April 28, 2018 - Compiled by Rachel Bergen
Worldwide more than 65 million people are displaced from their homes — nearly double the population of Canada.
The United Nations says this number is unprecedented and the need for humanitarian assistance is only growing.
The crisis isn’t isolated to one region. People are being displaced all over the world, testing the resources and resilience of populations around the world.
Whether they’re seeking asylum, internally displaced or registered refugees, uprooted people have MCC's support through a variety of programs.
MCC partners with local church and nonprofit organizations to provide emergency food assistance for displaced people, support groups for isolated populations, trauma healing programs and more.
Here are some examples of the many ways MCC supports uprooted people:
Meeting basic needs in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Can you imagine what it would be like if the population of the city of Boston, Massachusetts, was displaced and forced to migrate to an area one-tenth the size of Disney World?
This is the case for more than half a million Rohingya people living in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
MCC is supporting Canadian Foodgrains Bank members who are responding to the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled extreme violence in Myanmar in search of safety and freedom.
In Cox's Bazar, MCC is contributing to food distributions which will benefit an estimated 140,000 refugees.
Violence broke out in northern Rakhine state at the end of August between Rohingya militants and the Myanmar government. Entire villages have been destroyed, and there has been widespread panic and flight.
MCC has ongoing work in Myanmar as well, including supporting the Myanmar Institute of Theology’s Peace Studies Centre. We also support women’s groups that address conflict in their communities and promote equal rights and opportunities for women.
Social services for refugees in South Africa
South Africa is the 10th-largest recipient of asylum seekers and refugees worldwide, but it has few services to meet the needs of these people.
MCC partner Refugee Social Services (RSS) is one such organization, and its staff work to meet more than material needs.
Support groups, such as the one RSS offers for older refugees in Durban, South Africa, provide a space to build connections, to overcome isolation and to spend time with other refugees in similar circumstances. Having space to share stories and laughter together is especially important for older refugees who are unable to work and may have fewer opportunities to connect with others outside their homes.
In addition to support groups, RSS provides emergency food and rent support for newcomers to South Africa, job training and educational opportunities in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It’s the only organization of its kind in the entire province with a massive refugee population and an even bigger group of asylum seekers.
Emergency assistance in DR Congo
Imagine if the entire population of San Diego, California, was displaced because of violence and political unrest.
This nightmare is a reality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo),
About 1.4 million people from the Kasai region in south-central DR Congo have fled ethnic and political violence that erupted in August 2016 between a local militia group, Kamuina Nsapu, and national security forces. Five thousand Mennonites are among those forced from their homes.
There are so few international aid organizations working in the region that families not affected by the violence are hosting displaced people in their homes and sharing what little food they have.
MCC is working with several church groups to provide emergency food and nonfood items for hundreds of families in Kasai and Kwilu provinces. The assistance also benefits host families.
According to Fidele Kyanza, who on behalf of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) helped coordinate one of the distributions, this assistance helps build peace.
“Many times, a very poor family is receiving another very poor family into their home. When you give support and aid to those families, you give harmony and peace,” he says.
Food for displaced Syrians
The number of displaced Syrians outnumbers the population of Washington State and Oregon combined.
In addition to cash vouchers, educational support and trauma healing, MCC partners are helping to meet basic needs.
The Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD), an MCC partner, distributes monthly packages of food to 6,000 families in the Qalamoun area, the city of Homs and rural villages around Hama. The packages include items such as rice, pasta, chickpeas, lentils, oil and canned meat. MCC is the only international organization providing relief in some locations in the Qalamoun.
Understanding the borderlands of Mexico and the U.S.
Some people move voluntarily, a choice made after weighing the pros and cons. Others are forced to leave under threat of violence, extreme poverty, human trafficking and ethnic cleansing.
MCC walks with migrants around the world and in Canada and the U.S. to address the root causes of migration, support refugees and internally displaced people, educate churches about migration issues and advocate for more just immigration and migration policies.
One way MCC teaches about migration issues is through a learning tour of the Mexico and U.S. border. Several times a year, MCC takes groups to the border to meet folks who are directly involved with migration. Contact your regional MCC office for information.
"People God loves on both sides of the border are affected by this situation,” says Saulo Padilla, MCC U.S.’s immigration coordinator and learning tour guide. "For Christians, the way we respond has everlasting implications."