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NCC Emergency Response Staff and Supporters Travel to Bosnia

NEW YORK, May 19, 1998 ---- Seven staff and supporters of the National Council of Churches (NCC) Emergency Response Program will travel to Bosnia May 20-26 to visit Church World Service humanitarian projects and observe the current conditions there firsthand.

Church World Service (CWS) is the refugee assistance, humanitarian response and human development ministry of the NCC. CWS responds to human need in more than 70 countries around the world, including the U.S.

"The group will familiarize themselves with the situation in Bosnia, particularly the continued needs of people and institutions recovering from war, will visit with Church World Service staff and programs, and will witness the delivery of school and health kits to schools in the greater Sarajevo area," said the Rev. Paul Wilson, Director of the NCC’s Europe Office and a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The stops will include refugee camps in Konjic, where the visitors will face "probably the most critical issue people in the Balkans are facing – that of refugees and people who have been internally displaced by war," said Rev. Wilson. "At issue is how to create hospitable communities for people who are a minority population but want to return home. As religious people, we will advocate for radical hospitality, which goes counter to the nationalistic fervor that is prevalent in the region."

Other visits will include an orthopedic clinic where prostheses are manufactured and the community of Nahorevo, where visitors will lunch with local people who received cows through a unique development project begun in 1996. The CWS cow project provided cows for families forcibly displaced from their homes. Because a cow can move, it was considered an ideal gift to help families toward self sufficiency. The recipients repay their gift in milk and cheese through a local charity that will pass it on to some of Sarajevo’s neediest.

"We will also meet with representatives from our partners in the region, which include the Red Crescent Society, the Red Cross and La Benevolencija, a Jewish non-governmental organization and with governmental representatives form the UNHCR and USAID," Rev. Wilson said.

Since March 1993, CWS has given $19 million in humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Bosnia. For the first few years, CWS concentrated on emergency assistance such as blankets, food, health and school kits and clothing, including a project providing children’s underwear and shoes. Since 1996, CWS has moved from direct service to longer term development projects in order to empower people back to work including agricultural projects, textiles and light manufacturing. CWS has financed micro-enterprise projects including: egg, fish and sheep farms, a beekeeping operation, an industrial quicklime production project, a home-based sewing project, a computer training project and a metal fabrication plant.

"Almost all of the beneficiaries of our projects are victims of war," Rev. Wilson said. "Through this kind of development, carried out with our partners in the region and designed to reestablish jobs and facilities, we are trying to help make peace more attractive than war."

In addition to Rev. Wilson, others who will travel to Bosnia include: Ms. Linda Hartke (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), Director of Operations for CWS/NCC; Ms. Donna Derr, International Disaster Response Consultant for the CWS/NCC Emergency Response Office; the Rev. Kermit DeGraffenreidt, an AME Zion minister and member of the CWS Europe Committee; the Rev. Johnny Wray, Director of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Week of Compassion; Mr. Gary Barnard, member of the CC (Disciples) Week of Compassion Committee, and Ms. Linda Petrucelli, Executive for the Global Sharing of Resources for the United Church Board for World Ministries.

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Contact: Wendy McDowell, NCC News

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