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Calls for international governments to restructure aid distribution as Christians continue to be left out

by Tola Mbakwe
Photo Credit: Open Doors - Banner image
Photo Credit: Open Doors

A Christian humanitarian worker has called for international governments to restructure how they distribute aid to poorer countries because Christians are still being denied coronavirus aid in some countries. 

Open Doors UK & Ireland has warned the coronavirus pandemic has "turned the screw dramatically on Christians who are already oppressed for their faith." 

The Christian persecution watchdog said thousands Christians in some parts sub-Saharan Africa have lost their jobs and are either been turned away when trying to get help or are put last in line for government food aid.

Jo Newhouse, regional spokesperson for sub-Saharan Africa at Open Doors, told Premier Christian News: "There's a woman that we'll call Abigail, who is a young mother who was displaced by violence and who was then forced into an informal IDP camp, where really they didn't get any sort of help from the government, not from the national government or from the regional government. 

"They were really at the mercy of any kind of well-wisher that would come around and help them with food. So they were hundreds of families in that camp, and they really only were able to eat once a day."

She added that the pandemic has made life tougher for new Christian converts. 

"In these rural areas you need the community around you to survive. If your community rejects you, this is where it becomes very difficult for you to survive," she said. 

"Many Christian converts speak about the fact that they don't have food to eat, and Christians who were normally able to help them aren't able to help them anymore because everyone is just living hand to mouth. And when they when they don't have an income the food gets used up very quickly. So it's a really desperate situation for them."

Open Doors said local churches who are usually able to help no longer can as finances have diminished. 

Newhouse added: "Churches in northern Nigeria are used to persecution and their responsibility created by violent persecution. But the problems they face during the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented.  

"Lockdowns have greatly affected the income of churches and radically reduced their ability to help the needy. "With churches closed and activities curtailed, pastors and other full-time church workers who serve in the most volatile areas, find themselves in deep trouble.  

"They are very dependent on tithes for income and now cannot feed their families, much less the throngs of people looking to them for help.  

"This means that victims of persecution - many of them widows and orphans - cannot be helped. 

"We have had cries for help from Ethiopia, Sudan and several other African nations we work in." 

The warning comes as the United Nations (UN) marks its International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on Saturday. The day was instituted by a UN General Assembly resolution asserting that "states have the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights, including the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, including their right to exercise their religion or belief freely".

Newhouse said there needs to be a shift in the way aid is given out. 

"I think agencies like the UN can work more with local entities and get to know local entities much better and make sure that there is a diversity in the local entities that disperse the help that come from international governments," she said. 

"The problem that we see often is that there are governments that help and that are eager to help, but they often do it through social structures in local areas. They might send assistance to a Muslim dominated area, all of that help would go through a Muslim government or even through mosques, and Christian minorities would be excluded."

She admitted that it was a difficult problem to manage but said there's a lot of work to do to ensure that everyone, including minorities and the vulnerable are helped.

Listen to Premier's interview with Jo Newhouse here: 

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