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Although the United Nations declared the famine in Somalia over in January, millions of Somalis are still at risk of hunger, while another food crisis looms in West Africa’s Sahel region (Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria). Last year’s severe drought in the Sahel destroyed the majority of the harvest, and scarcity is driving up food prices. Canadian Foodgrains Bank international programs director Grant Hillier says it’s crucial “to get food to people who need it so that they don’t use coping mechanisms, such as selling their livestock. That only drives them deeper into debt or poverty.” The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has promised $41 million in support to organizations responding to the Sahel crisis.—CFGB release


The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is “disappointed with the decision” of the Supreme Court of Canada to dismiss an appeal for exemption from Quebec’s new Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program in schools. The ERC program, mandatory for Grades 1–11, aims to instruct children about religious traditions in a manner that will promote tolerance and respect, equipping them to live in a pluralist society. “Historically, Canadian parents have had the right, affirmed by the courts, to teach morality and religion to their children …without government interference. The Supreme Court of Canada said nothing on those points,” said Don Hutchinson, EFC vice-president and general legal counsel.—EFC release


Mennonite World Conference (MWC) appointed an operations team that includes Len Rempel of New Hamburg, Ont., as chief operating office, Anna Sorguis of Strasbourg, France, as chief administrative officer, Liesa Unger of Regenburg, Germany, as part-time chief international events officer, and Ron Rempel of Waterloo, Ont., as part-time chief communications officer. Still to be appointed are chief development officer and coordinators of commissions and of regional offices. With the closure of the Strasbourg, France, office in June 2012, European Mennonites decided to have a coordinator to liaise with MWC.—MWC release


In an effort to address the backlog of refugees identified by Canadian embassies, the Canadian government has limited the number of new applications for refugee sponsorships that name specific refugees; eg., a church requesting to sponsor a specific refugee’s spouse and children. “We want to continue listening compassionately to the requests of the families we have sponsored but we also want to respond to the compelling stories of refugees who cannot contact us directly,” says MCC’s national coordinator of refugee programs Ed Wiebe. Through MCC, one of 70 organizations working with the Canadian government to sponsor refugees under the private sponsorship program, 80–90 church and community groups sponsor 150–180 new refugees to Canada each year.—MCC release


The Mennonite Weekly Review, an inter-Mennonite weekly newspaper since 1923, based in Newton, Kan., shifted its name and publication schedule to a biweekly Mennonite World Review, Apr. 2, 2012. MWR also publishes news and comments on a blog, The World Together, and sends an email news alert. “MWR exists to foster communication and cooperation within the Mennonite family of faith, encouraging support for the work of the church, its structures and institutions,” says publisher and editor Paul Schrag.—MWR release


Mission USA, USMB’s domestic mission agency, announced the plan to start 6 new churches this year – the biggest one-year expansion since the MB immigration from Russia in the late 1800s – and then do it again every year for 10 years. Mission USA director Don Morris says, “I’m not used to asking God for huge things.” Using a “cluster” approach, Mission USA is targeting urban areas within MB districts and establishing several new churches simultaneously. One area of growth is Salt Lake City, where South Mountain Community Church, started as a home Bible study in 1996, now serves 1,350 attenders and 4 daughter churches, with a vision of 16,000 worshippers by 2020. “Growth is fantastic,” says Morris, but “it has to be about connecting people who are broken with Jesus.”
mennoweekly.org, USMB.org

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