Churches Launch Major Humanitarian Alliance

ACT head John Nduna visits Haitians displaced by Jan. 12's 7.0 earthquake. (Photo: Magnus Aronson/ACT)

A global alliance of over 100 human relief and development organizations was launched today with celebrations held in Geneva and around the world.

The ACT Alliance is one of the world's largest humanitarian bodies, working in 125 countries with a combined budget of $1.5 billion yearly to provide emergency food aid, shelter, water and sanitation facilities, and poverty reduction programs in the world's poorest countries.

The launch celebration was shared by alliance members in over 60 countries around the world, including India, Indonesia, Finland, Nicaragua, Honduras, Zambia, Sudan, and Switzerland, where the main ceremony was held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

At the Geneva service, a special liturgy for the creation of ACT was presided by the orthodox Rev. Dr. Viorel Ionita, while the General Secretary of World Council of Churches (WCC) the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit gave the sermon.

"The work for another and better world is an intrinsic part of the worship of the Church to God," Tveit said during his message. "When we are doing the acts of justice, the acts of peace, and the acts of feeding the hungry we are doing the acts that magnify God, because these acts magnify the dignity of each human being."

The Norwegian ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen called the ACT members "agents of goodness," and said its staff is close to the people in need.

"You work tirelessly to reach out to victims of war, of poverty, of hunger, of sexual violence, regardless of color, ethnicity or creed," she said. "As such you are also agents of peace at a time when conflicts all too often are connected to ethnicity and religion."

The ambassador also said ACT was important to her. "I can assure you, that you also give hope to people like me when we struggle in the different UN organizations for important objectives like human rights and development," she said, adding: "We need you and we need to work together."

With over 30,000 staff and volunteer members worldwide, the ACT Alliance is a merger of the disaster relief network ACT International and its sister organization ACT Development, both of which were created under the leadership of the WCC.

The two bodies coordinated the work of agencies related to the member churches of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in the areas of humanitarian emergencies and poverty reduction respectively.

In speaking of the importance of ACT working together with local churches, ACT General Secretary John Nduna said, "When the emergency is over, and the funds run out, churches continue to be present; they are the organization at the end of the street or village, which remain when all others have gone."

"The ACT Alliance, with our faith to guide us and the continued support of all our partners and friends to sustain our work, can continue to bring relief to the needy, support to the oppressed and development to the impoverished," he added.

Nduna recently returned from Haiti, where his organization has assisted nearly 150,000 people since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

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