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Ny generalsekretær på plass

1.august var Dignis nye generalsekretær, Hjalmar Bø, på plass. En av hans viktigste kvaliteter er utholdenhet – det har han bevist gjennom flere maratonløp og 20 år i denne bransjen.

Vår nye generalsekretær, Hjalmar Bø, er nå på plass. Han er godt kjent med oss etter å ha sittet i Dignis styre i ni år. Hjalmar kommer fra stillingen som utenlandssjef i Norsk Luthersk Misjonssamband (NLM), men han har også jobbet på grasrota gjennom sin 20 år lange yrkeskarriere i organisasjonen.

–Jeg har hatt gleden av å jobbe på alle nivåer i Digni-kjeden. Først som prosjektmedarbeider og prosjektleder i Kina, deretter som regionleder og utenlandssjef. Jeg har sett viktigheten av arbeidet Digni gjør, og hvordan det berører millioner av mennesker, sier han.

–Hvilke forventninger har du til den nye jobben?

–Gjennom jobben i styret, har jeg sett at Digni har en god og dyktig stab. Det ga meg frimodighet til å søke jobben. Staben kan ting jeg ikke kan, så til sammen blir det bra, mener den nye generalsekretæren.

Samspill er viktig

Også denne gangen har Digni fått en høyreist, mørk generalsekretær med glimt i øyet… og ja, Rogalands-dialekten er også der. Hjalmar er opprinnelig fra Randaberg i Rogaland, men bor nå på Knapstad i Østfold med kone og fire barn i alderen 10 til 25 år. Hjalmar har alltid tilhørt NLM, og faren hans satt til og med i hovedstyret i en periode. Hjalmar har i en årrekke vært aktiv i barne- og ungdomsarbeidet til NLM og KRIK i nærområdet der de bor. Det gjør han når han ikke er på jobbreise, løper maraton eller jobber i hagen.

–Det blir lite tid til å se tv, smiler Hjalmar.

–Hva kan vi forvente av deg som leder?

–Som person er jeg nok tålmodig og utholdende. Jeg er også jordnær, men jeg kan være tidsoptimist. Det kan noen ganger utfordre folk rundt meg, ler han og fortsetter.

– Jeg har tro på samspill. Jeg tror vi kan greie mer når vi jobber sammen. Som leder prøver jeg å få frem folks styrker. Jeg ser frem til å møte medlemsorganisasjonene og partnere for å se hvilke styrker vi kan bygge på.

Før sommerferien kom det en email fra Hjalmar der han fortalte at de første ukene vil han ta en prat med alle i Digni-sekretariatet for å bli mer kjent med oss, samt å besøke alle medlemsorganisasjonene. Noen programerklæring for sitt lederskap vil han ikke komme med før han har hørt hva alle har å si.

Tar sin andre mastergrad

Hjalmar begynte sitt utdanningsløp ved Drottningborg videregående skole i Grimstad. Derfra gikk veien til Fjellhaug misjonsskole der han studerte i fire år, før han tok en cand mag grad i engelsk, pedagogikk og kristendom ved NTNU i Trondheim. Etter dette flyttet han til California i USA, der han tok en mastergrad i tverrkulturell kommunikasjon, før han flyttet til Kina med familien sin for å være teltmaker der. Nå er han halvveis i mastergrad nummer to, som er Verdibasert ledelse ved den Vitenskapelige høgskole (VID).

Hjalmar forteller at det skal bli spennende å lede Digni gjennom en tid med store endringer, både globalt og nasjonalt. Hans mål er at Digni og måten vi jobber på fortsatt skal være relevant. I juni signerte Digni en ny rammeavtale med Norad, der vi økte fra 160 millioner kroner årlig til 186 millioner kroner. Av 37 søknader, valgte Norad å inngå avtale med sju. Digni fikk den største summen av disse.

–Dette er et kvalitetsstempel på arbeidet som drives av kirker og misjonsorganisasjoner. Mange av våre medlemsorganisasjoner har jobbet i landene over lang tid, og de har derfor sterke partnerskap, ofte med kirker som når ut til et bredt lag av befolkningen. Det drives mange gode prosjekter, som endrer folks liv til det bedre, sier Dignis nye generalsekretær.

Nytt håp

–Hva har gjort størst inntrykk på deg gjennom 20 års arbeid med misjon og bistand?

–Det var en opplevelse i den lille landsbyen Leng Jiao Ping i Kina der vi så nytt håp og at folk begynte å tro på egne ressurser, sier han og forteller videre at dette var en svært fattig landsby som lå på 3400 meters høyde. Man måtte gå i tre timer til fots for å komme dit. Fordi det var så isolert og fattigdommen var så stor, var stedet oppgitt av myndighetene og de ønsket å flytte befolkningen til et annet sted. Da NLM og Hjalmar hadde et dialogmøte med myndighetene om hvor de kunne jobbe, ble denne landsbyen foreslått.

De bygde først en skole og sendte en lærer for å jobbe der. Dette skapte nytt håp, og da de satt sammen med landsbybeboerne for å finne ut hvilke ressurser som fantes i landsbyen, var det noe som løsnet.

–De tegnet en sirkel med kritt på gulvet og skrev så hvilke ressurser de hadde. Det gikk tregt først, men så plutselig ble de grepet av et nytt håp. De holdt på i over to timer, og det var tilslutt kritt tegn over store deler av gulvet. Nesten alle røykte, så rommet var tilslutt røyklagt, ler Hjalmar.

Landsbybeboerne trakk blant annet frem at de hadde noen verdifulle urter og bær som bare vokste på denne høyden, men problemet var å transportere dem ut. Sammen ble de enige om å bygge en vei for å løse dette problemet.

–Det var fantastisk å se at håp, visjoner og troen på egne ressurser ble tent. I dag har det skjedd stor utvikling i området, forteller han.

–Jeg kan sende deg et bilde fra møtet, sier han og begynner å lete i mappene på PC-en.

Digni må få dusj

Hjalmar er ikke en kort-distanseløper, verken på jobb eller på privaten. Han hadde som mål at han skulle utfordre seg selv til å løpe maraton før han ble 40, men barn nummer fire kom rundt denne tiden, så målet ble utsatt med ti år. Det greide han å holde. Hjalmar har nå løpt flere halvmaratoner og to fullmaratoner. Under årets Oslo Maraton har han meldt seg på en fullmaraton igjen.

–For meg er dette god avkobling og jeg liker å konkurrere med meg selv. Jeg har flere gode løpevenner, men jeg liker også å koble av, tenke og oppleve natur. – Og å holde meg i form. Målet er at jeg fortsetter å løpe halvmaraton på under to timer så lenge jeg holder meg frisk. Det burde jeg greie uten å trene så mye, mener han.

–Hvor langt er det fra Knapstad til Dignis lokaler i Arbins gate i Oslo?

–Fem mil

–Så da kan vi regne med at du løper til jobb av og til?

–Det tar litt for lang tid, men det kan nok hende jeg sykler. Er det dusj her?

–Nei.

–Vi må lage en dusj, sier han ettertenksomt.

750 000 beneficiaries in Digni-projects

Statistics from 2016 shows that Digni-funded projects reached approximately 750 000 direct beneficiaries and 5,8 million indirect beneficiaries in 2016.

Digni received almost 168 million NOK (about 20 million USD) from the Norwegian government in 2016. It was distributed to 114 projects of our 20 member organizations and their partners. The Digni network works in 35 countries and 50 % of our portfolio is in African countries, 37 % in Asia and 13 % in Latin-America. This information is from our annual report, which was just finalized. In our annual report, you can also find stories about how societies have been transformed and people are living more dignified lives, besides systematic reports on the nine main thematic areas of our work. Read the annual report here.

Reach their goals

The most interesting part of the fresh report, is the retrospective reports from 2013-2016. This shows that the money we receive from Norad (the Norwegian government), reaches many people. In 2016, Digni-funded projects reached approximately 750 000 direct beneficiaries and 5,8 million indirect beneficiaries. This wide reach can truly transform societies and help people out of poverty. Digni cooperates with different kinds of civil society organizations, but the churches are the biggest actors in our network. The churches we are working with, have about 15 million members.

All the projects supported by Digni need to have a baseline, which means an investigation of the situation before the project starts. They also have to set specific goals. Between 2013 and 2016, 77 % of the projects report that they achieved their goal or better.

Strong local organizations

The civil society is important in order to improve any society because it can challenge the decision makers and speak up for the marginalized groups. Digni wants initiatives from the grassroots, as it prevents top-down projects which can be insensitive to local customs, and it ensures sustainability and lasting changes due to a true commitment from the society itself – even when the donors have withdrawn. Strengthening of the civil society is one of our main goals, and we will strengthen this focus further the coming years. 100 000 people received leadership training, 40 000 people have been involved in advocacy and 680 000 people learned about human rights through Digni-supported projects in 2013 to 2016. During the same period, 50 000 women were in decision making positions, because of project intervention.

 

A joyous increase for Digni’s organizations

The umbrella organization Digni has signed a new agreement securing nearly one billion Norwegian Kroner for its work in improving the living standards of many living in poverty.

Digni just signed a new cooperative agreement with Norad for the 2018-2023 period. The long-term subsidy has increased annually from 160 million Norwegian Kroner to 186 million. In addition to this, a number of member organizations will also receive support through earmarked programs.

Digni is an umbrella organization for twenty church and mission organizations that do long-term developmental work in the global south.

“That Digni has received such a solid increase in its annual appropriation in relation to the previous period, we interpret as a statement of trust and a result of the solid work being done by our member organizations and their partners in the south,” says Digni’s functioning general secretary Elizabeth Laura Walmann.

In addition to contributing to building a strong civil society in the south, the funds will be dispersed to projects that are establishing good and inclusive educational systems, quality healthcare services, a sustainable environment, peaceful coexistence, and improved quality of life.

“Being entrusted with these funds comes with a tremendous responsibility. Through our efforts we want to contribute to the global fight against poverty, and to reaching the UN’s goals for sustainability,” states Walmann.

During the previous agreement period with Norad, 750,000 people were directly affected by projects operated through the Digni fellowship, while 5.8 million people were indirectly affected.

Norad received applications from 37 organizations, seven of which received a support agreement. Digni received the largest sum of all of these organizations.

 

Film about Christian persecution in Pakistan

Stefanus Alliance International, an organization working to help persecuted Christians, recently came out with a film that gives needed insight into the situation of Christians in Pakistan.

In the documentary Fighting for the Freedom of Faith, which can be found on YouTube, we meet a representative from Human Friends Organization (HFO), which is the Pakistani cooperating partner for Digni’s member organization Stefanus Alliance. We learn how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have led to the imprisonment and torture of many people, as well as violent sanctions imposed on them by extremists in society. In the film we meet people like Younis, a family man who sat in prison for seven years before he was acquitted by the Supreme Court in April 2013. He speaks about having experienced severe torture and murder attempts while in prison. We also meet representatives from a church that experienced an attack by a suicide bomber in March 2015.

First ever Christmas attack

The situation for Christians in Pakistan was again in the news after at least nine Christians were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a church in Quetta in the province of Balochistan just before Christmas.

Thea Elisabeth Haavet, Stefanus Alliance’s film and development producer, filmed and produced the new documentary. Thea Elisabeth is seen in the picture above together with a mother who lost her child during a recent terrorist attack. She has followed the situation for Christian Pakistanis for a long period of time.

“Unfortunately things are going in the wrong direction due to the increase in extremism. The attack [just before Christmas] was the first directed against a Christmas event. There have been many attacks during the Easter holidays,” states Thea Elisabeth.

“Do you think we will see more of these kinds of attacks during the Christmas holidays?”

“There is always a danger that this can happen again. Christians in nations such as Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt always live with this kind of uncertainty. But they won’t allow themselves to be frightened from going to church – quite the opposite,” says Haavet.

Severe blasphemy laws

Over 200 million people live in Pakistan, making it the seventh most populous nation on earth. The nation is the second-largest Muslim nation with 96.4% of the population being Muslim and just 3.6% coming from religious minorities. The 1998 census counted 2.7 million Christians, though the Christians themselves are convinced that the number is much higher.

The controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan judge a person to life in prison for insulting the Quran, and a death sentence for insulting the prophet Mohammed. According to Stefanus Alliance, no one has yet to be executed on blasphemy charges by the government, but dozens of people accused of blasphemy have nonetheless been killed by extremists. Even those who have been acquitted by the court system have had to ‘go underground’ for fear of the extremist groups. Haavet knows of many examples when a mob of people has attacked those who have simply been accused of blasphemy, attacking their families, also.

“It has happened that, when someone is accused of blasphemy in the local community, a whole mob attacks them and their families. Even an entire Christian community has been attacked when one Christian person has committed blasphemy, burning down all of their houses. A couple of years ago a married couple was killed by a mob after such accusations – even before the case was registered with the police. So it’s not just acquitted victims of the blasphemy laws that are in trouble,” she explains.

HFO works under the principle ‘Clara’, which stands for counseling, legal assistance, rehabilitation and advocacy. Those who have lost loved ones to a suicide attack receive treatment for trauma through the help of psychologists and priests, and those accused of blasphemy receive free legal aid. According to the American organization USCIRF, each year around 700 Pakistani women – about 300 Christian and another 400 Hindu – are kidnapped and forced into marriage with a Muslim, and forced to convert to Islam. HFO offers free legal aid to these women in the event that their marriage needs to be annulled.

Helped to a new life

Those who have been acquitted of being accused of blasphemy and women who have had their forced marriages annulled often must find another place to live and a new livelihood. HFO helps these people start a small business by offering them such things as free sewing courses or buying them a rickshaw (a three-wheeled taxi).

HFO also does advocacy work. After a terrorist attack has occurred on the Christian community the relationship between Christians and Muslims can be very tense. “In certain periods we have worked intensely with building dialogue [between the two communities] and have succeeded many times in calming down the situation. We regularly organize religious dialogues between priests and imams, and also translated a brochure that teaches that religious freedom is a basic human right.

“Are people willing to accept this message?”

“It varies. We are in contact with many religious leaders and are seeing some progress and an increase in understanding. Knowing what the other religion believes helps to build against prejudice,” says Haavet.

Stay updated

The stories in Stephanus Alliance’s documentary represent minority groups living in very challenging circumstances.

“What can we who are living in Norway do to ease the burden of these people?”

“Those of us who believe in the power of prayer can pray. We can also support the work financially, since giving free legal aid can be very costly. We can also send letters of appeal to those who have decision-making authority. We can keep ourselves informed on the situation. And we can work in our own communities and try to influence our politicians,” says the film maker.