Interview: ACT Alliance General Secretary Urges Churches, Christians to Act Amid Global Issues

 Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary of the ACT Alliance
Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary of the ACT Alliance (photo: Provided by ACT Alliance)
By Karen Luo, Katherine GuoMarch 18th, 2022

Editor’s note: China Christian Daily recently conducted an interview with Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, the general secretary of the ACT Alliance, a global alliance of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation member churches and related organizations committed to working ecumenically in humanitarian relief, development and advocacy. Amid the Ukraine war and other issues like gender injustice and climate crisis, Rudelmar urged Christians to take action to change the world and society. This is part 1 of the interview. Read part 2 of the interview here

China Christian Daily: Could you please introduce yourself a bit and your organization?

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: I’m originally from Brazil, working in different countries over the years in humanitarian development. I’ve been out of Brazil for almost 30 years, and have been working in humanitarian work based in Geneva, Switzerland with my family. Before serving as the general secretary of ACT Alliance, I had been working with the World Council of Churches (WCC) as its representative to the United Nations in New York for four years.

ACT Alliance stands for “Action by Church Together” and is the world’s largest humanitarian and development church-related network. We are a global, faith-based coalition organizing national and regional forms, operating with more than 140 members now. Working in humanitarian response has been one of the areas that we have been focused on since 1995. And we also have climate justice, gender justice, migration and displacement, and issues related to peace and human security as some of our other programs. We are doing all of this to support local communities because our goal is to promote a locally-led and coordinated approach to humanitarian and development issues, but also advocacy.

China Christian Daily: Please share with us what’s really happening in Ukraine and your humanitarian response there. 

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: What is happening in Ukraine is a war, and this war is mounting every day and has already affected the lives of millions of people. We are seeing that on the news. We are seeing that on the ground, as the ACT Alliance.

This intense military escalation has resulted in the loss of life, injuries and mass migration of the civilian population throughout the country, but also to neighboring countries, as well as severe destruction and damage to the infrastructure in Ukraine, and also to residential housing.

The ACT Alliance is responding, since day two of the conflict our members have been providing relief supplies and shelter to support those displaced by the war in Ukraine. Our operations are happening in Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, and Romania, and we are now ramping up our operations in these countries, but also in others, like Moldova.

Actually, from this week’s Monday to Friday, I will be visiting our members and the affected regions. I will be on the Ukrainian border with Hungary and also with Romania. But I will be also in Ukraine, in the western part of Ukraine, where our members are providing support to the affected populations inside Ukraine.

China Christian Daily: What can Christians do for the Russian-Ukraine war and similar issues?

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: There are many things that we can do as human beings, in terms of supporting people affected by the war, but also in preventing war. But for Christians, I think that there are three things that we can do.

The first one is to pray. We know the belief in the power of prayer, and we are people of faith, so we should be praying for this war to stop.

Secondly, I think that people can donate in order to express solidarity with those affected. And in situations like this one in Ukraine, cash is the best response that you can give right now. It can be sent quickly and meet immediate needs. In situations like a war, what people need is food, shelter, water, medicines, and that in the case of Europe, at least we will be easily found in the communities where people are living. And this also allows the refugees and the internally displaced people to purchase themselves what are they are most in need of, because sometimes they have family, children, and there is a need for specific items. So cash allows them to meet those needs.

And finally, I think that we can act in our own contexts, in our communities to learn more about the situation. It's important that you are aware of what is going on. You know, in times like today, there is too much misinformation as well in the media and fake news and social media. We should not be spreading things that we think are not true.

And we also can advocate towards peace and an end to the war, look for opportunities to welcome refugees. Maybe in China, it's a little bit more complicated, but that’s something that Christians can do.

You can also fight against racial discrimination towards refugees. As you saw, this war is also showing that there is discrimination within Ukraine, but also in the bordering and the neighboring countries that are receiving refugees. They are discriminating based on race or ethnic origin towards certain people that are were living in Ukraine.

And finally, I think that we need to constantly stay well informed, as this situation is evolving rapidly, and the needs may change very quickly as well.

China Christian Daily: What have you done in Asia, particularly in China? We believe there are many established friendships with China.

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: Yes, indeed, many good well-established friendships with China. Some ACT Alliance members have ACT offices as well. We have a regional office based in Bangkok, supporting many other members working throughout Asia and the Pacific. We work in many different contexts, namely the humanitarian and development issues areas. Our members are responding to the humanitarian crises in the region. That's one of our major activities, as well as supporting food security, mitigation, and adaptation to climate change, promoting gender justice, and also supporting peace and human security.

We have a member of the ACT Alliance as an alliance in China, the Amity Foundation. They have provided assistance to people affected by natural disasters in the country over the years. And also, they are very much supporting people’s security, their economic issues, and other associated support. So we are working in collaboration. We are a global network that supports each other.

The ACT Alliance has been supporting the work of our member Amity Foundation, and they have the support of the Chinese people themselves, also receiving support to play their role as a humanitarian development and Christian-based organization.

China Christian Daily: Do you have any words for Chinese churches and Christians?

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: I would say, for the Chinese churches and Christians in China, that we are facing a critical moment as humanity, and this has brought a changing political, social, cultural, and economic context to the churches that we have never we had before, but also to people, to families and societies to uphold the principles of inclusion, justice, and solidarity that I mentioned before. These values seem to have vanished from the global context.

As Christians and people of faith, we must work to promote a culture that preserves and amplifies these values of solidarity, inclusion, and justice. We are all created in God's image and have the same rights and responsibilities to construct a world that is inclusive, without discrimination and abuse against all people. So we cannot discriminate based on race, creeds or whatever political convictions we may have. We need to see people as sons and daughters of God.

China Christian Daily: What aid do you expect from China?

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria: I believe that the Chinese people are very committed and engaged. They are engaging in issues of the global context. I have worked in many countries, I have friends from China and I have met many Chinese people, and I can confirm this perspective.

I expect that all Chinese people can engage to support a better and sustainable world, promoting climate justice, gender justice, but also supporting peace and human security for Christians in China. I will say that we should take advantage of our faith identity, and also the role that the faith-based organizations play, like ACT Alliance and the Amity Foundation. The role as critical stakeholders is to promote peace, security, but also sustained development to address issues of poverty, support families that are marginalized in society.

It is critical for faith actors to engage in faith-inspired, political and pragmatic spaces, as well, to support justice initiatives, or to engage in partnerships that can mobilize the moral and ethical imperative that's part of our principles for global solidarity with people and communities affected by injustice.

China can also help to stop the war in Ukraine. I think that the Chinese government is very influential and can mediate and restore peace in the region, and also offer support financially, to alleviate the burden of the people that are affected by the war. We as ACT Alliance have issued a global appeal to support the people on the move in Ukraine because of the war, including refugees fleeing Ukraine, and those who stay in their own cities facing the situation. This appeal is available on our website where there is clear information on how you can support as individuals, churches, and organizations to support the people affected by the war in Ukraine.

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