IOCC, Church Growing Hope, Opportunity in Ethiopia

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia (September 9, 2003) — The monks of Ethiopia’s Monastery of the Archangel Gabriel on Lake Tana are the proud caretakers of a 16th century copy of the Gospels written on goatskin. Rooted in a rich history, they also represent a beacon for Ethiopia’s future.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working with Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries, and other partners, in a stepped-up effort to help Ethiopia overcome the effects of drought, soil depletion and deforestation.

“Ethiopians are focused, spiritual people who want to break the chains of poverty. That’s why we’re focusing on long-term solutions,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou, who recently spent time in Ethiopia.

IOCC, the humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, began supporting small-scale agriculture projects in Ethiopia in 2001. Now, with the support of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IOCC is increasing its presence in Ethiopia at a time when more than 12 million of its citizens are in need of food aid.

In the coming weeks and months, IOCC plans to launch a series of agriculture projects in concert with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (DICAC). The projects, centered at monasteries in the northern Amhara and Tigray regions, will help Ethiopians meet their food needs.

“IOCC has laid the foundation for a strong partnership with the Church,” said Dr. Nigussu Legesse, DICAC commissioner. “We look forward to our future collaboration as we work to alleviate the suffering in Ethiopia.”

IOCC also is working with its partner the Jerusalem Community Development Organization to develop a comprehensive agriculture and job training program that will help Ethiopian young adults improve food production for their communities.

The vocational program will be operated out of the Blue Nile Training and Outreach Center in Bahir Dar, on the shores of Lake Tana.

“The Church and her partners are in an ideal position to address agricultural and development issues that can reduce the effects of drought and famine, and behavioral issues that can stem the spread of HIV infection,” said IOCC Development Officer Dan Christopulos, who traveled to Ethiopia with Triantafilou.

While in Ethiopia, the two also met with His Beatitude Patriarch Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and delivered a gift for the Patriarch’s HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.

“The Patriarch seemed genuinely excited about the possibilities of partnering,” Christopulos said.

In addition to pursuing projects, IOCC will offer technical assistance to DICAC. IOCC currently has staff in Addis Ababa to develop a long-term plan and build the capacity of DICAC to respond to the food crisis.

“We hope to foster self-reliance through greater investment in agriculture and development, in HIV awareness, and in education for inner-city kids,” Triantafilou said. “That’s where IOCC can have the biggest impact.”

IOCC recently joined seven other international relief agencies in a public call for long-term solutions to break the grip of poverty and recurring famine in Ethiopia.