By Tim Shenk
AKRON, Pa. - Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is launching a 10-year, multimillion-dollar campaign to help people in southern Sudan recover from a devastating civil war.
MCC's campaign, "Coming Home: Sudan," is focused on building schools, supporting education, assisting farmers and promoting peace in southern Sudan. MCC is seeking to raise $400,000 for southern Sudan by March 2009 with an eventual goal of raising $2 million per year through the campaign.
Sudan's 22-year civil war decimated communities in southern Sudan, which is one of the most impoverished regions in the world. About 2 million people were killed and 4 million people were forced to flee their homes before a peace agreement ended the conflict in 2005.
Since then, about 1.7 million people have returned to their home areas after spending years in refugee camps or other temporary living arrangements. More people are continuing to arrive despite the fact that few resources exist, such as schools or food supplies, to accommodate the rapidly growing population.
MCC's "Coming Home: Sudan" campaign grows out of more than 35 years of partnership with Sudanese churches, according to Arli Klassen, MCC's executive director. During the war, MCC worked with Sudanese church organizations to distribute food aid and support peacemaking efforts.
"Now we have the opportunity for community building," Klassen says. "The churches are asking us to step up in a major way to help rebuild. Our challenge is 'Can we respond?'"
MCC and its mission partners have already begun the work of rebuilding. In June, Christian Ecumenical Action in Sudan completed the construction of six classrooms for two schools in Juba, southern Sudan's capital, with about $250,000 in funding from MCC. Earlier this year, MCC contributed $30,000 to provide the Juba Hospital with medical supplies and equipment.
MCC is also seeking to expand its staff in southern Sudan, according to Leroy Willems, an MCC Sudan representative from Glendale, Ariz. MCC currently has four workers in the region and is developing additional assignments related to agriculture, vocational training and peace-building.
"Sudan is a very rough place to work," Willems says. "You have to be resourceful and flexible and able to make adjustments on the run. I know there are people like that out there."
Contributions for this campaign should be designated "Coming Home: Sudan." They may be made online at mcc.org/donate or to any MCC office.
Tim Shenk is a writer for Mennonite Central Committee.
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