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Lutheran Disaster Response

Situation Report: Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Buffalo, NY

Situation:

On May 14, a mass shooting occurred in a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, NY. 10 people were killed and three others were injured in the racially-motivated attack.

Response:

The Upstate New York Synod, with support from Lutheran Disaster Response, is partnering with VOICE Buffalo, an organization addressing peace, reconciliation, and trauma counseling. The synod will hire a coordinator to work on a new-start mission with VOICE Buffalo, called “Community of Good Neighbors.”

From the ELCA’s statement on the mass shooting: “Our hearts grieve for those who have been killed and our souls cry out against more lives lost to the hatred birthed by racism. As we mourn those lives lost as a result of the racially motivated killings in Buffalo, we ask God to ease the continued suffering and trauma of our Black siblings throughout the nation and in our church. We are one body in Christ, so when one part suffers, we all suffer.”

Uvalde, TX

Situation:

On May 24, a mass shooting occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. 19 students and two adults lost their lives. This is the deadliest school shooting in the United States since Sandy Hook in 2012.

Response:

Lutheran Disaster Response is accompanying the Southwest Texas Synod, in which Uvalde is located. The synod can use the solidarity grant to provide emotional and spiritual care to the Uvalde community through ELCA chaplains and other clergy, offer financial support for funeral services and participate in prayer and healing activities.

From the ELCA’s statement on the school shooting: “We reaffirm our commitment in calling for greater gun safety, including preventing easy access to assault-style weapons and strengthening our federal system of background checks for all gun sales. As people of faith, we hold on to our belief in caring for our neighbors and striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”

Be a part of the response:

Pray

Please pray for people who have been affected by the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

Advocate

These shootings call our attention, yet again, to the urgent need to pass legislation that would strengthen background checks for those purchasing deadly weapons in our nation. Action is possible, but our voices are needed now. Call your senator today at 202-224-3121, ask for your senator and urge them to pass bipartisan legislation to expand and require background checks for all gun purchases in our country.

 

Give

Thanks to generous donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR-US) will be used to assist the impacted communities.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook, follow @ELCALDR on Twitter, and follow @ELCA_LDR on Instagram.

5 Ways to Support Refugees and Migrants

 

At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million displaced people around the world. That’s 1% of the world’s population.

The Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where nearly 1 million Rohingya currently live. Photo: Y. Franklin Ishida

26 million of them are refugees, people who leave their countries of residence due to conflict or persecution. 45.7 million of them are internally displaced people, who, for the same reasons, move to other areas in the country. Refugees are protected under international laws. There’s also 272 million migrants worldwide. Migrants choose to cross borders for many reasons – searching for work or education, escaping hardships as a result of natural disasters, reuniting with family – and are protected under domestic laws, but not international law. Lutheran Disaster Response is dedicated to supporting displaced people – and so can you! Here are a few ways to support refugees and migrants in your daily life: 

 

1. Worship with refugee and migrant communities 

There are ELCA congregations around the country with ministries that support refugees and migrants from around the world. The ELCA is a sanctuary denomination, meaning that our faith calls us to walk alongside refugees and immigrants. Through the AMMPARO strategy and support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the ELCA shows its dedication to welcoming immigrants and refugees, regardless of country of origin.   

2. Help children gain perspective on refugees 

By talking about refugees with children, you are showing why it is important to be compassionate and treat others with dignity. Learning about refugees and immigrants from a young age can prepare children for when they interact with them throughout their lives. Try using this educational toolkit from the United Nations Refugee Agency or find age-appropriate books 

3. Support migrant and refugee-owned businesses 

Find refugee-owned businesses in your area and support them. If there aren’t any in your town, try online! If you own a business yourself, try to source from refugee or migrant artisans. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when small businesses of any variety are struggling. 

Iraqi refugees crossing the Hungarian border. Photo: ACT Alliance/Fekete Dániel

4. Understand why this issue matters 

As people of God, we are called to love our neighbor and care for those in need. The ELCA social message on immigration says “The presence of newcomers in our church and society heightens our awareness of these realities and of the experience of new immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the United States. This awareness makes us more appreciative of the gifts our new neighbors bring and of the barriers as well as the opportunities they encounter. 

 

5. Donate 

Lutheran Disaster Response supports refugees and host communities around the world. Donations to the South Sudan fund, the Middle East and Europe Refugee Crisis fund, and AMMPARO will be used in full to support our work with refugees and migrants to bring them hope and renewal in a tumultuous time.  

 

 

Adapted from “5 ways to support refugees during the coronavirus crisis from the UNHCR 

 

El Salvador: “Without Retaining Dikes, There is No Food”

The title of this post comes from an advocacy piece written by ELCA Missionary Stephen Deal entitled “Sin borda…no hay comida”. The phrase has become the rallying cry of communities who live along a 10 kilometer stretch of the Paz River in the southwest corner of El Salvador. These communities, including many Lutherans, have been affected by annual flooding, like that of last October where 10 days of torential rains led to heavy throughout Central America and especially along the Paz River.

Much of this flooding occurs due to the lack of a system of retaining dikes at key points along the Paz River – which serves as the border between El Salvador and Guatemala. The consequences are predictable and often tragic: destruction of crops, homes, roads, bridges, farm animals and even the loss of human life. To help lift up this issue the communties formed the Inter-Community Association for the Development of Southern Ahuachapan (ADICO) which has been adovacting Salvadorian authorities for these dikes since the massive flooding of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Yet for the most part these pleas have fallen on deaf ears and efforts have fallen off.

After last years major flooding event the communities decided to redouble efforts with ADICO and have been blessed with positive results. The authorities were beginning to listen and actions were starting to take shape, like a dredging project to help mitigate some flooding. A great victory and step forward this action offers a short-term fix to a longer-term problem.

“We are tired of being treated as victims; tired of being the recipients of charity . . . we want to be listened to.” – Inter-Community Association for the Development of Southern Ahuachapan (ADICO) representative in El Salvador

The communities are continuing to advocate for a dike system or another alternative to bring a permanent, sustainable solution to the problem of flooding. The ELCA is helping in this important work of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, through generous gifts to our Disaster Response fund and continued relationships of support with our local companions as they work to fulfill the quote above, to move from victims and recipients to empowered citizens engaged in their own solutions.

I think Stephen sums it up best in the closing words of his article: “Thanks be to God for the dedication of ADICO and Lutheran church leaders as they work to bring a measure of peace and stability to the lives and livelihoods of everyone living in this part of El Salvador. Thanks be to God also for the opportunities we have to accompany them through our prayers, visits & offerings!”

Read Stephen’s Update No Borda…No Hay Comida

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Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Reflection from the Field

Sarah Dreier is the Legislative Representative for International Policy, a position shared jointly between the ELCA Washington Office and the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. She reflects upon her recent trip to South Sudan and suggests how you can get involved.

Resilience amidst uncertainty: Lessons from South Sudan

“But what do you do to cope?” I asked my new friend, Anne, who coordinates Lutheran World Federation refugee programming in Kenya and lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for several years.

Anne looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.

“In Dadaab, we dance. Every night, we dance.”

South Sudanese dancing and singing at an afternoon celebration in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

I saw this same resilience thriving across South Sudan, amidst the conflict, poverty, and desperate need for development – thriving over the daily trials. It was in the young woman, gracefully carrying gallons of water overhead as she strolled down Bor’s dusty, dirt road. I saw it in a local performance troupe, dancing and singing under Juba’s scorching afternoon sun. It was in Jonglei State’s tribal leaders as they returned once again to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution to their tribal conflicts that have taken so many lives this year. I felt from my fellow worshipers in the vibrant, packed Cathedral in Juba late Sunday morning and into Sunday afternoon. And I heard it in the powerful voice of South Sudan’s Minister of Labour as she commanded international aid agencies to hire more South Sudanese employees.

This is a resilience that the South Sudanese carry along with their looming memories of incomprehensible turmoil and their expectations for future uncertainty. I learned that one local development colleague who is working tirelessly to strengthen South Sudanese agricultural capacities while addressing the daily realities of malaria, poverty-based hunger, and conflict, had been kidnapped as a small boy to become a child soldier. Another young man had fled to a Ugandan refugee camp as a baby and returned to his country—on foot with his wife and two young children—only last year, when South Sudan became independent.

“How long did it take you to walk back?” I asked.

“Three or four days, only. But for you, it would take much longer,” he said with a grin.

Workers building an LWF emergency response compound outside Bor. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

It is hard for me to comprehend the daily challenges and insecurities the South Sudanese face. The tribes in Jonglei State just last week arrived at a delicate peace agreement to end violence, cattle raiding, and child abductions amongst them and have begun an equally precarious disarmament process focused (in part) on retrieving weapons from youth. South Sudan’s escalating war with Sudan (driven in large part by oil) has absorbed precious state resources away from development, forcing South Sudanese to live with unpaved dirt roads, insufficient education, bare-minimum health care services, and little capacity to farm their nutrient-rich land. Meanwhile, South Sudanese and other Christians living in the north face increased persecution and those living in the border regions live under the constant threat of random attack or starvation. But through it all, the South Sudanese remain resilient, wise, and capable.

Yet U.S. policies and rhetoric do not reflect the South Sudanese’ promising capacity to thrive and flourish—by growing their own food, for example—which is tragically thwarted by a severe lack of resources.

Americans should shift our narrative—and the United States government its development policies—in South Sudan, away from assumptions of despair, to reflect this Sudanese capacity for resilience.

Tell your Representative to join the 14 Republicans and 62 Democrats who support HR 4169, the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, and to support the bill’s underlying commitment to sustainable peace and development by supplementing U.S. food assistance with robust funding to U.S. programs that invest in agricultural development and small-scale farming in South Sudan and around the world.

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For more information check out the e-Advocacy Alert.

Minot, ND: LDR Involved in Discussion of Billion Dollar Shortfall

The Minot Daily News had a good piece last week that in part highlights the role of Lutheran Disaster Response work in the long process of disaster response. The topic of the article is a discussion of the Minot Unmet Needs Committee with government officials of the continuing need following the June 2011 floods. The estimate is around one billion dollars in need. At the end of the article Shirley Dykshoorn, state director for Lutheran Disaster Response in North Dakota (a program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota), is quoted about the vital nature of matching material needs with volunteer resources.

The article in general is a nice reminder of how LDR is involved for the long-haul and in many ways behind the scenes. Also, Shirley’s words are spot on and really drive home the importance of proper coordination in disaster response.

To learn more read the article: Billion dollar shortfall

To volunteer check out Hope Village

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Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond at home and globally in times of need. Donate now.

Advocacy: Drought Affected East and West Africa

The following message is from the ELCA e-Advocacy list. This lists is sent out by the Advocacy office of the ELCA to inform people of the what political issues are going on and how people can get involved. This particular message is about the situation of drought in East Africa and now West Africa, how actions within the US Congress can impact the situation and how you can get involved.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Before we turn our hearts and minds to Jesus’ path to the cross and joyous resurrection this holy weekend, we can first follow Christ’s teachings by urging Congress to act on behalf of the millions in Africa living in dire insecurity and uncertainty.

Conflict, draught, and resulting food shortages have left tens of millions of people – from Sahel to Sudan to Somalia – in crisis, facing starvation and malnutrition and forced to leave their homes and relocate in refugee camps. These men, women, and children will face even greater hardship if we do not act to protect U.S. funding for the life-saving programs upon which they depend for food, clean water and secure shelter.

In the Horn of Africa

13 million people are currently living in food crisis, still suffering from the effects of last year’s drought which forced millions to leave their homes to take refuge in camps.

Meanwhile, the plight of famine has spread west, putting 15.5 million people in West Africa’s Sahel region at risk, including eight million who need emergency assistance. Over ten million already face food insecurity and an additional one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger are all experiencing dangerously high malnutrition levels while in Mali alone, conflict and food shortages have displaced 100,000 people. The crisis is only expected to worsen in the coming months.

Between the crises to their east and west, Sudan and South Sudan suffer while combating their own humanitarian crises. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by violence in South Kordofan, an area vulnerable to Sudan’s Armed Forces’ aerial bombing, ground attacks, sexual violence, denial of humanitarian assistance, and other tactics which some have dubbed ‘weapons of mass starvation.’ An estimated 28,000 Sudanese have been forced to relocate to South Sudan’s Yida refugee camp.

Through its membership in The Lutheran World Federation, the ELCA is participating in relief efforts with Lutheran churches and partners in these emergency crises.

Yet in the midst of these dire and enduring crises, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the House Budget Committee’s fiscal year 2013 Budget Resolution last week, which cuts the International Affairs Budget by 11 percent. The cuts include the eliminating Feed the Future and cutting the U.S. Agency for International Development’s International Disaster Assistance by 40 to 60 percent. Meanwhile, the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request proposes cuts to essential poverty-focused programs that provide refugees and displaced people with access to food, shelter, and water, including a 13.3% cut ($250
million) to the Migration and Refugee Assistance.

CLICK HERE to tell your senators and representative to maintain funding for the International Affairs Accounts that provide essential food, water, shelter, and support to the millions of refugees around the world who have been forced to make incomprehensible sacrifices.

Want to do more? Call your senators and representatives, who are at home in your district during recess, and tell them to protect the International Affairs account from the deep, disproportionate cuts made in the House of Representatives’ FY13 Budget Resolution.

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