On Sunday New Zealand churches begin the countdown to Christmas. Many will light the first Advent candle to mark the beginning of the season of waiting for the birth of Jesus.
At the same time they will remember young people in Gaza determined to make a future despite the year’s 51 day war.
In this way churches launch the annual Christian World Service Christmas Appeal to raise funds for groups working to recover homes, health and livelihoods in countries facing grinding poverty after war and disaster.
“For 68 years the Christmas Appeal has made our concern for people who are at the top of the Need Table the priority. New Zealand churches can be proud of the way their gifts have been used to bring change where it is needed most. They have done so by investing in the people affected according to their own priorities. We have found that it is not the amount of money that matters but communities working together to help each other out of poverty that makes the difference,” says Pauline Mckay, National Director.
Christchurch-based aid and development agency Christian World Service is much more aware of the long recovery process after disasters. Forty-two years after the Managua earthquake, the central city of Nicaragua has not been rebuilt. Much of Haiti remains destroyed after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January 2010. In Ha’apai Tonga, most people are living in tents or hastily repaired houses after January’s Cyclone Ian.
“People are resilient in the face of disaster even in some of the world’s poorest countries. They need strong communities to keep going through the tough times and when relief supplies dry up. Our long term partners have the expertise and relationships to help people make the transition from making do to creating a future,” says International Programme Coordinator Trish Murray who visited Nicaragua, Haiti and Tonga this year.
The focus of the Christmas Appeal is on giving people the resources they need to recover after war and natural disaster. The theme “Build Hope for Tomorrow” captures the importance of the rebuild. Through adversity people need the resources to get through the first shock and the stamina to keep going until they are back on their feet.
According to the Red Cross almost 100 million people were affected by natural disaster in 2013. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 51.2 million people were refugees or internally displaced in 2013.
The full appeal with stories and resources can be found here.
The first Christmas Appeal was launched by Archbishop West-Watson on behalf of the then National Council of Churches in 1945. Funds raised were sent to help in post-war Greece.
Donations to the Christmas Appeal can be made on line and by direct deposit here. Christmas Appeal posters and envelopes are available from CWS, phone 0800 74 73 72.
27 November 2014