World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

9 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 25

The World Council of Churches is to give a total of US$159,300 to 18 groups around the world to help to overcome racism. The grants come from the WCC's Special Fund to Combat Racism which began in 1970 as part of the Programme to Combat Racism and which celebrates its 30th anniversary today at the Eighth Assembly in an evening programme. Since its creation, the Special Fund has made grants totalling US$11.5 million to assist groups engaged in the struggle for racial justice.

Details of this year's grants, which fall into three broad categories, are:

A) Racism

National Coalition for Burned Churches and Community Empowerment: $7000
The NCFBC, based in Charleston, South Carolina, is a multiracial, interdenominational coalition of burned church victims, primarily represented by church leaders whose houses of worship have been burned or firebombed. The grant will support their New Community Organising and Leadership Project.

Great Britain The Association of Black Clergy: $13,300
With a membership drawn from many churches, the association has been involved in the struggle for African, Asian and Caribbean people in the UK. It successfully campaigned for the Church of England to set up its own programmatic work on racism. It has also joined other groups in opposition to racist and neo-Nazi activity and now plans to offer the major denominations a consultancy service on racism. It will also work closely with the Churches Commission for Racial Justice and the National Assembly Against Racism to maintain pressure on the government to strengthen the 1976 Race Relations Act.

The M25-3 Campaign: $7,000
The M25-3 Campaign was set up to raise public awareness of what they believe to be injustice and racial discrimination against three Black men, Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson, who were convicted of a series of violent attacks near the M25 motorway. The men have now spent more than eight years in prison. The campaign maintains they were convicted on the most tenuous of evidence and that no direct, forensic science, confessional or identification evidence linked the three to the crimes. The grant will be used to continue the campaign, including taking the matter to the European human rights court.

Initiative gegen das Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz, Berlin: $3,500
The "Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz" is the special law which regulates social welfare for refugees and asylum seekers. There has been widespread condemnation of the legislation as it markedly increases the hardship for these marginalised people. The German constitution specifically states that refugees and migrants should have access to the country and have their cases seriously considered. The new legislation, while not going against the constitution, makes it more difficult for those who have genuinely sought refuge in Germany and could therefore be said to go against the spirit of the constitution.

CECUNE (Ecumenical Centre of Black Culture): $25,000
The Ecumenical Centre of Black Culture, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, supports and builds up the Black community and its leadership. The grant will help fund a "Free University" which began in 1996 and whose theme is education and citizenship.

Organizaciones Mundo Afro: $10,000
They are involved in action and research around issues of racism and have established an SOS Racism programme and programmes for youth and women. The municipality of Montevideo has lent them a large area for building housing for single mothers. Their SOS Racism programme has been very active this past year. They have organised many workshops in Montevideo and in other parts of the country with an emphasis on informing participants of their rights as citizens. They have also started the publication of a monthly newspaper.

ANIPA: $7,000
ANIPA is an Indigenous organisation which concentrates on the violations of human rights in Mexico and more specifically in the territories occupied by Indigenous Peoples. It plans to appoint a special reporter for human rights in Mexico as a response to an August 1998 call by the UN Subcommission on Human Rights for Mexico to implement international instruments on human rights and to take action against impunity, particularly regarding authors of serious human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples. The reporter will prepare an exhaustive report about human rights violations in Mexico, from an Indigenous perspective.

B) Women Under Racism

The Southwest Public Workers' Union, San Antonio: $7,000
This is a grassroots project with a focus on women who have been disempowered by corporate America. It provides job retraining and self-enhancement techniques. It works on issues of environmental justice such as military toxic waste, environmental health and toxins in the workplace. They do community organising around economic issues, including globalisation and trade.

The Netherlands
Pro Job: $5,500
This organisation promotes Black and migrant women's participation in the European business community.

TIYE International: $5,000
TIYE is an umbrella organisation of 17 Dutch organisations of Black, migrant and refugee women, of which Pro Job is one. They sponsor meetings across ethnic and racial lines. They have launched a new self-help project called "Viona girls", to help stop violence against Black and migrant women and girls.

Fédération d'Initiatives des Femmes Africaines de France et d'Europe (IFAFE): $7,000
The members of IFAFE (Federation of African Women's Initiatives in France and Europe) are Black women's organisations as well as individual women. They defend the interests and rights of African women in France and Europe and help immigrant women and their families economically, socially and culturally to integrate into Europe.

Unión de Mujeres Negras de Venezuela: $7,000
This organisation runs a project, Home for Women - Yrene Ugueto. It is based in the municipality of Vargas and works with the great number of Afro-Venezuelan peoples there who have many socio-economical problems, including a low level of education, difficult pregnancies because of malnutrition, extreme poverty and abandonment by their partners.

AMA: $7,000
The Association of Indigenous Women of the Andean Region is made up of women from different religious confessions. Their specific areas of work are health and nutrition, handicraft production, environmental and development programmes, pastoral care and legal defence.

C) Indigenous Peoples

Tunay Na Alyansa Ng Bayan Alay Sa Katutubo (TABAK): $7,000
(Alliance of Advocates for Indigenous Peoples' Rights)
TABAK is an alliance of Indigenous Peoples' rights advocates and acts as a coordinating body for major campaigns. Much of its work in recent years has been focused on the New Mining Act of 1995. "The International Mining Annual Review of 1991" cited the Philippines as the second largest deposit of gold in the world and the third in copper. The mining act has opened land and resources to large foreign investors. Hundreds of applications are being considered. If granted, these applications would cover almost 40 per cent of the total Philippine area, putting it under foreign control. A direct result is the displacement and dislocation of Indigenous Peoples and farmers.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP): $20,000
MOSOP has received previous Special Fund grants. It has drawn international attention to the plight of the Ogoni people in Nigeria and has been consistent in its appearance at various United Nations, European and US forums.

The Tao community of Orchid Island: $7,000
Orchid Island is a small island off the southeast coast of Taiwan. This Indigenous community, which has often been described as one of the most primitive in the world, was called the "Yami" by the Japanese but are the "Tao" in their own language. After the Japanese took Taiwan in 1895, they maintained Orchid Island as a kind of living anthropological museum and they were largely undisturbed until control passed to the Republic of China in Taiwan. Thus they were almost totally isolated from outside contact.

The younger generation of Tao have been almost forcibly assimilated into the Chinese culture and language over the past three decades, within the education system of the Republic of China in Taiwan. It is only in the past five years that the 11 Indigenous communities of Taiwan have won recognition of their cultural rights and have been allowed to officially use their native names.

The Tao on Orchid Island are part of the Tao cultural and linguistic group which occupies the Batanis Province at the northern tip of the Philippines. The two groups have been split since Japan asserted control over Orchid Island in 1895. The Filipino Tao were subjected to Spanish and American colonialism and cultural assimilation, though under the Philippine policy of multilingualism they have been allowed to maintain their language.

Within the last year there has finally been the beginnings of direct contact between the two communities. The Taiwan Tao are rapidly losing their language but have preserved much of their material culture, art, customs and rituals. The Philippine Tao are still actively using and transmitting their language to their youth but have lost the original Tao clothing and customs.

The grant will be used to enable contacts to be continued.

Pan- African Movement of Guyana - Georgetown, Guyana: $7,000
This organisation provides education for the people of African descent to overcome the ills of the past which have shattered their spiritual, social, economic and cultural cohesion; and through knowledge, understanding, the search for truth and spiritual development to build their confidence and self-esteem, setting the highest possible goals necessary for successful living and maximum achievement.

Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, Windhoek: $7,000 WIMSA is a San-owned organization to assist the San in gaining political recognition at all levels as well as better access to resources. It also raises human rights awareness amongst the San communities and provides legal assistance where requested.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.