What is CCA?

Canadian Churches in Action (CCA) is a coalition of ten Canadian churches involved in development and relief activities around the world. Through CCA, we work with international partners to provide a unified response to disasters.

In Times of Disaster… Canadian Churches Respond to Emergencies Worldwide

…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Matthew 25:35-36

Relief efforts in Myanmar, photo credit: Amity Foundation

Challenged by Jesus

These words of Jesus challenge us to act—to recognize people’s urgent needs and to respond faithfully. At no time are those needs more immediate than at times of natural disaster or war.

Today, we have almost instantaneous access to information about emergencies wherever in the world they occur. Such ready access makes a rapid and timely response more likely. Knowing how best to respond, however, is not always so easy. Questions arise like: What kind of aid should be sent? How will it get there? Who will benefit from the aid? Will the aid really make a difference?

CCA is committed to helping Canadians respond to disasters in an appropriate, informed and timely manner. Working individually or ecumenically, we are committed to providing emergency relief to survivors of disasters—regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political affiliation. We strive to ensure that help reaches the most vulnerable, quickly and efficiently.

What are disasters like?

Disasters can be intensely traumatic events. They can happen suddenly and without warning—as with earthquakes and flash floods. Or, like war or conflict, they may take the form of growing insecurity and gradual social disintegration which people feel powerless to control or change. Whatever the form of disaster, people do what they can to survive and live life as normally as possible. While sometimes portrayed as helpless victims, people in the midst of disaster often exhibit extraordinary resiliency. Stories of great courage, compassion and love often emerge from the most difficult circumstances.

In times of disaster, Canadian churches join people in their struggle to cope, survive and overcome. As partners, we work together for a brighter, more secure tomorrow.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Isaiah 58:6

How does CCA respond?

Churches around the world are uniquely placed to mobilize resources and work in times of crisis. In addition to facilitating relief efforts, churches can provide pastoral counselling, trauma assistance and support for long-term reconstruction. Through CCA, Canadian churches are committed to helping other churches and relief organizations around the world respond to various disasters—even those that receive little or no media attention. Long after media have stopped covering a high-profile disaster, the churches are often still on the scene.

Fifteen different churches work together through Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) to seek a Christian response to hunger. In September 2007, CFGB celebrated shipping its one millionth tonne of food to people coping with hunger around the world. CFGB works with member church agencies and their local partners to increase immediate access to food, establish food security by protecting and building sustainable economic livelihoods, and strengthen community development and peace-building.

The Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance is a global network of churches, working together to save lives and support people caught in natural and environmental disasters, as well as in emergencies caused by war and civil conflict. Through its members, ACT strives to reach communities in crises across frontlines, national borders, and other ethnic, political or religious divides, irrespective of race, gender, belief, nationality, ethnic origin or political persuasion. Establishing strong local roots enables the ACT alliance to provide locally based knowledge, analysis and understanding of emergencies and disasters. Strengthening local capacity lies at the heart of all responses.

CCA is committed to relief programs that:
  • prioritize the most vulnerable
  • are regionally and culturally appropriate
  • are gender sensitive
  • work with women in all stages of the relief efforts to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met.
CCA is committed to preventing disasters by helping people:
  • breaking the cycles of poverty that make them more vulnerable to crisis situations
  • recovering traditional means of coping with disasters that may have been lost
  • protecting and improve the natural environment while meeting basic human needs
  • initiating peace-building initiatives that empower women in particular.

What can I do?

Responding in ways that make a difference

How should we in Canada respond when we hear of sudden or emerging crises around the world?

Your national church is organized to respond to emergencies. Through denominational and ecumenical networks, Canadian churches can quickly transfer funds to a partner in the region to increase their capacity to respond to a crisis. Often, before any donations come in, the church has already begun to mobilize people and resources, and to provide immediate assistance to those affected.

The quickest way to get emergency relief to the site of a disaster is through a financial donation to the relief agency or department of your church. Funds can get to the region quickly and be used by partners who know the people and situation best to acquire locally-appropriate goods in the quantities needed. In addition to being one of the most immediate and effective ways of responding to a crisis, the administrative costs for this type of response are much lower than shipping from far away places. As well, pre-established, solid relationships with the Canadian government allows Canadian churches to access additional funds or matching grants, when available.

While aid workers and disaster survivors appreciate displays of international solidarity, many agencies ask for cash instead of material donations since it allows them to purchase what they need most, support local producers and acquire the goods immediately.

What about in Canada?

Canadian churches also respond to emergencies in Canada. When catastrophic events happen in our own country, Canadian churches work with congregations and regional church bodies to identify needs that may be missed by other relief organizations.

What else can I do?

As you learn about disaster situations there may be other ways you can respond.

1. Write to the Government of Canada urging an increase in the amount of Official Development Aid (ODA) that it provides for global development and assistance. Urge it to cancel the foreign debt of countries affected by emergencies, and urge other countries to cancel debts, so that more of the disaster-affected country’s resources can be used to address current disasters and prevent or diminish future possible disasters.

2. Find out how environmental conditions (e.g. climate change) can cause or exacerbate a disaster.

3. Remember the disaster survivors in your prayers. To people suffering enormous loss, and to the local partner organizations struggling to meet the overwhelming needs, the knowledge that others are praying for them can give great encouragement and comfort.

4. Continue learning—alone or with a group—about the life issues that affect church partners. When media no longer cover a specific emergency, or the crisis leaves our own consciousness, many global partners may still be living in very difficult circumstances.

When you support the development and relief work of the Canadian churches, you provide assistance to the following:

Emergency response activities
  1. Food
  2. Water and sanitation
  3. Shelter
  4. Clothing
  5. Health services
  6. Logistics (transportation, storage, monitoring, evaluation and administration)
Rehabilitation and reconstruction work
  1. Agricultural and fishing tools
  2. Provision of seeds
  3. Water
  4. Sanitation
  5. Rebuilding homes, digging latrines
  6. Community healing
Capacity building and emergency preparedness activities
  1. Disaster management training
  2. Emergency preparedness training
  3. Technical workshops
  4. Community-based activities to enhance preparedness
Peace and reconciliation work
  1. Human rights training
  2. Steps to reconcile communities/people in conflict
  3. Protecting the most vulnerable
  4. Civil education