The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund is facing a drop in donations from Canadian Anglicans that is so severe that the organization has no money for disaster relief, said executive director Andrew Ignatieff.
Last year, contributions collected from individuals and forwarded by the dioceses totalled $2,797,000, down $430,000 (or 13 per cent) from 2001, when contributions totalled $3,227,000.
“We can’t do any disaster relief at all right now, because we have no money,” said Mr. Ignatieff. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, Primate’s Fund spent $884,000 on disaster and refugee relief. If there is a war in Iraq, he said, Primate’s Fund will not be able to respond to an expected refugee crisis. Other crises include famine relief in eastern and southern Africa and help for refugees fleeing wars in the Sudan and the Congo, he said.
There are two reasons for the shortfall, he said. Although there is a steady flow of donations throughout the year, the bulk of contributions comes in the weeks leading up Christmas, he said. “This year, the traditional moment (for donations) coincided with the announcement of the residential schools settlement with the government and the need for dioceses to come forward” with a large share of the settlement amount, he noted.
The agreement was announced on Nov. 20. The dioceses have agreed to contribute $22 million into a settlement fund, with General Synod contributing $3 million. The agreement caps the church’s liability at $25 million and has nothing to do with Primate’s Fund, which is a separately incorporated agency.
Second, he said, the possibility of an Iraq war is dominating the media, to the exclusion of news about such serious situations as African drought. “It raises an atmosphere of tension in society,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “It’s all about troops and invading; it’s not anything about compassion, about the refugee situation that is going to happen.” Two years ago, when Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, that story made headlines for days and “Canadian Anglicans responded very generously,” Mr. Ignatieff recalled.
PWRDF’s 19-member staff, based at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, are now working on a financial development strategy to diversify and expand its sources of revenue. No staff cuts are planned, Mr. Ignatieff said.
In the 2002 fiscal year, the fund received about $660,000 in bequests, $27,000 from the provincial government and $1.2 million from the federal Canadian International Development Agency, for total revenue – including diocesan contributions – of $5.12 million. “We may look beyond the Anglican church to the general public (for additional donations) and consider government sources and foundations. We believe we are a very effective delivery program,” said Mr. Ignatieff.
Primate’s Fund spends about 10 per cent on administration costs and channels funds directly to overseas partners, including churches and other relief and development organizations. “We have no field offices, no overseas staff. The projects are regularly visited. Disaster relief goes directly to local churches through Action for Churches Together, not to local governments,” he said.
Anglicans have risen to the challenge before, he said, and “we remain hopeful we can turn the situation around. We hope this is transitory.”