The local church and relief

Wherever disaster strikes in the Anglican Communion, local Anglicans respond, reaching out to the most vulnerable: whether it’s communities devastated by cyclones in Vanuatu, people fleeing conflict in South Sudan, bomb attacks in Pakistan or those flooded out of their homes in Sri Lanka, the church is there with them.

Anglicans are present in more than 165 countries around the world, able to work on the frontline of these humanitarian emergencies. This network of Anglican churches, together with Anglican agencies and church structures make the Anglican response unique.

Churches are often first responders, responding sacrificially to welcome and care for those affected. Since they are part of the local community, the local church and its members can act fast, responding from their own resources, before outside agencies arrive. The church is also able to gather and share key information from remote areas with humanitarian agencies and others, thanks to its grassroots network and church structures.

The Anglican Alliance supports this local response to humanitarian emergencies by linking the local church to the worldwide Anglican family of people, churches and agencies, for prayer, solidarity and practical support.

Disasters

Disasters can strike unexpectedly, such as earthquakes, or with a bit of warning, such as cyclones, and sometimes there are early warning signs, such as droughts. They can be prolonged, like many conflict and refugee situations and droughts. Even small disasters can have a significant impact on individuals and communities. Whatever the situation, the Anglican Alliance can support the local church to respond within its capacity and help it connect to others for further support or advocacy.

Globally natural disasters are on the increase, from landslides in Burundi to drought in Southern Africa and hurricanes in the Caribbean. Climate change is affecting many parts of the world, changing weather patterns producing more severe and more frequent impacts on communities. Conflict-related emergencies are also killing and injuring thousands of people, displacing millions and tearing communities apart.

Anglican response

Usually the local Anglican church with its grassroots reach is well placed to know and meet the needs of the most vulnerable, reaching those that others have missed. Few Anglican churches have the capacity of large relief agencies to provide programmes of large ongoing support. Therefore the Anglican Alliance aims to support local churches to fill the gaps left by outside agencies, providing vital support to those left behind in the response.

Anglicans are also well placed to meet needs that outside agencies don’t have the capacity to meet such as providing safe spaces for the vulnerable, social and spiritual support, someone trusted to listen to the traumatised to help overcome loneliness, despair and hopelessness, caring for the most vulnerable such as the elderly, the very young, those with disabilities. In situations of conflict, the church is very important in promoting reconciliation, forgiveness and reuniting communities at local level, as well as at national and regional level. These are great strengths of churches and their value should not be underestimated in the wider response.

The local church is part of the community, present and active, long before a disaster hits. It endures the consequences alongside the community, and it is there after the emergency has passed. Very often these Anglicans are in some of the poorest, most remote and forgotten places in the world where there is no one else to help or provide relief.

Anglican agencies bring expertise and experience of responding to these emergencies with the local church, as well as strong relationships with many provinces and dioceses around the Anglican Communion.

The role of the Anglican Alliance

The Anglican Alliance adds value by coordinating humanitarian support to Anglican provinces and dioceses responding to humanitarian crises. We work closely with a committed group of Anglican and faith based agencies and diocesan companion links to connect for prayer and joint practical support so that the local church can have a streamlined process for applications, communications and reports. To learn more about this, visit How the Anglican Alliance can help.

While the Anglican Alliance does not do country-level advocacy, we aim to connect the local church to others when they share advocacy needs. We also work closely with Lambeth Palace, liaising with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Anglican Communion and the Reconciliation teams. We are also able to network at international level with International Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), ACT Alliance, governments and the United Nations (UN) agencies to highlight forgotten crises and the role of the church in local response. The Anglican Alliance has observer status to the ACT Alliance.

The Anglican Alliance is committed to contribute to the wider humanitarian effort and to facilitate a proper coordination between local churches and International Non-Governmental Organisations and United Nations agencies such as UNHCR and OCHA.

Healing the wounded; feeding the hungry; welcoming the refugee and helping those in need are part of the Church’s mission. The Anglican Alliance supports the practical work of the local church and highlights the Church’s role to the wider humanitarian community. We are committed to strengthening the capacity of local churches to respond to emergencies.

Building capacity and sharing best practice

The Alliance is a learning organisation, encouraging sharing of experience and learning from churches, agencies and other partners and disseminating best practice, as the most vulnerable are always most impacted by disasters. One of our priorities is to improve the level of support that churches are able to provide for their communities. This can be through capacity building in response and resilience before an emergency, including promoting the use of international humanitarian standards, which will allow support from non-church partners. But also through regional surge support at the time of an emergency.

We are also piloting Anglican Partners in Response and Resilience (PiRR), regional capacity support both for emergency response, but also for building resilience and preparedness before an emergency. Individuals and organisation with skills in disaster response and resilience and preparedness are being identified, trained and supported to be able to accompany other churches in their region.

  • There will be teams ready at the invitation of the local church to come and offer support and guidance during an emergency.
  • There will be teams ready to visit and help build local capacity in resilience and preparedness before an emergency, to reduce the impact on communities, such as injury and loss of life, loss of crops and livelihoods, damage to buildings and infrastructure.

One of the important facets of Partners in Response and Resilience will be supporting local networking, to connect the local church to humanitarian and development agencies locally, such as the ACT Alliance forum, the NGO forum and the UN coordination system.

To learn more about Anglican Partners in Response and Resilience, or to offer your skills and experience, please contact the Anglican Alliance relief manager, anglicanalliance@aco.org or your regional facilitator.

Many communities in the Anglican Communion have been affected by disasters. You can read some examples of what has happened to communities, and how the local church is responding to crisis on the Current Emergencies page and on the Anglican Alliance Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Read more about response.

As well as supporting disaster response, the Alliance is promoting capacity building in resilience and preparedness.

Learn more about Resilience and preparedness

If you have an experience to share or if you want to know more about our work, please contact anglicanalliance@aco.org or you Anglican Alliance regional facilitator.