being and his family’s concern for his safety, he understood the importance of his work. Moses believes that all South Sudanese deserve compassion and a chance to survive and thrive, regardless of their ethnic differences.

Moses is from Central Equatoria – a state that has largely stayed out of the current conflict, after the initial disruption. He lacks the traditional facial markers that are generally identified with specific ethnic groups, but is tall and lean, unlike many Equatorians, so people often try to determine if he is Dinka or Nuer although he is neither. His unique position allows him to see past the ethnic divisions that have caused so much conflict and suffering. During his trip to Unity State, Moses was often asked, “Are you for us, or for the enemy?” His response has always been, “I’m not for one or the other. I’m South Sudanese, so I’m for all people.”

Moses continues to be a beacon of unity and peace in a place torn by conflict. He matter-of-factly confronts the false differences based on ethnic identity that have perpetuated the violence in South Sudan and continues to care for the most vulnerable, irrespective of which tribe they profess allegiance to.

To learn more about how we Wage Peace in South Sudan and other countries, visit http://worldrelief.org/wagepeace.

Celebration, Hope and Giving - Looking Back and Planning Forward

In just a few days, many people around the world will ring in the New Year. It’s a time of celebration, a time of hope and generosity. Here are a few of the things we’re celebrating at World Relief…

Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Though there is still much work to be done for stability and reconciliation to ensue in the DRC, people like Pastor Fabian are paving the way for sustainable peace. Having been kidnapped by rebels himself, he leads his congregation in word and deed as he cares for all people, no matter their tribe or ethnicity.

Pastor Fabian in Congo
Pastor Fabian in Congo

Friendship for refugees in the US.  Remember Michael andAwet? Both originally from Eritrea, they were forced to flee because of violence. Leaving everything familiar, they were resettled as refugees in the United States, where they met and became roommates. World Relief in DuPage-Aurora helped these new friends transition to their new reality in this new environment. Today, Michael and Awet are paying it forward by helping other refugees with transportation in their time of need.

Good local leadershipand forgiveness in Cambodia. Orn Raim is a leader in her community in Cambodia. Trained by World Relief in anti-trafficking and conflict resolution, she’s teaching others in her village what she has learned and seeing deep transformation – violence against women and children has reduced by 90% in her community.

We’ve also welcomed 7,948 refugees out of danger into loving communities in the United States. 147,083 women and men have been equipped to overcome material poverty through Savings for Life groups. 3,100 peacemakers have been trained to resolve conflict at the community level in war-torn areas. And more than 3,000 churches have been mobilized to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

Even though we’ve seen incredible progress, there’s much more to do and we can’t do it alone. Will you be a part of this work in 2015 and join us as we continue to celebrate with hope and generosity?

Ag in Action: An Update from South Sudan

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Stephen Good, World Relief’s Agribusiness Senior Technical Advisor based in Mozambique, recently monitored some of our agricultural programs in South Sudan. The following are his impressions of World Relief’s sustainable development work with South Sudanese farmers. South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. Officially declaring independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, this infant republic is in the initial stages of forming a cohesive nation. But the road to unity has been violent and today marks one year of this new country being at war with itself. Beyond conflict, South Sudan also faces more common, natural challenges.

Western Equatoria State receives rain from April to December. The soils are relatively good, but are easily damaged by exposure to the hot sun and rains. Local farmers generally use a field for no more than two years before abandoning it to slash and burn a new area of forest. This is intensive and expensive work as extra hired labor is often required. Plus, it inflicts long-term damage on the environment.

Even though travel is a significant challenge in this region, World Relief is working with local farmers to ensure lasting development. Just to get to the project site takes an hour and a half on a propjet plane, followed by a 3 hour trip in a Landcruiser, or an 8-10 hour, bone-jarring automobile ride from Juba.

Where peace ensues in Western Equatoria State, opportunities abound everywhere you look.  World Relief’s agriculture program for food security, sponsored by Canadian Food Grains Bank, provides improved seed for maize and cassava to 600 farmers.  A significant focus is helping them to multiply these seeds for future use and learning how to protect these seeds from disease and pests. Equally important is the work in teaching improved conservation agriculture methods. Green manures and cover crops (legumes) provide a living source of mulch and nitrogen which is able to restore the soils quickly and sustainably. Using these practices could completely eliminate the destruction of the forests, improve yields, reduce labor and even allow farmers to improve marginal land to a strong productive state.

Farmers are also given opportunity to join World Relief’s Savings for Life program. Savings for Life trains people on forming and facilitating savings groups. Savings group members learn how to save and borrow in a format that doesn’t require a formal banking institution. Many of the farmers who are in savings groups have started using loans from the group to improve their situations by purchasing seed, hiring labor and expanding their growing areas. One farmer said, “If we do agriculture, we can produce crops, sell them and save more. If we do savings, we can have more money for farming and production.”

To learn more about World Relief's work toward sustainable peace in South Sudan, read our most recent statement from our advocacy experts at http://worldrelief.org/file/advocacy/south_sudan_statement.pdf.

Celebrating Human Rights Day: Yalala's Story from DR Congo

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As the world commemorates Human Rights Day today, we want to honor women around the globe who have survived horrific violations of these rights. And many of these women go on to propel enormous good out of the evil that was done to them. These women are everyday heroes living in our midst and they’re changing the world one testimony at a time. With local churches, World Relief comes alongside women here in the United States and around the world as they recover from sexual violence, human trafficking and other cruel injustices. Our staff, volunteers and churches befriend these women and provide trauma healing trainings so they can heal and pass along the knowledge to their friends who have been through similar experiences.

At World Relief, we get to meet many women like this who are overcoming injustice and being empowered to have a positive impact in their communities. One such woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is Yalala. Yalala is a mother, a wife and a survivor of trauma. She and her family have lived in the crossfire of a violent conflict in eastern DRC that has continued for nearly two decades.  Infamous for the use of rape as a weapon of war, the conflict has also been the cause of millions of deaths. Yalala and her family have seen the worst of humanity, but they have also seen the best.

Though she and her family have suffered, through World Relief trauma healing trainings, Yalala is now helping herself and others. With what she has learned, she uses to comfort other women who have survived terrible violence. Feeling empowered by these trainings, she says, “Now I am a leader worthy of the name. I help many women and many receive Jesus.”

To celebrate Human Rights Day and empower heroic women like Yalala, visit https://worldrelief.org/donate.

Celebrating World Food Day: Fighting Famine in South Sudan

As the tall maize grows in her fenced-in yard in South Sudan, Rebecca prepares cornmeal while her elderly mother and four youngest children play alongside.  Thankful for this harvest and the food it provides her large family, she contemplates what the next few months might bring, especially in light of the major food crisis in her country.

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Rebecca is a farmer, trained by World Relief’s agricultural experts in crop diversification and resource management.  Proudly pointing to her crops, she explains that because the rains had been good, she expects a better crop than last year.  But this came at a hard price.  In January, Rebecca had seven cows, but the fighting from the country’s civil war closed off the markets, and the food supply was low from last season’s drought.  She’d sold a cow to get bags of maize as starter seeds, but as the months of fighting went on, more was needed.  As a widow and sole breadwinner for her family of 9, she had to risk the 16-hour walk once a month to trade a cow for food to feed her family.  February, March, April, May, and June dragged by and before she knew it, she had only one cow left.  Rebecca hoped her harvest would come quickly.

“And then the raindrops started,” Rebecca said.  The rains that nourished the crops would guarantee a good late-summer harvest.  At the same time, World Relief distributed a corn and soy bean blend to the most vulnerable in the area and will continue this monthly for the rest of the year to avert the predicted famine.

This harvest and the food supplies should feed Rebecca’s family until January 2015.  In a continued effort to fight the food shortage, World Relief will also distribute vegetable seeds (groundnuts, eggplant, sesame, tomatoes), which will provide a nutritional supplement and be an income generator during the winter months.  But with ongoing fighting and what the UN describes as the ‘worst food crisis in the world’, significant challenges remain for Rebecca, her family and millions of others in South Sudan.  Even though Rebecca isn’t sure what the outcome will be, her faith gives her hope, “Everything is in God’s hands,” she says.

That’s why World Relief stands with the people of South Sudan as we celebrate World Food Day and continue to empower many to fight famine on the frontlines.

Celebrating World Food Day: Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo Fighting Hunger

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When fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reached Viviane’s village, she and her children were forced to flee from their home and into a camp with many other internally displaced people . The camp was crowded with others who also sought refuge from the ongoing violence. Unfortunately, without employment or reliable access to food, they all were at greater risk of suffering from food shortage and hunger.

When Viviane was finally able to return to her home, the extreme challenges of everyday living remained. “We came home with no seeds or farming tools and no money to buy these things,” Viviane said. Although she had the desire to provide for her family in a sustainable way, the violence and displacement left Viviane without the means to begin rebuilding her life.

“But God sent World Relief to help our [farmers’ group] by providing Irish potato seeds, vegetable seeds and farming tools,” said Viviane. In farmers’ groups in the DRC, World Relief equips farmers with tools to begin family farms and the necessary training to make their harvests successful. Farmers are trained in crop diversification, resource management and other ways to increase the productivity of their land.

Viviane’s yields have indeed grown as a result of the support she received when she returned home even though devastation from instability and armed conflict are still felt in large areas of eastern DRC. This year alone, she harvested over 1900 pounds of potatoes, more than four times more than last year! A portion of her earnings will go towards her children’s school fees and to buy other supplies for her family. Next year, Viviane plans to rent a larger plot of land so she can grow even more potatoes.

Because of Viviane’s agricultural skills, she and her family have been able to overcome many of the challenges related to hunger and malnutrition. Viviane has also planted a vegetable garden outside of her home that adds essential vitamins and nutrients to her family’s diet. “This is the first time my family is able to eat three meals a day,” Viviane said, “I praise God for this. May our Lord Jesus bless you all who have helped us during this time and for helping us find a solution for feeding our families.”

Throughout the month of October we’re celebrating World Food Day with farmers like Viviane who are empowered to lead their families out of poverty through agricultural training and development. In DRC, World Relief is empowering local churches and farmers to work together and earn a greater income from their crops. By participating in farmers groups, some of the DRC’s most vulnerable are empowered to sustainably support their families and local economies while laying the building blocks for peace in the midst of the destruction of conflict.

Three Reasons for Waging Peace, Guest Blog by Lynne Hybels

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In the early 90s a horrible war took place in Eastern Europe as the former Yugoslavia crumbled. It was a vicious war, complete with ethnic cleansing and atrocious crimes against humanity. Soldiers would enter a village, rape all the women, and take away all the men and boys over thirteen.  Most of them never returned alive; many ended up in the mass graves. Twice during that war I traveled with a humanitarian organization to Croatia and Bosnia.  We visited refugee centers filled with middle-class women just like me who had lost everything: jobs, husbands, homes, their planned-for future. We visited schools where social workers tried to help kids who had watched their parents die when shells landed in their homes; they suffered so severely from post-traumatic stress that they sat all day staring blankly while they silently chewed their fingernails, trapped in their own little world of horror and pain.  We walked through the rubble of entire neighborhoods, stumbling over the scattered reminders of daily life: a broken teacup, a scuffed shoe, a tattered doll.

It was the first time I had seen war up close and I was stunned by what human beings do to one another.

But it wasn’t the last time I saw war.  Years later I walked through the villages of Eastern Congo, where the deadliest war since WW II has claimed almost 6 million lives, and where rape as a weapon of war has brutally violated tens of thousands of women and girls—women and girls with whom I wept.

More recently, I sat on a concrete floor in Jordan with Syrian refugee women whose empty eyes told the silent story of their losses and their grief.  And in recent months I spent hours at my computer waiting for word from friends I’ve met during numerous trips to Israel and Palestine—friends who suffered severely during this summer’s war in Gaza.

While I never consciously decided to hang out in war zones, that’s where my path led and continues to lead.  Along the way, I’ve learned three key lessons.

1. Violent conflict has the capacity to destroy everything, from the body of the tiniest baby to the infrastructure of an entire society.

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Body, mind, soul, families, crops, wells, houses, schools, hospitals: all these can be ruined when the bullets fly and the bombs fall.  In recent decades, many American Christians have become convinced that acts of compassion and the fight for justice are central to what it means to follow Jesus.  Many churches are leading the way as agents of holistic transformation in communities throughout the world, living out the Kingdom of God in beautifully practical ways.  That’s all good, but it’s not enough—because it will all be undone if there’s war.  Violent conflict can turn the greatest of our good deeds into nothing. Our most earnest gains for justice can be lost.  Where violence reigns poverty is a given, human trafficking flourishes, disease ravages, the displaced lose everything, hope dies.  If we care about any of the great global tragedies, we must also care about waging peace.

2. What happens on the grassroots level matters more than we think.

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I used to believe that the most significant dimension of peacemaking happened on the national or international level.  The truth is that political powers can declare ceasefires and create temporary solutions, but they can only foster sustained peace when they build upon a foundation of grassroots peacemaking.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, violent rebel groups recruit fighters by capitalizing on tribal differences and small local conflicts.  However, when local peace-builders—pastors trained by World Relief in conflict resolution—help build bridges between tribes and resolve local conflicts according to Biblical principles, the violent rebels are thwarted in their recruiting efforts; people who have experienced the fruit of reconciliation have little motivation to become fighters.

In a conflict as seemingly intractable as the one in the Holy Land, grassroots peacemakers are, even now, offering a path toward peace.  My Israeli friend Robi and my Palestinian friend Bassam each lost a child to the conflict.  Not wanting other families to suffer as they have suffered, they speak together in schools, churches, and civil organization in the Holy Land and throughout the world, representing a growing group of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families who are committed to grieving together and then working together for reconciliation and peace.  While political leaders bring nothing but disappointment to the Holy Land, people like Robi and Bassam—and hundreds of others like them, whose voices we don’t hear on the nightly news—are showing up day after day, slowly building bridges of empathy, understanding and friendship.  I believe that learning from them and lifting up their voices is one of the most important things I can do for the sake of peace.

3. The call to peacemaking is a call to rigorous and costly discipleship.

World Relief Jordan, October 7-8, 2013- Sean Sheridan Photographs

Nothing has humbled me as much as spending time with true peacemakers.  Time and again I’ve been chastised—broken—by the gentle example of men and women for whom loving their enemies could literally cost them their lives.  I look at them and I see how petty I am; how quick I am to pick sides and go for easy answers; how unlike Jesus I am.

John Paul Lederach wrote a book called Reconcile.  In it he suggests that the main thing Jesus brought to his role as a peacemaker was his presence.  There was something in his “presence”—something in who he was and how he showed up—that made the way of peace more likely. I think the “something” that was in Jesus is what the world needs to see in his followers today.

In the aftermath of the Gaza war, a friend from Bethlehem who has been engaged in nonviolence and reconciliation for many years, wrote this to me: “When all the dead are buried and the dust settles, a truer and deeper kind of peace needs to rise up from the rubble of the Holy Land.”  Not a peace that depends on the decisions of politicians or that trips off the tongues of activists, but a peace that bubbles up from the spring of God’s love as it fills us—as it pulls us beyond the limits of our own self-interest to a place where we can see the world as God sees it.

Seeing the world as God sees it—where even our enemy is a person made in the image of God for whom Christ died—doesn’t come naturally to us.  I think it only comes through a journey of transformation grounded in prayer and silence and deep immersion into the words and the way of Jesus.  Then, and only then, can we see the world the way God sees it.  Then, and only then, can we be free to #WagePeace.

#WagePeace with World Relief.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9 Peacemaking is a Biblically-based, long-term strategy for preventing and addressing man made conflict. It directly addresses the tensions woven into the fabric of societies that often lead to conflict and violence.

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