Delegates at the ACT Alliance general assembly have elected governing board member Sushant Agrawal leader of the network.
Agrawal, director of Indian agency Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action, is the new moderator of the alliance, a global network of 148 humanitarian and development agencies, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. He replaces the Rev Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel.
Agrawal stood unopposed after the only other candidate, Paul Valentin of Christian Aid, withdrew his candidacy minutes before the election. Regardless, 26 of the 96 delegates gave Valentin their vote. Those votes were counted as no votes.
In his speech to delegates, Agrawal said his motivation for the position stemmed from his desire to lead the family of ACT members. He pointed to three significant reasons: his long attachment to the alliance, his ecumenical allegiance and the wish to give back to the family of ACT.
“How do you keep the family together and not divided? I experienced this during the unification of ACT International and ACT Development. I have memories of how divided the whole unification was, in their opinion. I think God led me to bring these two families in to one. I will cherish that moment because I feel I have that experience to give to the governance of the current governing board.
“I have been attached to the ecumenical family and the passion I have to be attached to this family comes from the call of God. When I see there is an opportunity to go ahead with a vision of justice, peace and dignity. “If God wants the new moderator to really keep the family together, God will guide us in that mission. It has to be God’s mission in reaching out to the peace, justice and dignity of life.
The slate of 19 candidates for the governing board was almost unanimously supported. It was considered to have balance on gender, geography, competencies, church and special ministry representation, orthodox representation but lacked strong communications competence
Delegates continue the work of fostering a robust alliance
The new operating model was the central theme of the second and third sessions of the general assembly of ACT Alliance, with special focus on strategic direction.
The 2015-2018 strategy was presented by Agrawal and Donna Derr, of Church World Service. It was approved by the delegates of the assembly in the afternoon of October 23.
Assembly work also included discussions on key areas committees. Participants also attended a workshop on contextual issues of the Dominican Republic, which is hosting the second general assembly of the alliance.
In the effort to create a robust alliance, it is hoped that the three strategic aims ― human dignity, community resilience and environmental sustainability ― will enable national and regional forums to establish specific actions and build bridges of collaboration, coordination and advocacy with governments and international partners. Forums are encouraged to do so based on their own contexts and with their own capacities.
For Javier Rivera, from the El Salvador forum, the alliance needs to consider important aspects in the effort to fulfil these aims. “We need mechanisms for effective communications that are capable of sharing what the daily work of regional forums is doing,” he said. “We also need to set up alliances with other networks of civil society without losing our Christian identity and spirituality,” Rivera concluded.
The day’s agenda also included a workshop on the issue of statelessness of people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Discussion considered specific aspects of recent developments in the Dominican Republic, particularly laws related to citizenship. It offered an overview of the political context on the island and also global trends related to statelessness and work that churches are doing to respond.
The activity was facilitated by Frankelly Martínez, from the ACT Dominican Republic forum, and Jasmine Huggins, from Church World Service.
Lorenzo Motta King, of Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas, and ACT board member, stressed the importance of the workshop to the advocacy campaign that the alliance is promoting around this issue. “We expect that the assembly approves a statement that would address the federal authorities and ask them to widen the possibilities for people coming from Haiti and to mobilize different actors that are involved to commit to a human rights-based approach to this issue,” he stated.
“The fact that the assembly is taking place here in the DR is already a strong element of advocacy. Prior to the assembly, ACT’s general secretary, John Nduna, met the President of the Republic to discuss this situation. On that occasion, the president affirmed the importance of the role of the churches and church-based organizations in this issue,” he said.
The assembly is expected to approve a statement on the Dominican Republic’s position on people of Haitian descent on October 24.
Donna Derr was returned to the board, this time as vice-moderator, with Wim Hart, of ICCO, elected to the new post of treasurer of the alliance.