CEDAR Fund’s partner EFICOR distributes emergency supplies to flood-affected families in Kerala (Photo credit: EFICOR)
“If we don’t address the needs of the poorest people in the community, then our projects will have no meaning,” said Ramesh Babu, programs director of EFICOR.
EFICOR, the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief, is our Indian partner accumulated 51 years of experience in poverty alleviation and disaster relief. In India, climate change is closely linked to increased poverty. More than half of India’s working population is farmer, and around 30% of total population lives below the poverty line. While it is most affected by climate change, it frequently suffers from severe floods and droughts. Farmers’ annual harvests are also greatly reduced because of the impacts of global warming. Last year, several hundred peasants committed suicide because they could not bear the huge economic pressure brought by the drought in Tamil Nadu, South India.
When facing disasters, poor farmers are usually the most vulnerable as they lack knowledge, economic capacity and reliable social infrastructure to deal with natural hazards.
For example, in August 2018, the southern Indian state of Kerala was reeling under the worst floods it had faced in 100 years. The floods severely damaged local tourism and agriculture. On September 11, the Indian authority said there were still about 4,800 people were taking shelter in camps and nearly 500 people died.
Ramesh said: “Kerala is a blessed area…It has a green environment, beautiful coconut trees, tea gardens and rubber plantations. It is also a well-developed area with the highest literacy rate and life expectancy among the states in India.” However, a devastating flood has pushed Kerala to a sudden poverty.
In response to the natural calamity, EFICOR swiftly conducted post-disaster assessments in local villages to distribute food and non-food items to families in desperate needs.*
“People are not prepared enough”
India and other South Asian countries like Nepal and Bangladesh are subject to the strike of monsoon rains every year. Post-disaster assistance is undoubtedly necessary for humanitarian reasons. For EFICOR, which has long served the Indian communities, how to strengthen the local communities’ capacity to prevent, mitigate, withstand and recover from the impacts of disasters is of utmost importance. “In most cases (climate disasters), people died, their livelihoods are impacted and large amount of livestock are killed, reflecting the fact that vulnerable residents are not prepared.”
When local communities are prepared to deal with the threat of disasters, the impact of climate disasters can be greatly reduced.
“Indian nationals often experience floods. We must identify areas that are vulnerable to disasters, so as to make residents aware of their own threats and make prevention more effective.” For the purpose of disaster risk reduction, Ramesh and his co-workers have developed a comprehensive community-based disaster management strategy, including mobilising community residents, delivering training to local leaders, strengthening community infrastructure and evacuation measures, as well as advocating people’s right to information to receive entitled relief.
EFICOR’s community-based service is appreciated by local authorities. EFICOR, in collaboration with the regional government agency and other concerned parties, developed a District Disaster Management Plan several years ago. The Indian government has taken the plan as a model and promoted it to other regions. Ramesh is pleased to see such positive results. When he comes to the core of EFICOR’s ministry, he consistently referred to the example of Jesus’s mercy to the poor. He said that the Christians’ social concern is based on the social character of God, who concerns the poor and feeds the poor.
Integral Mission in India
Jesus’s identification with the marginalised and bringing transformation to the lives of the poor demonstrated what holistic gospel means. Through the ministry of EFICOR, the teaching of integral mission has gradually spread among the churches of India. “When our Indian pastors learned about it, their first reaction was: ‘We didn’t know it before’. They now realise that is what the Bible is saying. The teaching of integral mission broadened the pastors’ view on God’s kingdom, where the basic needs of the needy (in the Bible) are taken as paramount.”
While Ramesh was sharing about integral mission, he was excited. Every year, more than a hundred of pastors receive EFICOR’s training. Some pastors are inspired and subsequently advocated their churches to work on community development.
Ramesh said: “We hope to see more churches addressing poverty issues, talking about the changes of environment, especially the impacts of global climate change. We want them to know that we are mandated to be the good stewards of God’s creation.”
Same with our Indian partner, CEDAR Fund embraces integral mission as our ministry’s principle. As declared in a statement by Micah Network, which CEDAR Fund belongs to, churches are at the heart of what it means to do integral mission. “God by his grace has given local churches the task of integral mission. The future of integral mission is in planting and enabling local churches to transform the communities of which they are part.” (Micah Network Declaration on Integral Mission**)
God’s church is not an isolated body. It dwells in the local community, stands with solidarity with the least of brothers and sisters.
Let us pray for the Indian Christian communities and EFICOR:
Father, we thank you. The Indian Christian groups are minorities in the country (around 2% to 3% of the total population) and are subject to the fundamentalists’ persecution of the major religion. Despite this, EFICOR has always adhered to the spirit of the integral mission, demonstrating the holistic gospel of Christ in India. We prayed for Ramesh and his co-workers. May Lord look after them and their serving, particularly their current post-flood relief work in Kerala. We are pleased to see that some residents in the disaster areas have been helped, but we know the road to full recovery is long, relying on the cooperation of various volunteer groups, churches and Christian organizations and government bodies. Let’s us pray for Kerala.
We also pray that we continue to see the needs of the needy, as in the way YOU see them. Thanks to EFICOR, their work has made us understand how important community-based service is. May we have the heart of embracing our local community and care our neighbors. May the kingdom of our Lord come. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
*To assist people in Kerala, CEDAR Fund has allocated US$10,008 from the organisation’s “Emergency Relief and Disaster Preparedness Fund” to support EFICOR’s flood relief effort, which will provide help to 155 flood-stricken families through cash transfer. If you’d like to support CEDAR and our partner’s disaster relief work, you can select the “Relief” option on the donation page to fund our “Emergency Relief and Disaster Preparedness Fund”.*
**For full declaration on integral mission, please download: www.micahnetwork.org/sites/default/files/doc/page/mn_integral_mission_declaration_en.pdf.