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Faith fuels famine relief

The risks are great, but so are the rewards. For over 100 years Canadian Christians have been building schools, healing the sick and feeding the hungry in developing countries. These missionaries honoured their faith by expressing the message of Christianity through humanitarian work. Despite local conflicts and cultural difficulties, missionaries in recent decades have served in the field with courage, humility and the desire to make a difference.

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Millions of people are starving in Ethiopia due to a prolonged drought and a civil war in the north. But aid agencies are stepping in to help, including Canada's Mennonite Central Committee. In 1983 it established the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, to which farmers donate a portion of their crops for famine relief. In this profile on the CBC's The Journal, a Mennonite Central Committee staff member explains that MCC's relief and development efforts are rooted in their faith in Jesus Christ. 
• The Mennonite Central Committee got its start in the 1920s. Many people were starving in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Russian Revolution, and Russian farmers who had immigrated to Canada organized to send food aid to the hungry. The MCC was created in the wake of this successful effort.

• Besides famine relief, MCC also works on conflict resolution in communities around the globe and helps people whose lives have been disrupted by natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

• The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, now based in Winnipeg, was a pilot project originally set up in 1976 -- a year when Canadian harvests were good and world food stores were low. The bank was brought back in 1983, just in time for the Ethiopian famine. Other churches were also invited to participate and, by 2003, 13 other church agencies were involved.

• From 1983 to 2003 the bank distributed over 850,000 tonnes of food to people in more than 40 countries.

• The bank operates on the Biblical "Joseph principle": Joseph, a figure in the Old Testament, manages the harvest in good years to see his people through lean years to come.

• The MCC's mission statement says it "seeks to demonstrate God's love by working among people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and natural disaster." Another part of the statement says "MCC strives for peace, justice and dignity of all people by sharing our experiences, resources and faith in Jesus Christ."

• Ethiopia is a landlocked country in east Africa with a 2003 population of about 66 million.

• Nearly one million Ethiopians died in the famine of 1984.

• Many people were moved to donate money to help hungry Ethiopians in 1984 and 1985. Musicians in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom recorded songs for charity, and concerts called Live Aid were held in London and Philadelphia in July 1985. Together the projects raised over $100 million for hunger relief.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Nov. 29, 1984
Guest(s): Ray Brubacher, M. Catley-Carson, J.M. Klassen, Nigel Martin, Harold Penner, Bernard Wood
Host: Mary Lou Finlay, Barbara Frum Reporter: Susan Reisler
Duration: 11:27

Last updated: November 6, 2014

Page consulted on November 7, 2014

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