Globally, violent conflicts are increasing, according to the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway. There are more armed conflicts now than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, many attempts to intervene are themselves militarized, further fueling the violence. Meanwhile, holistic peacebuilding and development approaches are underfunded.
President Trump’s budget proposal to Congress this fiscal year would make dramatic cuts to poverty-focused foreign assistance while eliminating the U.S. Institute of Peace completely. Aid to Africa would be reduced from $8 billion to $5.2 billion.
At the same time, the U.S. is moving forward with a major arms sale worth $600 million to Nigeria, reflecting the tendency to resolve violent conflicts through more military aid and weaponry. The sale of arms, if approved by Congress, could increase human rights violations, as the Nigerian military has been accused of committing war crimes.
This means the U.S. will pour weapons into a volatile situation while reducing humanitarian and development assistance at a time when it is needed more than ever. In Nigeria’s northeast, 5.2 million people face an acute food shortage and chronic malnutrition. About 1.7 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
Regionally, 5.6 million children in the Lake Chad basin — Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad — face the threat of water-borne diseases like cholera and hepatitis E due to poor sanitation conditions, unsafe water, lack of humanitarian assistance and violent conflict.
The humanitarian impact of violent conflicts has been devastating, including an increased threat of disease, famine and forced displacements, driving people to live in either refugee camps or with host communities. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, an estimated 81.3 million people across 45 countries are in need of emergency food assistance. Women and children are the most vulnerable, and youth are often subjected to forced recruitment by armed groups.
It is therefore imperative to prevent and address causes of armed conflicts, such as poor governance and lack of government services, corruption, resource control and poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement and disputes between religious groups.
One way Mennonite Central Committee seeks to address this is through support for Emergency Preparedness and Response Teams in Nigeria. These teams form an interfaith grassroots network that transforms conflicts while providing emergency humanitarian response in communities.
They work to build sustainable relationships among ethnic and religious groups through the formation of peace clubs. MCC’s support helps to sensitize communities in Plateau State and the northeastern part of Nigeria to the consequences of radicalization and violent extremism.
In reshaping attitudes and mindsets, people put away violence and work toward just peace (Ezek. 45:9), becoming ambassadors for peace as they seek to break the cycle of violence through love (Eph. 4:2).
Charles Kwuelum is legislative associate for international affairs in the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office. Story originally published on July 17, 2017. Reprinted with permission from Mennonite World Review.