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Neil Ziegler

Neil Ziegler, International Assistance Program

Interview by Bailey Wilcox
May 2012

I am a member of the International Assistance Program (IAP). The groups mission is “...working with evangelical church leaders in Ethiopia to provide sustainable projects that bring economic lift to their communities.” IAP tries to engage businessmen from the US to get them involved in using their experience, background, education and skills to help develop self-sustaining projects in developing world.  The specific program that I am involved with is a micro-loan project in Ethiopia. The idea is that by providing loans to people who want to start their own businesses, these small business owners will be able to use the profits from their businesses to pay for necessities such as food, shelter and schooling for their children. IAP is a religiously affliiated group, they work with local evangelical churches and send out church planters to other parts of the country. There was a recent genocide in Gambella (a different region of the country) in which all men over the age of 20 were killed. Local culture deals with problems indirectly so it has been difficult to get people to acknowledge these things are even happening. The government refuses to admit the genocide even happened.

Relating this to peace, freedom is an aspect of peace. Prosperity often leads towards peace. When there is a lack of basic needs being met, conflict is created. This is why the program does advance peace. By creating local sustainable businesses basic needs are met and points of tension are reduced. Ethiopia has very strict working laws that have helped to make the micro-loans a viable solution.  Non-Ethiopians have strict rules applied to them to prevent explotation of the locals. The government encourages outside investment, but has regulations about what type of buisnesses and investments. Additionally there are very strict laws about how much money can leave the country. No foreigner can own any sort of coffee business in Ethopia. The sale of coffee, processing plants, coffee shops, etc.

Speaking for myself, not neccesarily the organization, the way we promote peace is by developing relationships. No matter how wide the cultural gap once you find common ground and get to talking to someone it is often more difficult to dislike the person. Ulitmate peace is developing a relationship with the Lord. One additional way that this is promoting peace is by giving the local populace employment. People need jobs. Having a large population of unemployed young people often leads to unrest and possibly violence. The reason my views of how this promotes peace are perhaps not as clear at the begining of this interview is becuase I’ve never really thought about the work I do in terms of peace. It certainly promotes peace as helping people becoming more economically self-sufficient helps foster atmosphere of peace. I see it as helping them escape the cycle of poverty while at the same time spreading the Gospel. In addition to providing loans to the locals the organization also assists them with developing viable business models. They do this in order to ensure that they are not borrowing money on an unprofitable endeavor.