Thursday, 24 March 2011

Love in Action

I recently had my attention drawn to this article on the Guardian "Poverty Matters Blog", describing efforts being made in Mali by local NGO, AEDM, to help local farmers adapt to the effects of climate change.  Faced with shorter and heavier rainy seasons, AEDM have helped villagers develop better composting techniques, and build raised, flash-flood-proof vegetable plots.

The author of the article seems full of praise for the scheme, but finishes by noting that, "the challenge to get funds down to this kind of micro level is daunting", and that, "the simplest, cheapest small-scale solutions are often the last to get the funding they need".

The author doesn't explain however, how AEDM are funded at the moment, or in fact, who AEDM actually are!  I've only recently heard of them myself and don't know where all their funding comes from, but I do know that "AEDM" stands for "Agence Evangélique de Développement du Mali" - the Mali Evangelical Development Agency - and that they are at least partially funded by various world-wide partnerships including one with UK Christian development charity, Tearfund, which my wife and I support.  I know how Tearfund are funded because their annual report is available here.  Of the £61 million income they had last year, £40 million came from supporter donations and £28 million of this was from individuals such as my wife and myself, most of whom are likely to be British Christians of an evangelical persuasion (since this is Tearfund's primary supporter base).

Religion often gets a bad press for being a source of oppression and/or conflict, but for me this is a prime example of the church doing what it does best, where the "church" in this case consists not of an institution, but of various, otherwise unconnected Christian groups that have 2 things in common:
  1. They love Jesus.
  2. They want to demonstrate that love in action by doing something practical to help make the world a better place.
Tearfund (among others) does a brilliant job of exploiting this "network".  Their strategy is to partner with and support local organisations like AEDM who have a similar or compatible vision, and are on the ground and understand the local situation - often working through local churches, which provide instant access to a pool of volunteers who are well integrated into the community.  The AEDM project and many others like them work by empowering local people to take control of their situation, rather than making them dependent on handouts.

Christians don't always get much recognition for this sort of thing - the Guardian article about AEDM referenced at the start of this post doesn't even mention the word "Christian" and avoids explaining what AEDM actually stands for! - but it is nevertheless a big part of the way the Christian faith is lived out, every day by ordinary believers all over the world, and perhaps provides some proof that at some level at least, Jesus Christ is actually making a difference!

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