Updates from UMCOR

News and information from the United Methodist Committee on Relief

United Methodists from the Central Texas Conference and all across the connection have expressed their concern and care for our brothers and sisters fleeing conflict in Syria. Recent news reports indicate that more than 16,000 migrants have streamed into Austria in the past week and more than 17,500 people were received in Munich alone. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency estimates, more than 366,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year and at least 2,800 have died or disappeared during the journey.
Bishop Lowry encourages all CTC churches to continue to keep these vulnerable people and all those around the globe suffering from oppression and injustice firmly in prayer. If anyone is interested in supporting UMCOR’s ongoing efforts in response to this and other disasters as well as its work to reduce disaster risk, are encouraged to give to the International Disaster Response Advance, #982450
The following are the latest updates from UMCOR on the United Methodist response to the International Disaster in Syria.
Sept. 23, a.d. 2015

Global Ministries General Secretary Releases a Statement on the Ongoing Migration Crisis

In a recent statement concerning the migration crisis in Europe and around the world, Thomas Kemper, general secretary of Global Ministries, of which UMCOR is a part, cites the agency’s ongoing work with international partners in bringing assistance to those uprooted and displaced from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Please pray for the families who are risking their lives to settle in other parts of the world to receive the basic supplies and services they need to survive.A portion of the statement read: “For years, UMCOR has worked with partners in serving persons displaced by fighting in Syria and Iraq, and persons temporarily living in other Middle Eastern locations or making their way westward. To date, UMCOR has allocated $2 million to provide the basics of life to persons displaced in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. Middle Eastern countries of far less affluence than the nations of Europe have proportionately admitted many, many more migrants than are now entering Europe. Our work among those displaced persons must continue. In addition, UMCOR is collaborating with partners to provide for refugee families in Greece, including the islands of Lesbos and Kos. With an Italian partner, it is responding to refugees from North Africa arriving in Sicily and other parts of Italy.”

Kemper went on to state that next steps in ministries with asylum seekers will be guided by recommendations from the European Methodist Council in a meeting set for this month.

Kemper also emphasized that “European and international ecumenical organizations are urging all of the churches and church-related humanitarian organizations to collaborate in the long-term work of resettlement, much of which will be in Europe. Concerning the Middle East, we have long-term relationships with the Middle East Council of Churches and its member communions.”

Your gifts to the International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will support UMCOR's ongoing work with refugees and migrants, and in response to other emergencies across the globe.

Read the full statement here and use this prayer offered by the Rev. Jack Amick, head of UMCOR International Disaster Response, to intercede for those affected by this crisis.

Sept. 11, a.d. 2015

UMCOR Continues Efforts in Response to International Disaster in Syria.

by Becky Harrell* and Vance Morton**

For more than a year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been responding to the conflict in the Middle East by assisting refugees and displaced persons in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Working with local and international partners and via grants totaling nearly $2 million, UMCOR has helped alleviate suffering in the region by providing food, water, clothing, household items and improved places for children to learn and play. UMCOR’s efforts are continuing in this arena, including additional projects expected to be approved during the last quarter of 2015.


What’s being done?

In recent days, UMCOR has been in contact with United Methodist Bishops in Europe about how they can work together on specific humanitarian assistance activities. Currently, UMCOR is partnering with Global Medic to provide approximately 750 migrant/refugee families with food and hygiene kits in Greece.
By May 2015, more than 42,000 refugees had arrived by sea in Greece, and, at the time this grant was approved, more than 1,000 additional arrive each day. However, the instability of Greece’s banking system continues the put the well-being of the newly arriving migrants at risk, as an overwhelmed Greek economy is unable to provide access to even the most basic services including healthcare, shelter or food.
Although reception centers have been established in an attempt to house refugees, living conditions are dire, with severe overcrowding causing poor hygiene conditions accompanied by a lack of food. In addition, only a fraction of those in need are actually living within formal centers due to the sheer volume of incoming migrants. Many families sleep outdoors in public spaces or in abandoned buildings without electricity or running water.
UMCOR has also implemented two projects in response to the migration flows into Europe during the past year as part of a multi-year focus to address the human suffering that seems to dominate certain migration corridors – particularly the corridor into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa, and the corridor into the U.S. from Central America.
The social welfare structures in Sicily and Italy as a whole, were overwhelmed earlier this year by the steady of flow of immigrants from North Africa, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Working through Pellegrino della Terra Onlus, a local organization in Italy, UMCOR provided food vouchers migrant/refugee families thanks to a grant of $15,000 from the organization. This was particularly empowering because it not only gave beneficiaries the food they needed, it also afforded them the dignity of choosing for themselves.
Among these migrants fleeing war-torn areas of the region, 84 percent are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Migrants are risking their lives travelling by sea in small, overcrowded rubber dinghies in their attempts to flee a variety of human rights abuses, including war and extreme violence in their home countries A recently received grant of $50,000 will care for approximately 3,750 people who have landed on the islands of Kos and Lesvos. So as you can see, simple math reveals that much more help is needed. If you or your church is interested in supporting UMCOR’s ongoing efforts in response to this and other disasters as well as its work to reduce disaster risk, please consider giving to the International Disaster Response Advance, #982450
As response plans develop and UMCOR provides additional support to these local efforts, UMCOR will continue to provide updates on changes in programming through umcor.org and various social media sites.
*Becky is a Mission Advocate for the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC.  BHarrell@umcmission.org, beckyincostarica.info
**Vance is the director of Communications & IT for the Central Texas Conference.  vancemorton@ctcumc.org