Finn Church Aid provides 100,000 euros to emergency humanitarian assistance in South Sudan

Finn Church Aid (FCA) begins humanitarian assistance in South Sudan’s capital Juba, where fighting broke out again last weekend. The 100,000 euros appropriated from FCA’s disaster fund will be allocated to food and water distribution. The work begins immediately.

Thousands of people, most of them women and children, have sought refuge in churches in Juba. Many have spent days inside church buildings without food and water, and have yet to receive any humanitarian assistance. The South Sudanese Council of Churches has petitioned organisations to provide immediate emergency relief.

FCA’s emergency relief will target 8,000 IDPs on three church premises. The allocated sum will be used to distribute water, food and other necessities. Relief will be provided in cooperation with the South Sudanese Council of Churches, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

Unrest in Juba and surrounding areas continues for the fifth day despite a ceasefire declared on Monday evening. At least one hundred people have died. According to the UN, 36,000 people have been forced to flee the fighting in the capital.

In June, South Sudan was listed as the second most fragile state in the world behind Somalia. Re-erupted fighting will deliver a heavy blow to the basic living conditions of Sudanese people who are already suffering from poverty, illiteracy and violence. They will be dependent on outside assistance for a long time.

FCA is one of the very few Finnish organisations currently operating in South Sudan and in collaboration with the South Sudanese Council of Churches has strived to build peace in the country that is weighed down by ethnic and political conflict. In 2015, FCA also constructed 35 temporary schools, and secured access to education for 1,800 refugees in South Sudan.

Further information:
Marie Makweri (Nairobi), Peacebuilding Officer, tel.  +254 795 901 262 or +358 4057 14211
Satu Helin, Reporter, tel. +35840 630 8133

Help IDPs in South Sudan by donating

Donations account:  Nordea IBAN FI33 1572 3000 5005 04
Please add the message “South Sudan” to your donations.

NGOs make urgent call: “Dramatic increase in refugee resettlement urgently needed”

Geneva, 15 June 2016 — The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since WWII. At this year’s Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), 34 NGOs made an urgent call on all parties to support the UN Secretary General’s goal: for States to provide resettlement spaces and additional legal channels for at least 10 per cent of the global refugee population annually. This is the kind of bold responsibility sharing needed to respond to this historic challenge, the NGOs say.

Humane solution

“There is no doubt about it: resettlement saves lives. It prevents deaths at sea and it makes it harder for smugglers to exploit refugees for profit” says Jasper Kuipers, deputy director of the Dutch Council for Refugees and NGO co-chair of this year’s ATCR. Resettlement provides a humane solution for the most vulnerable refugees. It is also crucial that quality integration programs remain part of resettlement and alternative pathways.

Increase pledges

In the run up to the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September in New York, efforts are underway to double the number of resettlement slots to 340.000 for next year. This still falls far short of the 1.2 million refugees currently in need of resettlement according to UNHCR. “The Summit is a critical opportunity for States to show leadership by committing to resettle significantly more refugees. Given the staggering size and scope of the global refugee crisis, the time for action is now. Greatly increasing resettlement is fundamentally the right thing to do” adds Naomi Steinberg, director of Refugee Council USA.

Other safe and legal channels

In order to move towards the much needed ten per cent, sizable quality resettlement programs should be introduced by those countries, which have not already done so. The quotas of existing resettlement programs should increase significantly. Complementary safe and legal channels should be dramatically expanded. For example, refugees should be able to access extended family reunification, labour mobility schemes, student scholarships, private sponsorships, medical evacuation and humanitarian visas. These additional pathways can be crucial for refugees who are unable to access resettlement.

Resettle other refugee groups besides Syrians

The NGOs stress that other groups of refugees besides Syrians, such as Somalis, Afghans and Rohingyas, who are in protracted refugee situations, should not be overlooked when it comes to opening up resettlement places. Also in other regions such as the Africa and South West Asia resettlement needs remain high. Access to resettlement should be equitable – reaching refugees in need regardless of location or degree of media attention.

EU-Turkey deal: a bad example

Resettlement should be offered irrespective of political agendas. NGOs strongly condemn the EU-Turkey deal that has made resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU conditional on individuals being returned from Greece to Turkey. Catherine Woollard, ‎Secretary General of ECRE, European Council on Refugees and Exiles says: “This deal is nothing more than a shameful one-for-one trading in human beings and implies large-scale returns between countries that do not ensure refugee protection. We cannot let this EU-Turkey deal set a precedent for other States to follow”.

Involvement of NGOs

NGOs play an invaluable role in all aspects of the resettlement process, from identification to the successful settlement of refugees. Partnerships between States and NGOs should be set up or strengthened to make sure that lives can continue to be saved through resettlement. We, as NGOs, stand ready to help our governments receive these newcomers into our communities.

Further information: Johanna Tervo, Humanitarian Adviser, Finn Church Aid, johanna.tervo(at), tel. +358 40 631 38 37.

See the statement in video:
Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) 2016 – NGO Statement

This joint press release is supported by the Dutch Council for Refugees, Refugee Council USA , ECRE, AMES Australia, Amnesty International Australia, Auckland Refugee Community, British Refugee Council, Canadian Council for Refugees, Caritas Austria, Caritas Internationalis, Danish Refugee Council, Ethiopian Community Development Center USA, Finn Church Aid, Forum Refugiés, Foundation House, HIAS, ICMC, ICVA, IRC, ISSofBC, Japan Association for Refugees, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, MYAN, Refugee Action UK, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Refugee Council Australia, Refugee Rights, Refugees as Survivors, RefugePoint, Romanian National Council for Refugees, Settlement Council of Australia, SSI, Swiss Refugee Council, WUSC.

Implementing the Marrakesh Declaration

The Marrakesh declaration was discussed at the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC in an event organised by the Embassy and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. Particular focus was put on how the declaration could be implemented.

The Marrakesh Declaration is a milestone for the rights of individuals to freely practice their religion in countries with a Muslim majority. The declaration was issued in January 2016.

The declaration demonstrates Islam’s commitment to peaceful coexistence with other religions and the protection of minorities from all types of religious persecution, displacement and discrimination in predominantly Muslim countries. It also calls for the leaders of other religions to confront these same acts against Muslim minorities in their countries.

The declaration was led by Shaykh Bin Bayyah, President of Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. Over 300 Islamic leaders, ministers, muftis and religious scholars from more than 100 countries gathered in Marrakesh to discuss the Islamic faith and its traditions, as well as domestic and international rights.

The European Union has issued guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, asserting this freedom as a fundamental right of every human being. Finland is committed to following the guidelines and working toward their goals.

The roundtable discussion held on 20 April was the first step in the dialogue on how to implement the Marrakesh declaration. All speakers agreed that the topic is very timely, and it is important to make people aware of the declaration and to maintain its momentum.

Guest speaker David N. Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, highlighted that the global community has to ensure that the Marrakesh declaration becomes reality. According to Ambassador Saperstein, the West, interfaith communities, diplomats and the media should focus on dialogue and empowering the Muslim voices that created the declaration. This is crucially important if we want to counter violent extremism, Ambassador Saperstein said. He concluded his speech by saying that all of us have a responsibility to speak up against intolerance and ignorance, and we have the power to make the world as we want it to be.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, who described himself as a student of Shaykh Bin Bayyah, pointed out that the Muslim world is not a monolith, and that it was once one of the first multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious areas in the world. According to Shaykh Yusuf, the Muslim world is going through very hard times, but the societies have a great power for rebirth.

Dr Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of the Secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, laid out ideas on how the Marrakesh Declaration could be implemented. He said it is important to identify potential partners and engage with them, communicate about the significance of the declaration, arrange more policy education and have Muslim scholars discuss the declaration.

The Author of the Marrakesh declaration, Shaykh Bin Bayyah, joined the conversation via Skype. He said the declaration has a special importance because it gave the Muslim scholars an opportunity to show the human being in the religion. Shaykh Bin Bayyah stated that it was crucially important that the declaration was created by scholars, and not by governments. The Shaykh is now looking for practical ways to implement the declaration, and hopes that the process will serve both humanity and peace.

Finn Church Aid is one of the founders of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and functions as its secretariat.

More information:

The text is modified from the original text published on the homepage of the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC.

New study on tradition- and faith-oriented insider mediators calls for more effective collaboration between peacebuilding actors

The study, titled Tradition- & Faith-Oriented Insider Mediators (TFIMs) in Conflict Transformation – Potential, Constraints, & Opportunities for Collaborative Support, launched this week in New York, conceptualises and contextualises a specific set of religious and traditional peacemakers as tradition- and faith-oriented insider mediators (TFIMs). The study considers their peace mediation roles, their potential and the constraints under which they work, and reflects on the opportunities for collaborative support that links various actors within conflict contexts.

The study was commissioned by The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and conducted by the Berghof Foundation with the support of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and Finn Church Aid. It draws from empirical knowledge acquired through case studies in Myanmar, Thailand, Lebanon, Colombia, Kenya and Mali.

The study identifies TFIMs as persons whose social position and function is explicitly defined by tradition and religion and/or whose inspiration, motivation, strategies and methodologies are implicitly shaped by tradition and religion. Enjoying the moral legitimacy and respect required to influence the opinions and perceptions of conflict stakeholders, TFIM’s are able to facilitate dialogic processes that create and nurture space for conflict transformation.

“TFIMs not only mediate between communities in conflict, but also help create the social and human capacity to transform conflicts, e.g. by engendering new TFIMs. In Myanmar there are a couple of fascinating examples where some TFIMs are facilitating dialogue among, and the empowerment of, (intolerant) religious leaders, who then gradually emerge as TFIMs. Two key aspects that contribute to their success is that they are innovative and that they prefer to keep a very low-profile”, explains Mir Mubashir, one of the two authors of the study.

TFIMs are subject to constraints in the support structures, which limit the effectiveness of their peace mediating efforts. These constraints include lack of effective collaboration and coordination between TFIMs and other peacebuilding actors, being overshadowed by national or international peacebuilding agendas, conflict-insensitive interventions on the part of international actors, and structural restrictions on TFIM engagement.

The study proposes a collaborative support framework as a tool for addressing these constraints.

The study holds great value for the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. “This baseline is very significant ground work for the Network in developing the concepts on how to better support local tradition and faith oriented inside mediators”, says Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

“We will now negotiate with Network members and the UN on how to apply this framework in practice.”

Read the synopsis of the study here. Visit the website of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers by clicking here.

Eritrean Minister of Education introduced to Finnish education

The Eritrean Minister of Education, Semere Russom, and his delegation visited Finland this week at the invitation of Finn Church Aid (FCA). Minister Russom had meetings with Finnish education officials, representatives of Finnish universities and other actors from the education sector. The Minister also visited the vocational education provider Omnia, and the Saunalahti primary school in Espoo. Finn Church Aid is supporting the development of teacher training in Eritrea.

“Many Finnish pedagogic practices are applicable to Eritrean schools. For example team teaching, special needs education and more individualised vocational training”, said Minister Russom.

“I was also impressed by the cooperation between the teachers, school management and the parents. Both teachers and students are supported on many levels.”

The Eritrean delegation also had meetings with the Minister of Education and Culture, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen; the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lenita Toivakka, and Member of Parliament and Special Representative Pekka Haavisto.

On Wednesday, Minister Russom spoke at an international conference on Finnish and Eritrean cooperation for quality learning.

“Education is the cornerstone of all economic and social development”, Minister Russom emphasised.

The seminar was organised jointly by Finn Church Aid, CIMO, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Finnish Ministry of Education.

The shared goal of FCA and the State of Eritrea is to develop the nation’s education sector. Strengthening teacher training is of particular strategic importance in that process.

“Cooperation has begun well”, said Minister Russom. “In less than eighteen months we have achieved concrete results. The measures we have taken are progressing well and are already bearing fruit.”

Eritrea has substantial challenges in offering children and youth opportunities for quality education, and in providing the youth with skills that will help them find employment.

“Next, we will look into how we can together develop vocational training. Learning vocational skills has a direct effect in how young people view their future. This goes for youth both here in Finland and in Eritrea”, says Jouni Hemberg, FCA Executive Director.

FCA is working in cooperation with Eritrean teacher training institutions and education officials to develop the capacities of teachers and teacher trainers to ensure that Eritrean children and youth have the opportunity to learn with professional and motivated teachers. FCA is also supporting the establishment of Eritrea’s first national innovation centre.

Violence broke out in Pibor, South Sudan – Finn Church Aid’s staff evacuated

The severe tensions that surfaced in Pibor, South Sudan, at the end of December 2015 have erupted into violent attacks and heavy fighting in February 2016. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work in the area has been suspended for the time being, and the local staff has been evacuated to the capital Juba.

At least 2,000 people are seeking refuge at the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Many more have fled to the bush, too, after several civilians were killed, their homes and possessions looted and burned. The local hospital was also destroyed, and the county market was set on fire.

The violence stems from political tensions between the newly appointed local leadership, and an armed group loyal to the former leader of the area, and their respective supporters.

“For the time being, Finn Church Aid staff is working out of the capital Juba. Our office in Pibor and the accommodation spaces of our staff were looted and destroyed completely, but thankfully our staff is fine”, says Pio Ding, FCA’s Country Manager for South Sudan.

“Unfortunately, the events in Pibor reflect the broader situation in the country, and the future of the area is closely intertwined with the broader conflict between the government and the opposition. Despite the peace agreement being signed in August 2015, civilians continue to be killed and suffer from displacement, and live in insecure and inhumane conditions. For example, in Malakal, in the Upper Nile, the UN PoC site was attacked and at least 18 people who were seeking safety were killed and over 40 people injured”, says Ding.

South Sudan was classified as the most fragile state in the world in 2015. Increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are fleeing their homes, and the country faces drastically increasing humanitarian needs as the rainy season approaches.

In the Pibor area, FCA implements peace building activities through facilitated dialogues, reconciliation and vocational training. FCA also supports the education of internally displaced children through an Education-in-Emergencies programme funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

In South Sudan, FCA supports the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in their nation-wide peace building efforts. The churches have played an important role in reconciliation and contributed, for their part, in a peace agreement being signed after over one and a half years of civil war in August 2015.

FCA will resume its work as soon as the situation calms down and the fighting ends.

Further information:
Pio Ding, Country Manager, South Sudan, Finn Church Aid, pio.ding (at)
Marie Makweri, Peacebuilding Officer, South Sudan, Finn Church Aid, marie.makweri (at)
Request for interviews through Communications Officer Minna Elo tel. +358 50 3309747, minna.elo(at)