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Concerns raised as Canadian church coalition loses government funding

Gladys Terichow
December 11, 2009

 

WINNIPEG, Man. — A recent decision by the federal Conservatives to abruptly terminate funding to a Canadian church organization has set off alarm bells among other church groups across the country.
 
In early December the government announced that it is ending its 35-year history of providing matching funds to KAIROS, a coalition of 11 Canadian churches and church-related organizations including MCC Canada.
 
“This decision hurts real people overseas with real needs. It is these people who will bear the brunt of this decision.” said Don Peters, executive director of MCC Canada.
 
KAIROS addresses a wide range of social justice and economic justice issues in partnership with 21 partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and about 80 community groups in Canada.
 
Much of KAIROS’ overseas funding came from the federal government through the Canadian International Development Agency. CIDA provides millions in grants to Canadian organizations that help the poor overseas. Many of these organizations, including MCC, are Christian and firmly rooted in Canadian church denominations.
 
The CIDA grants often enable organizations to match donations on a one to one basis, or better in some cases. These matching grants have proven extremely popular among donors and there is concern among some church organizations that their CIDA funding will also suddenly, inexplicably be cut.
 
In late November KAIROS was notified that its project proposal for 2009-2013 did not meet CIDA priorities. This proposal had been approved at every level of CIDA until it reached the desk of Hon. Beverley Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, for final approval.
 
During Question Period in the House of Commons Dec. 7, members of opposition parties asked Hon. Oda why she cut funding for KAIROS with no advance warning after CIDA had worked in partnership with KAIROS for 35 years.
 
The minister responded by assuring the House that the government will continue to support the work of member agencies of KAIROS.
 
“As I reported to the House, there are over a billion people living in extreme poverty,” Hon. Oda said in one of her responses. “That is why we will continue to support work that provides better health care, improved literacy, food security, water and sanitation facilities.
 
“That is why we continue to support the Primate’s World Relief, the Catholic Agency for International Aid and Development, the Mennonite Central Committee and the United Church of Canada.”
 
Peters said he appreciates the affirmation that MCC is receiving from Hon. Oda. This affirmation, he said, provides an opportunity for MCC to speak out on the importance of churches and church-based organizations working together in partnership.
 
“MCC brings together Anabaptist churches,” he said. “But KAIROS brings together the wider church community. This takes MCC to another level of church relations.”
 
Deo Namwira represents MCC Canada on KAIROS Global Partnership Program, a group of coalition members that provide direction to programs that receive matching funds through CIDA.
 
“We hope this is a decision that will be reversed,” said Namwira who also works with CIDA-funded projects at MCC. “KAIROS deserves to be funded and supported.”
 
The Government of Canada has established three priority themes to guide CIDA's work. These priorities include increasing food security, securing the future of children and youth and stimulating sustainable economic growth.
 
KAIROS, he said, works very specifically on advocacy concerning economic justice and social justice.
 
“These are the ingredients of sustainable development,” said Namwira. “We cannot achieve development if these two elements are missing.
 
“We cannot give farmers seeds if they can’t plant the seeds, we cannot give students pens if they can’t go to school. We cannot achieve development without social and economic justice.”