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Poverty Reduction in terms of Covid-19

Press relaese / November 2020

Press release – 6 th  ICDM 2020

Poverty Reduction in terms of Covid -19 – A worldwide overview by ICDM members 

The tradition to travel from different places on earth to meet each other at one melting point and to communicate with the international colleagues face to face, changed in 2020 to a virtual conference. The whole world was affected by the Corona pandemic. The ICDM had its Conference from 10th-11th November 2020 via zoom. The theme of the conference was: Poverty reduction in terms of Covid 19. The pandemic impacted all spheres of life: health, social, economic and political and all have consequences. One of the major consequences is that the poor become more poor or increasing new poor of the economically collapse in almost every country, with the hardest hitting in poor countries. The ICDM realized that although the problem is similar, the response and effort can be differently. Therefore the members of ICDM would like to share their different experiences in the context of Asia, Africa and Germany, and how the role of church or diaconic institution can find some kind of solution in our different situations. The conference was, in this strange year, officially opened by the Chairperson of ICDM, Rev. Francis Amaglo, K1, who welcomed and thanked all members for reserving the two days for ICDM annual meeting. He was followed by Prof. Martin Büscher, founder of the ICDM and Professor of IDM Bielefeld/Bethel, who welcomed the new participants of K4 and acknowledged the effective work done by members of the Board of ICDM. He focused the attention of participants on deeper reflection about the issue of humanity, solidarity, democracy, care and justice. Rev. Matthias Börner, Head of International Diaconia of the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) reminded the ICDM members to strengthen the network and to use the opportunity to make a difference.

The Conference was moderated by Deborah Suparni, Regional Deputy of Asia. She opened the communication platform for the presentations from Asia, Africa and Germany. The first presentation was done by Rev. Augustinus Purba, General Chair Person (GBKP) from K1. He noted that Covid 19 creates new poor. He presented the government regulation in the midst of the pandemic and explained the economic recession and the responses by GBKP at two level synod and congregational levels:

  •  For Synod level, the following were undertaken:
Technical guidance in preventing the dissemination, solidarity actions to help poor communities, guidance for health protocol and the set of perform task force team covid-19 GBKP.

  • For congregational level, they committed to perform the following:
Food and vitamins distribution, funds raising, supporting and distributing aids to the families in respective service areas and, the share of love to the neighbours affected by Covid 19. Also, the church has and is still implementing preventive actions such as: Installing water reservoirs and hand washing facilities in public areas such as in traditional markets, churches/worship houses and hospitals for 47 units; spraying public facilities, churches and worship houses surround Karo Land in 51 places; distributing 2000 face masks for daily labours (Aron), distributing “Personal Protective Equipment for the Pastors and medical personnel in the villages; providing free lunch for daily labourers, parking attendants, bus drivers, and janitors (street sweepers) for 2000 packages and the distribution of rice and main foods for poor people.

For Africa Rev. Parfait Ekoume, K3, presented the best practices to deal with the consequences of the pandemic: Churches and Church institutions in Africa are carrying out the following activities depending on the contexts.

  •  First the Rural Development Inter-Diocesan Service /Rwanda undertake: Members of saving groups were mobilized to provide dividends to their members as to help them deal with the situation. Food items and hygienic materials’ distribution to families who needs it the most, and community awareness about how to prevent the spread of Covid 19 through the distribution of fliers, banners and thermometers.
  • Second the Community of Baptist Church in Africa–CBCA/DR Congo: This Church has undertaken activities likely to help poor families deal with Covid 19 pandemic: education for behavioural change, poultry project to increase family incomes, agricultural training program, and, women’s capacity building.

Mirjam Michalski, Diaconia Wuppertal/Germany, K4, shared about the symptoms of Corona virus in Germany whether it is moderate or medium-heavy symptoms. It means people easily recover without needing a medical treatment. The government also gave attention to the people who are negatively impacted from the virus, such as additional aid payment for the different special branches and employees. She described a social project from diaconia Wuppertal about a daily local food bank and distribution for hygienic materials in cooperation with the local job centre and social welfare office and the support by a lot of local donors.

Further questions of the conference arise:
  1. What were the most economic challenges for your context/your organization during the Covid 19 Pandemic?
  2. How is your church/organization solve/reduce the challenge?

The responses from the different contexts were:

Africa: Early marriage, close of businesses, school dropout, unexpected pregnancy, reduction of tithing and offerings. Addressing measures include: teaching and sensitizing, cases identification to clearly know the seriousness of the issues and report them to the leadership for multidisciplinary interventions.
Germany: Lockdown policy makes people work from home, office and daily meetings via zoom. Yet, more creative ways were found in using technology. There are many disadvantages, especially working with youth, because they only use electronic devices, and it is not easy to reach the people. There are increasing numbers of people losing their jobs, because economic resources are not available anymore. There is also the physiological impact where many people feel lonely, especially the elderly. However, the government really supports their citizens, and it is really helpful.
Asia: Covid 19 is not the only single disaster for Asia, because there are many other disasters such typhoons, eruption of Volcano Mountain, and earthquakes. The role of government in educating the people about health protocol is also massive. People are receiving fines for not obeying the rules. There are huge financial challenges in churches, but it makes the church more creative in helping congregations For example: farmers provides their products to the Church and then the Church helps to promote it. It is really helpful for increasing their income. GBKP uses a centralized salary system, therefore, although in the midst of the pandemic, all Pastors pays regularly. The economic condition is getting worse, so many private companies have closed and it creates a lot unemployment. Most of the Churches still conduct online services. Education or schools are also closed, using online learning. The challenge for poor families who have a smartphone, creates a problem for the family.

At the end of the two days the ICDM-participants shared a lot of same experiences about the difficult time in the midst of Covid 19 and important measures depending on the regional contexts. But for the future, it will be an important task for the ICDM to strengthen their network and use the opportunity to make a difference, like Rev. Matthias Börner had encouraged the ICDM-alumni “to do more than previous, maximize the potency to make a difference in the world.”

Just a week after the conference, Bishop Augustinus Purba (K1-UEM / IDM 2011-2013; GBKP-Indonesia) passed away due to the corona virus. Even in the midst of his illness, he did not stop performing his task, not for himself but for the benefits of his people. The ICDM-family stood together during a zoom-devotion to share their deep sorrow and their memories of him. His untimely death has left a void in our midst and we are a bit poorer without this humble and kind person who served God and his people.

By Corinna Lee and Claudette Williams
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