Conn. (UMNS) - When violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in
Kosovo flared up in March, the United Methodist Committee on Relief
responded within hours of the outbreak.
was able to do so because of the way the agency's nongovernmental
organization is now organized, according to Guy Hovey, regional director
for the Europe and Asia Division.
the two days of violence in Kosovo, 28 people were killed and more than
400 Serbian homes were destroyed, along with a number of churches,
according to The New York Times. Because UMCOR - which has longstanding
work in Kosovo - reacted so quickly, it is one of the lead agencies
assisting displaced people whose homes were burned, Hovey said.
explained the operations of the Europe and Asia Division, which was
formed last August, to UMCOR directors during the March 22-25 United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries meeting in Stamford.
Kosovo, other countries covered by the division include Afghanistan,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Georgia and Serbia/Montenegro.
The project work ranges from providing clean drinking water in
Afghanistan to fostering religious reconciliation in Bosnia to offering
lifesaving drugs in Armenia.
recent grants include $2 million from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to revitalize the production of sunflower seeds in Albania
and $65,000 from UNICEF to minister to Afghan boys and girls sent to
Saudi Arabia to do forced labor.
Swedish International Development Agency is spending $328,000 from
December 2003 to July 2004 to fund UMCOR's "safe house" in Kosovo for
women who have been forced into prostitution. UMCOR also was one of the
main organizers of the "Kosovo Conference to Combat Trafficking in Human
Beings," held last October in Pristina.
increase access to funding from the European Union and European
governments, UMCOR is looking at strategic alliances with other
partners, such as Norwegian Church Aid, Diakonie Austria and Christian
Aid, according to Hovey.
has a great track record in caring for people," he said. The agency is
"highly regarded" by governments, religious groups and other
nongovernmental organizations for its commitment, he added.
a report on other UMCOR activities, the Rev. Paul Dirdak, the agency's
chief executive, told directors that carrying out any relief and
rehabilitation projects through mission partners in Iraq has been
extremely difficult. So far, United Methodists have contributed about
half a million dollars to UMCOR for assistance to the Iraqi people.
a $100,000 grant to Diakonia Austria was approved by UMCOR directors
last fall, "they have not been able to start because of security there,"
Dirdak said. Relief workers and missionaries have been among those
targeted in recent killings in Iraq.
agency also has allocated $100,000 to International Orthodox Christian
Charities, which has a network of churches in Iraq, for a delivery of
food and non-food items. Kristin Sachen, UMCOR program executive, said
she did not know whether they were able to make the delivery yet.
"The remaining funds (for Iraq) are secure," she said. "We are watching and waiting."
is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. News
media can contact Linda Bloom at (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.