Tampa, Florida, May 1, 2012—The United Methodist Church today urged “an immediate unilateral cease fire” and other measures in Afghanistan by Afghan, US, and NATO powers to end the long war in that country and redirect resources to meeting pressing human needs in Afghanistan, the US, and elsewhere.
Delegates to General Conference 2012, the church’s governing body, approved the resolution titled “Seeking Peace in Afghanistan” presented by United Methodist Women, as well as other measures during their plenary session this morning.
The war in Afghanistan costs more than $100 billion a year, the resolution states. “These funds are beating plowshares, classrooms, and hospitals into weapons,” it says using a reverse reference to the passage from Micah, “They will beat their swords into plowshares…”
“Lasting human security and stability in Afghanistan will come through diplomacy, education, and health care, not more weapons, more police, and more soldiers. We urge an end to all arms shipments from all sources,” the church said.
In addition, the church said, teachers, firefighters, and other US public employees face layoffs in part because the US government redirects tax dollars “from local communities to war overseas.” Supporting peace in Afghanistan would contribute to reversing this situation for the US people as well.
As it happens, The United Methodist Church approved its resolution on Afghanistan the same day that US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to that country to sign an agreement with Afghan President Harmid Karzai on the relationship between the two countries going forward. According to news sources, the agreement is meant to signal the “beginning of the end” of the war.
The church underscored that “for more than 45 years United Methodists and other humanitarian organizations, in partnership with local Afghans, have supported health care and community development work in Afghanistan.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has played an important part in that work. Shortly after the initial US-led military action in Afghanistan in October 2001, UMCOR established an office there, staffed mainly by Afghans, to assist returning refugees.
Today, that office marks 10 years of service. In that time, UMCOR has managed nearly $18 million in grants from the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; USAID; UNICEF; and in donations (more than $2.5 million of the total) from generous and caring United Methodists.
From the beginning, UMCOR has been involved in the safe return and reintegration of refugees through ever-expanding programs meant to benefit the most vulnerable people—children, women, the elderly, and the disabled—of an extremely vulnerable population.
Particularly over the course of the past seven years, UMCOR has worked with Afghan returnees in shelter construction; the provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities; the provision of clothing; and the winterization of homes.
Those services have become increasingly integrated and grown also to encompass the development of livelihoods, income generation; and vocational and technical training, including the successful raising of livestock. UMCOR has conducted large-scale construction of schools, homes, clinics, and wells.
By 2010, UMCOR was at work in five districts of Kabul province, helping returning refugees to put down roots and mobilizing them to rebuild community infrastructure, rehabilitate streams and traditional irrigation channels, and distribute thousands of apple, apricot, and pomegranate seedlings each year.
Today, UMCOR continues to provide assistance to Afghan returnees and vulnerable communities in four key areas: increasing sustainable livelihoods support; expanding the availability of clean water and improving hygiene practices; meeting basic health and education needs; and transitioning its projects to locally available services by building capacity and ownership in the communities.
Through their support of UMCOR’s work in Afghanistan, United Methodists contribute to changing “swords into plowshares,” increasing the potential to meet pressing human needs in Afghanistan as well as in the US, and improving the possibilities of a peaceful, fruitful future for the Afghan people.
Linda Unger is the staff editor and senior writer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.