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Board reviews Africa relief

"We need to get Africa back on the map," said Belletech Deressa, ELCA director for international development and disaster response, at the Division for Global Mission board meeting Oct. 21-23 in Mundelein, Ill.

The board called for a "review and evaluation of ELCA commitments and resources to Africa."

"We became concerned about why Africa was being left out, as if it had fallen off the map of the world," Deressa said. "There are more refugees in Africa than in any other country. For Kosovo, $39.4 million was raised with one Action By Churches Together appeal. So far $27 million of it has been received. Yet for Africa, 24 different appeals have raised only 30 percent of the funding requested."

For every $1.23 the U.N. High Commission for Refugees spends on Kosovo relief, only 11 cents is spent for Africa relief, Deressa's report said.

"Many of us in the North have tunnel vision about who our brothers and sisters are," said board member Carol LaHurd, Hickory, N.C.

Board member David Ellwanger, Plano, Texas, added, "When genocide happens in Africa, we look at it differently than in other countries."

The board voted unanimously to address the crisis in Africa by initiating "a call for repentance" for "our complicity in the exploitation of resources and [under]development of Africa over the centuries"; advocating for justice in public and corporate arenas; and building awareness through such programs as sending missionaries from poorer countries to the ELCA.

In other action, the board increased compensation and benefits for missionaries.


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