“In the midst of the pandemic, the sense of sharing and communion between faith communities, churches and Anabaptist institutions has grown,” says Willi Hugo Perez, Mennonite World Conference regional representative for Latin America – Central.
At the dawn of a third pandemic year, there is weariness from the ongoing griefs, but churches are continuing with their mission despite old and new challenges.
Encouraged by the emerging Global Anabaptist Heath Network, Mennonite World Conference called for churches and individuals to support UNICEF’s efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to low income countries.
MWC is raising money for UNICEF, the key delivery partner in the COVAX Facility, for global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Love My Neighbour
To share coronavirus vaccines around the world, Love My Neighbour, a non profit organization draws together 12 faith affiliations in Canada – including MWC. To date, Canadian Anabaptist-Mennonites have given $44 400 CAD to UNICEF Canada in the name of MWC.
By 30 September 2021, UNICEF Canada had raised $9.6 million CAD including $536 000 from Love My Neighbour donors. This was matched by the government of Canada for a total of $19 million for UNICEF’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in low income countries.
For their efforts, Love My Neighbour was recognized as an Outstanding Foundation or Philanthropic Group. The AFP-Greater Toronto Chapter Philanthropy Awards granted the honour in December 2021.
“We have an extraordinary responsibility,” says LMN founder Sarah Hildebrandt. Nearly 80 percent of Canadians have received at least one vaccination dose but in low income-countries, it is only 8 percent. “We want to strengthen UNICEF’s arms… As we witness each other’s love for neighbour, our own love for neighbour continues.”
“Like Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms when he got tired (Exodus 17:12-14), members in our family of Anabaptist-Mennonite churches are strengthening each other through MWC’s Love Neighbours, Share Vaccines campaign in Canada and around the world,” says Arli Klassen, regional representatives coordinator. “We are grateful.”
In the name of MWC, US donors gave $24 535 USD to an interfaith campaign for UNICEF USA.
Losses and challenges
From Zimbabwe to Indonesia to Guatemala, church leaders report economic challenges from job losses and deaths of pastors from COVID-19.
In Guatemala, Willi Hugo Perez reports, one woman lost two sisters in two days. “There is desperation, anguish and sadness because of deaths and the economic situation.”
Disagreements on how to respond to the virus have hardened divisions in communities. In India, reports Cynthia Peacock, regional representative for South Asia, resistance to religious groups that are not Hindu has led to vandalism of church buildings and mosques, violence against church leaders and false accusations regarding proselytizing.
Yet it is a time of pastoral accompaniment. “There are beautiful expressions and actions of solidarity in favour of the most vulnerable, poor and needy. These are works of love that communicate faith, inspiration and hope in the current reality,” says Willi Hugo Perez.
“We continue to believe and hope in the Lord.”
|Love neighbours, share vaccines|
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- Eastern & Southern Africa
- Western and Central Africa
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