How the WGDP Came into Being?
The idea for establishing of the Working Groups on special issues was launched at the Annual BCSDN Partnership Meeting in May 2004 held in Skopje, Macedonia with the aim to promote dialogue, exchange and cooperation between BCSDN members and other interested CSOs in areas of special interest to civil society. At the meeting, four WGs were launched, namely on women and anti-trafficking; corporate social responsibility and anti-corruption; decentralization and diaconal practices, each under auspices of one lead organization; member of BCSDN. The particular objective of the WGDP is to strengthen the understanding of the importance of diaconal work; encourage exchange of experience, develop joint initiatives in diaconal field and to raise awareness on the role of the Churches in the democratization processes in the region.
Diaconia as a Mission and a Tool to Reach Out to Those in Need
Practical experience of organizations present testifies to the fact that diaconal work is present in the field as a demonstration of churches’ and religious communities’ faith in action. Thus, for some organization, diaconia is an inherent mission in working with their target groups. On the other hand, diaconal work is practiced as a tool of work by civil society/ecumenical organization. Diakonia Agapes, Pokrov Foundation, Bread of Life, Tabita, Philanthropy and Caritas include support and promotion of diaconal work as part of their mission through wide-range of relief and humanitarian, basic social and health care, education, community and rural development to economic empowerment, vocation training, cultural and publication programmes. They also work with similarly wide range of target groups such as women, elderly, displaced, disabled and addicts. The host organization EHO, however, includes a mix of diaconal work as part of its mission and a tool to help displaced, Roma, HIV/AIDS infected, disabled, cancer patients, and youth. MCIC, which does not work in this field directly, has started a programme aimed at facilitating inter-religious cooperation in the country, especially between the religious educational institutions.
Contrary to the diversity of experience in practicing diaconia, the participants found common experience and challenges that they are facing in their everyday work in this field. Namely, the lacking legislation, especially also related to regulation of volunteer work and diminishing sources of funding that puts the sustainability of their activities at risk, are the two most common and urgent challenges faced. Experience with media work are very much similar, while all organizations realize that it is important to raise-awareness and reach support of the public in order to be successful in their work. There is also lack of interests from the clergy and contacts with church communities to better understand the importance of the role of the Churches in the process of developing civil society, to promote “church in action” and to support and facilitate the diaconal work. Moreover, lack of relations with national governments and existing prejudice about diaconal work, as well as about the work of faith-based civil society organization are two additional obstacles currently faced on the ground.
“I was impressed by the beauty of Feketic. I was able to meet people who have devoted their work to helping those in need, regardless of their race, religious and ethnic belonging. I am satisfied with the meeting, as I was able to make new friends and exchange experience in the field of diaconal work. I hope that our contacts will continue in the future.” Dervisa Hadzic, MCIC
….for a Common Future
Based on these common challenges, the organizations resolve was to agree on a joint action plan to mitigate some of the common challenges identified at the meeting. Among activities to be realized in the future are: continuation of contacts between the representatives on this topic, identification of funding possibilities for future exchange visits between organization working in diaconia and other joint activities, organization of research, collection, analysis and publication of data on reality of diaconal work, best practices and success stories, organization of international diaconal conferences, organization of different training events to strengthen skills and knowledge needed in organizations, organization of volunteer camp and further discussion and work on goals and identity of the WGDP.
For those interested to learn more about the WGDP please see programme , minutes or contact Robert Bu, EHO, Cara Dusana 31, 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia and Montenegro, Tel/Fax: +381 21 469616 / 469683, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org