The #reconciliation partner Mary Hoch Reconciliation Center in the USA receives a grant of EUR 25 000 from the Lutheran Church in Helsinki for the psychosocial support of local peace mediators during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global Covid-19 pandemic has forced many international aid staff to evacuate conflict zones and curtailed in-person meetings. Many local peacebuilders remaining in these spaces experience significant challenges perpetuated by the sudden loss of social and institutional support.
“We know that if the peacebuilding staff gets tired, things get even worse in the communities around them. The pandemic and the isolation and pressure it causes also brings untreated trauma to the surface. Mediation and enhancing reconciliation in war zones is often life-threatening and burdensome”, says Stefan Forsén, Director of Parish Cooperation in Church of Helsinki.
The grant will be directed to the task force on psychosocial support initiated by the Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation in Washington D.C.
“Several of the local peace mediators are also involved in negotiating the UN ceasefire appeal during COVID crisis. The success of which would be crucial in getting medical and other humanitarian aid to its destination. We also want to trigger change in attitudes where organizations take better care of their own employees and partners. We train NGOs for this, but we also help organize peer support”, says Antti Pentikäinen, the director of the Center.
Pentikäinen explains how, for example, the war-torn government of South Sudan is now practically unable to act:
“At least half of the board members have become infected themselves. The establishment of regional administrations was stalled due to the pandemic. There are still clashes in the regions, while the NGO’s and the UN have no one to coordinate aid with. We try to help e.g. peace mediators there to cope with almost overwhelming challenges”.
The Mary Hoch Reconciliation Center, run by Pentikäinen, is part of the #reconciliation program. Part of the support will also be used with the Al Amana Center in Oman, especially to support religious actors in their psychosocial support in conflict areas.