An Interfaith Appeal from Canada’s Faith Communities
South Sudan – Somalia – Nigeria – Yemen
As faith leaders in Canada, we call upon our communities and all Canadians to mobilize in response to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises since the Second World War: the grim reality of multiple famines occurring simultaneously in four separate countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen – threatening some 20 million people. United Nations agencies have already confirmed that South Sudan has 100,000 people in famine conditions, 1 million more who are on the brink of famine, and another 5.5 million at risk of famine by July 2017. A declaration of famine has not been made by UN agencies since July 2011 when some 260,000 people died in Somalia – half of them children under the age of five. The world must not let those horrors be repeated.
Situations of war and violence are mainly responsible for this crisis. The protracted civil war in South Sudan is widely considered the principal cause of the famine there. The United Nations Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide issued a chilling report in November 2016, noting that in South Sudan “there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide.” Conflict, hostilities and lack of security are similarly the main causes of the severe food insecurities happening in Somalia, Yemen and northern Nigeria.
Our joint appeal is a unified cry from the heart, with one voice and one message. Ours is the insistent call for peace and the need to protect the vulnerable. The protection and promotion of human dignity are foundational elements of all our faith communities. Willful indifference towards violations against human dignity is always wrong, at all times and in all places.
We appeal to our faithful, and all people of good will, to:
- Pray: Remember the people of South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen during times of personal and community prayer. Pray for peace, for government leaders and for humanitarian workers in the region. Remember especially the 1.4 million children who are the most vulnerable. For people of faith, prayer is always timely and efficacious. It unites our deepest communal and personal concerns and hopes with the needs and sufferings of our sisters and brothers, whatever the distances that separate us.
- Give: Make a financial contribution to one or more of the various reputable aid agencies working to alleviate this crisis. The Government of Canada has created a “Famine Relief Fund”. For every donation made between March 17 and June 30, 2017, by individuals to registered Canadian charities, including many of those development and relief agencies sponsored by our faith communities which operate in the region, the federal government will contribute an equivalent amount to the Famine Relief Fund. According to the United Nations, the present humanitarian crisis far exceeds the current availability of resources and the amount of funding so far committed by countries around the world.
- Speak out: Take the time to become better informed about this crisis, and to speak about it with your family, friends and neighbours. Discuss this compelling world issue with your local community agencies. Contact your local Member of Parliament to communicate your concerns.
In addition to the Famine Relief Fund, the Government of Canada has committed $119 million to South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, of which $37 million is allocated specifically to South Sudan. Canada is also contributing 10 peacekeepers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Yet much more needs to be done. We urge the members of our respective faith communities to join us in encouraging our government to continue calling for greater humanitarian assistance and a cessation to the violence.
Our government has made known its intention to participate more fully at the UN Security Council in the coming years. Now is the moment for our Prime Minister and all Canadian leaders to live up to that aspiration by speaking out clearly and consistently to end the violence taking place in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.
Canada’s voice must be heard in this dire moment, especially as it celebrates 150 years of Confederation. Our faiths call us to share the gifts with which we have been so generously blessed and to be accountable for how we assist others when they are in need.
National Secretary Public Affairs
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada
Fred J. Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church of Canada
Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan
Armenian Holy Apostolic Church Canadian Diocese
Dr. Gerald Filson
Director of Public Affairs
Bahá’í Community of Canada
The Rev. John Tonks
Canadian Association for Baptist Freedoms
Rev. Timothy McCoy
Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec
Rev. Jeremy Bell
Canadian Baptists of Western Canada
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton and President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett- Cowan
The Canadian Council of Churches
Imam Dr. Mohammad Iqbal-Nadvi
Canadian Council of Imams
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl and Rabbi Reuben Poupko
Canadian Rabbinic Caucus
Shimon Koffler Fogel
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
Rev. Dr. Jen Garbin, BA, MDiv, DMin
Regional Minister for Canada
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada
Rev. Dr. Darren Roorda
Canadian Ministries Director
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Mr. Bruce Clemenger
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto & All Canada President, Canadian Conference of Orthodox Bishops
Rabbi Lisa Grushcow
Montreal Board of Rabbis
Prime Bishop Anthony Mikovsky
Polish National Catholic Church of Canada
Rev. Peter Bush
Moderator of the 2017 General Assembly
ThePresbyterian Church in Canada
Rev. Marijke Strong
Executive Secretary of the Regional Synod of Canada
Reformed Church in America
Commissioner Susan McMillan
Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory
Rabbi Debra Landsberg
Toronto Board of Rabbis
His Eminence Metropolitan Yurij
Metropolitan of Canada
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
The Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell
United Church of Canada
Mr. Mukhbir Singh
World Sikh Organization of Canada
In February 2017, the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, declared 20 million people to be at risk of death in the next six months in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria.
This particular humanitarian crisis stems from a conjunction of events that include armed conflicts coupled with severe droughts brought about by climate change. Many have fled their homes and land to escape the violence of armed conflict and are continually displaced. These issues make transportation and access to food extremely difficult.
- Famine was declared on February 20, 2017 in Unity State. A declaration of famine has not been made by UN agencies since July 2011 when some 260,000 people died in Somalia – half of them children under the age of five.
- An estimated 7.5 million people are in need, including 5.5 million who will be food insecure during the May to July period (lean season).
- There are nearly 1.9 million displaced persons inside the country and a total of 1.74 million refugees in neighbouring countries (which 86% are women and children, including 21,000 unaccompanied minors).
- South Sudan is the world’s newest state (independence in 2011), but has been at war since 2013. Years of ethnic and religious strife opposing rebel groups and Sudanese forces, for control over the country’s oil resources which constitute about 90% of the national economy, continue to this day.
- Some 8.5 million people are in need in this region, including 1.9 million displaced persons. The main needs are in the areas of food security, nutrition, protection for various populations, and water sanitation. An estimated 44,000 people are currently at risk of famine in these areas.
- Since the beginning of the armed conflict in 2009, some 1.9 million people have abandoned their homes and fields for fear of brutalities by the terrorist group Boko Haram or reprisals by the Nigerian army.
- More than 6.2 million people are in need, including 1.7 million persons displaced by war and/or drought (=54% of the population).
- In addition, an estimated 3 million people will be in a state of acute crisis by June due to ongoing drought and insecurity.
- Young children are among those hardest hit: an acute rate of malnutrition has been identified among 363,000 of these children and more than 71,000 of them require nutrition life-saving treatment.
- Somalia is in one of the most vulnerable regions on the planet in terms of food insecurity.
- The country has been plagued by a civil war for decades; the current government essentially only controls the capital city Mogadishu and its surroundings.
- Years of conflict have pushed Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest countries, to the brink of catastrophe.
- An estimated 18.8 million of people (70% of the population) are in need of assistance and protection to meet their basic needs, including 6.8 million people experiencing severe food insecurity.
- Children are particularly vulnerable because of malnutrition and preventable diseases; since April 27, cholera outbreak has been reported and could affect 250,000 over the next six months.