From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UMCOR responds in Europe, Middle East

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 29 Mar 2004 12:47:53 -0600

March 29, 2004	News media contact: Linda Bloom7(646)369-37597New York7
E-mail: 7 ALL-RM-I{136}

NOTE: For additional coverage of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries meeting, see UMNS stories #135 and #137-138.
By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, 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.

It 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.

During 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.

He 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.

Besides 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

The 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

The 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.

To 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.

"UMCOR 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.

In 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.

Although 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.

The 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

# # #

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.


United Methodist News Service
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