Friday, 30 July 2010

A nightmare situation

World In Need works in Northern Pakistan, in the area around Peshawar, one of the most dangerous places in the world. Close to troubled Afghanistan, plagued by the Pakistani Taliban, the area often makes the news for all the wrong reasons. Crime is rife, and profitable.

One crime has proved lucrative to petty criminals and ideological terrorists alike, and that is the crime of kidnapping for ransom. People are snatched off the street, held, threatened, then returned to their families on payment of large sums of money. The authorities do what they can both to prevent this happening, and to bring the perpetrators to justice, but they fight a losing battle, hindered by the teeming streets and crowded dwellings of the city, and by the vast areas and rugged landscape of more rural parts.

Unfortunately, the threats against the kidnap victims are not idle. If ransoms are not paid, people die.

Last week, a young woman walked home from a day of studying at her university. She is a bright woman, full of promise and potential, exactly the kind of person Pakistan needs if it is to have a good future. This woman also happened to be the daughter of World In Need’s director in Northern Pakistan.

She didn’t make it to her home that night. She simply vanished and her distraught father found himself looking at a ransom demand that asked for $10,000 (£6,500). An incredible amount of money in a country where the average weekly wage is just $50.

Three tense days of negotiation and prayer passed. At last, the kidnappers accepted the father’s word that he would raise the ransom and deliver it to the kidnappers. On his promise, the girl was released, unharmed. Steps are now being taken to ensure she remains safe in the future.

Her father must now find and pay the ransom. Not to do so would leave him, his family, friends and colleagues open to reprisals for breaking his word, and would make it difficult for other victims to negotiate their safe release in future.

The World In Need family will not leave him to struggle with this alone. We need to raise this money, and we need to do it quickly.

Can you help? Even a small donation would be welcomed. A pound here and a pound there will mount up.

On this blog, we have always sought to give information about our work, and to raise awareness of what we do. We have rarely made direct appeals for money. That we are doing it now underlines the gravity of the situation.

Please, if you can, help us to pay this ransom. Lives do depend upon it.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


On Sunday July 12th, all over the world, people were watching a football match, the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. Four minutes from the end of extra time, Spain scored, securing victory. Seconds later, for fans watching at two venues in Kampala, the result ceased to matter.

Bombs ripped apart the Ethiopian Village Restaurant, a nightspot popular with foreign visitors, and the Lugogo Rugby club. 76 people died. Many more were injured.

Responsibility for the attacks was quickly claimed by al-Shabaab, a fundamentalist Islamist group based in the troubled country of Somalia where Uganda, as part of the African Union, has sent peacekeeping troops. Al-Shabaab wants to see the withdrawal of these troops.

The group, which claims links to al-Qaeda, takes its name from the Arabic for “young men”. It has proved itself vicious and deadly before – in Somalia itself, members of the group have attacked the minority Christian population, destroying their businesses and killing them, even beheading them. They have been increasingly active, but this is their deadliest attack so far outside Somalia, and by attacking Uganda, they have hit a country with troubles enough of its own.

Although Uganda is the third largest economy in Africa, there is still much poverty and hardship amongst the people. Families struggle to make ends meet, and children are unable to go to school. For some, it is worse than plain poverty, with children at risk of abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This “Christian” group has proved itself just as vicious as al-Shabaab, with crimes including child slavery and mass murder. Some children as young as eight years old are forced by them to become fighters and killers, others are sold for the sex trade.

World In Need works in Uganda. In the north, the area most affected by the LRA, our leader is George Amoli. A clergyman and farmer, George visits displacement camps, gives pastoral support to the people and runs our child sponsorship programme. The welfare and healing needs of children rescued from the LRA is close to his heart, and he has actually adopted eight such children himself. He is in the process of finding funds to set up a farm, which will provide an income enabling him to build a school and orphanage, so even more children can be helped, and so the project can become self-sustaining.

In the south, we have John Kukiriza. He is a pastor, running a church near Kampala, and also runs a child sponsorship programme for us. He currently ministers to nineteen children who have been sponsored by WIN supporters.

WIN’s dream for the children of Uganda is that they should grow up in a safe and nurturing environment, where their basic needs are met and they are able to fulfil their full potential. Poverty, civil war and vicious groups like the LRA and al-Shabaab make the job harder, but thanks to men like George and John, these things will be overcome and the dream become reality.

If you’d like to know more about our work in Uganda, the difference it makes and the many ways in which you can help, please email