humanitarian aid

Stephan Bauman 02-25-2015
Photo courtesy World Relief

Photo courtesy World Relief

It’s hard to be optimistic about changing the world when our news cycle is dominated by terrorism, violence, and disease. When world events shock us, sometimes our best hopes cave in to our worst fears. Even the most radical activist may be tempted to give up.

But there is a different narrative that summons those of us who dare to care. It begins when we confront the things that have kept millions from breaking free from poverty and injustice. It ends when we find the courage to change how we change the world.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which consistently ranks among the poorest countries in the world and the most dangerous for women, a group of peacemakers are changing the narrative. Last year I met a Congolese woman who told me how her husband was killed in crossfire between warring militias, how she was violently assaulted by the soldiers who were supposed to protect her, and how she fled her village with her eight children under the cover of night. In the wake of her suffering, she joined a group of women to save small amounts of their own money each week. From her savings, she launched a soap-making business. Over time, she employed others and taught her sisters how to do the same. She helps others to forgive their perpetrators and, together, they are determined to stop the violence against women in a land known as the rape capital of the world.

Today thousands of peacemakers like her are changing Congo, and their numbers continue to swell. They are “waging peace” to save Congo one village at a time.

David Cortright 08-15-2014
Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee, via

Iraqi refugee girl with her family at Newroz camp, Aug. 15. Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee, via

The crisis in Iraq poses two challenges — a humanitarian effort to rescue persecuted minorities, and a security mission to suppress the extremist threat posed by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. is right to play a leading role in aiding the Yazidis, Christians, and other threatened minorities in Iraq. The immediate threat against the Yazidis has eased, but minority groups in the region remain endangered by violent extremism. The Obama administration should work through the United Nations to turn this into a genuine international rescue effort. The greater the degree of international participation and support for the aid mission, the more beneficial and legitimate it will be for the recipients.

The U.S. is also right to call attention to the threat posed by ISIS, but we need to do more to mobilize international pressure against the group. The Islamic State is in many respects more dangerous than al Qaeda. It has conquered Mosul and other major cities, taken control of dams and oil facilities, and is steadily expanding its sphere of influence in Syria and Iraq. It has formed a terrorist army with an estimated 10,000 fighters and is now armed with tanks and advanced U.S. weapons stolen from the Iraqi army. The group poses a significant threat to the security of the region and the world.

Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

VATICAN CITY — As he dispatches a top aide to war-torn Iraq this week, Pope Francis made his most impassioned plea yet for the world to halt the “slaughter” of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamic extremists.

“The news coming from Iraq leaves us incredulous and appalled,” Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, as he cataloged the brutal “violence of every kind” that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and left women and children dead and dying.

“All this seriously offends God and seriously offends humanity,” the pontiff declared. “You cannot bring hatred in the name of God. You cannot make war in the name of God!”

Yet even as Francis called on the international community to find “an efficient political solution that can stop these crimes,” the Vatican also tried to make peace with the idea that U.S. military strikes that began last week were necessary and working.

Suzanne Ross 05-21-2013
Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring /

Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring /

What the heck is going on in Syria? If you are like me, you have a problem keeping all the players straight, and the unfamiliar Arab names don’t help. Thankfully, the Syrian president has a relatively easy name to remember, Bashar al-Assad, but keeping track of who’s who and which side they’re on is a real challenge. Frankly, even when I can keep track, I’m very skeptical that I am getting anything close to the truth from news outlets, the White House, or our State Department. The talk about a “red line,” no-fly zones, arming terrorists, and weapons of mass destruction sounds a lot like the falderal we were being fed going into the Iraq war. So what’s a good citizen of the world to do? If I can’t make sense of the news accounts myself, who can I find to help me out? And if I can’t trust my government to sort out the good guys from the bad guys for me, how can I ever figure out what, if anything, my government should be doing in my name?

Lisa Sharon Harper 11-22-2011
Human Circles of Protection

Human Circles of Protection

Do we want to be the kind of America that faces an historic deficit and chooses to extend $690 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens while cutting $650 billion in aid to children who need special education, student aid, and additional resources for low-income schools?

Do we want to be the kind of America that protects $44 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies while cutting $47 billion in energy grants to help poor families heat their homes in the winter?

Right now the wealthiest Americans are wealthier than they’ve ever been and people living beneath the poverty line make up a larger slice of the American pie than they have since the Great Depression.

Is that really what we want? Really?

Cathleen Falsani 09-20-2011

060928-F-1936B-022The study by Los Angeles-based Relief International found that about 10 percent of the estimated 15 million women who live in Iraq are widows. Among them, 59 percent have lost their husbands during the U.S.-led war.

Ruth Messinger 04-01-2011
After my teenage granddaughter returned recently from a service experience in Uganda, sponsored by American Jewish World Service, she remarked that she would never again say she's "starving" on her
Becky Garrison 02-08-2011

For many Americans, the Sonora Desert conjures up images of a summer vacation replete with tequila shots and sunshine with Toby Keith's "Stays in Mexico" song blaring in the background.

There are times when there are no words. There are times when it seems that there is no hope for humankind, that our blindness to the things that make for peace is willful.
Cesar Baldelomar 05-28-2010
This past Tuesday, President Obama announced that he intends to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Brian McLaren 02-08-2010
It's one thing to go to the "Holy Land" and see where Jesus worked and walked in the past.
Brian McLaren 01-26-2010

We arrived in Bethlehem with our wonderful group of pilgrims. Folks are getting acquainted, and in a few minutes, our journey begins.

Juliana Schnur 01-22-2010
While the recent crisis in Haiti has spurred many Americans to action -- through donations, public service, humanitarian aid, etc.
Nontando Hadebe 01-22-2010
In a sermon on the situation in Haiti, Dr. Michael Van Heerden, president of St.