UMCOR plans for Iraq relief assistance
4/9/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
Ala. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Committee on Relief is prepared to
offer training and technical assistance to many of the church-based
humanitarian efforts in Iraq, according to the Rev. Paul Dirdak.
who leads the agency, explained those plans when UMCOR directors
gathered April 8 during the spring meeting of the agency's parent
organization, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
surveying its international professional staff, he reported, "we have
identified five technical competencies which we believe are of such a
high quality that we think our partner agencies will want to make use of
our skills." Such assistance would be provided at UMCOR's expense, he
Dirdak said the agency has made a commitment for a
communications person with experience in war zones to be made available
to the entire ecumenical relief community. Other skills UMCOR staff can
offer include assessment of shelter, community economic development,
food security, refugee camp management and youth development needs; help
with temporary and permanent shelter construction; assistance with the
procurement, storage and distribution of food; and advice on secure
programs for returning civilians.
UMCOR plans to channel its own
humanitarian response to Iraq through partner agencies there, such as
the Middle East Council of Churches. That organization includes
Presbyterian and Chaldean congregations that already have set up
humanitarian programs in their communities.
Dirdak also reported a
deepening relationship between UMCOR and Norwegian Church Aid,
facilitated by the Rev. Tove Odland, a Board of Global Ministries
director from Norway. He expects UMCOR will provide direct support to
the Norwegian agency for its work in Iraq.
UMCOR will not open
its own field office in Iraq, he said, in part because of the costs
involved and the large number of other relief agencies expected to set
up shop there. The United Methodist agency also has been busy
establishing three other new field offices in the past year - in
Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Manhattan (in response
to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks).
Both Dirdak and the
Rev. Randy Day, chief executive of the Board of Global Ministries,
expressed concern about the U.S. Department of Defense's interest in
directing and overseeing humanitarian relief and post-war reconstruction
"UMCOR has been bold and forthright in insisting that
humanitarian aid and reconstruction be under the United Nations," Day
told board directors in his April 8 address. "It has joined other U.S.
and international agencies in overtures to the Pentagon to separate
clearly humanitarian work from military practice."
explained that having uniformed and armed personnel participate in
large-scale distribution of relief supplies or reconstruction efforts
would blur the distinction between combatants and relief workers.
personnel rely upon their non-combatant neutrality for their safety
and, in many places, safety is becoming perilously thin," he said.
"Allowing soldiers to do what relief workers know far better how to do
risks the lives of relief workers everywhere."
collecting funds to support relief work through its Iraq Emergency
Advance No. 623225-4. Checks can be dropped in church collection plates
or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY
10115. Credit-card donations also can be made online at
http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/ or by calling (800) 554-8583.
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