Georgia in conflict
Salvation Army provides aid as people flee from fighting.
by Karen Gleason –
Salvation Army officers in the Eastern European country of Georgia are caring for 224 refugees from South Ossetia and Gori who have been housed in an old kindergarten near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, close to a Salvation Army corps. Since the building was not equipped for habitation, the Army allocated US$5,000 in emergency funds for supplies—beds, bedding, clothes, toiletries, etc.—and essential repairs to the facility, including water pipes and showers.
Both Georgia and Russia are part of The Salvation Army’s Eastern Europe Territory, led by Commissioner Wim van der Harst.
“The suddenness and intensity of the conflict caught everyone by surprise,” said Lt. Colonel Alistair Herring, chief secretary of the territory, “but the officers and members of The Salvation Army in Georgia responded to the humanitarian crisis immediately.”
The Salvation Army also supplied humanitarian aid, and delivered blankets and medical supplies to the hospital in Gori for distribution. Additional aid is expected, as thousands of refugees have congregated in this town. Georgian officers met with government representatives to discuss how The Salvation Army can be of ongoing assistance, and they are focused on coordinating the Army work with other government and non-governmental response. The officers have also approached the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi to offer humanitarian aid and assistance wherever it is needed.
Since early August, Georgia has engaged in armed conflict with separatists in the Ossetia Province and the Russian Federation.
In a recent report, Herring revealed the enormous need of the Georgian people “as a result of killed and injured Georgians (funerals, hospital and general medical care resources overwhelmed), comfort of the grieving and people separated from their family members, and care of thousands of refugees who are spread across the country but are mostly in Tbilisi.” Up to 60,000 people elsewhere in Georgia have fled their homes and also require emergency assistance.
Criminal elements, allegedly from South Ossetia and nearby areas, are terrorizing the remaining residents of Gori and surrounding villages with kidnappings and widespread looting. This situation is likely happening in other areas.
The Salvation Army in Georgia
The Salvation Army has ministered in Georgia for 16 years, since November 1992, when it became the 98th country in the Army’s world of ministry. Georgia was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1991, when it regained its independence. Early post-Soviet years were marked by civil unrest and economic uncertainty; this is when The Salvation Army began its work there.
Van der Harst asked for prayer for the nations of Georgia and Russia—for a swift path to the cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution to the conflict, for the many people who have been caught up in the fighting, and for the families of those killed.
“The Salvation Army is focused on working with the government and other organizations to provide immediate and ongoing assistance to all those caught up in this conflict,” said Herring.
SAWSO (Salvation Army World Service Office) is working with the U.S. government to provide funding for assistance. Salvationists in Georgia see a need for basic things, such as food, water and hygiene items at the shelters.
To help, monetary donations to the European Disaster Fund may be made online at www.salvationarmy.org.