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Canadian church coalition loses government funding

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A decision by federal Conservatives to abruptly terminate funding to a Canadian church organization has set off alarm bells among other church groups across the country.

In early December, the government announced that it is ending its 35-year history of providing matching funds to KAIROS, a coalition of 11 Canadian churches and church-related organizations including Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

“This decision hurts real people overseas with real needs. It is these people who will bear the brunt of this decision,” said Don Peters, executive director of MCC Canada.

KAIROS addresses a wide range of social justice and economic justice issues in partnership with 21 partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and about 80 community groups in Canada.

Much of KAIROS’ overseas funding came from the federal government through the Canadian International Development Agency. CIDA provides millions in grants to Canadian organizations that help the poor overseas. Many of these organizations, including MCC, are Christian and firmly rooted in Canadian church denominations.

The CIDA grants often enable organizations to match donations on a one-to-one basis, or better in some cases. There is concern among some church organizations that their CIDA funding will also suddenly, inexplicably, be cut.

In late November, KAIROS was notified that its project proposal for 2009–2013 did not meet CIDA priorities. The government of Canada has established three priority themes to guide CIDA’s work: increasing food security, securing the future of children and youth, and stimulating sustainable economic growth.

KAIROS works very specifically on advocacy concerning economic justice and social justice, said Deo Namwira, MCC’s representative on KAIROS Global Partnership Program.

“These are the ingredients of sustainable development,” said Namwira. “We cannot achieve development if these two elements are missing.”

Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC.

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