September 13, 1968

The National Council of Churches in the United States of America meets in Houston, Texas, and condemns the mass starvation occurring in Biafra, calling it a “human tragedy” and appealing for increased humanitarian relief

The National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) was officially organized in 1950 in the US. It began as an organization that strove to reduce global inequalities and injustices, an affiliate of the World Council of Churches formed in 1948. During the Nigeria-Biafra war, the National Council of Churches made a powerful statement, proclaiming, among other things, that the mass starvation occurring in Biafra would undoubtedly reach the level of a “major human tragedy.”

The statement by the National Council of Churches includes the following:

“The mass starvation in Nigeria – Biafra that is now occurring, and which will increase in the next few weeks, reaching overwhelming proportions probably in October, is a major human tragedy. Our church people, in company with many others in the U.S.A. and other countries are spontaneously giving money, and publically urging that action be taken to prevent further starvation.

Voluntary agencies of different nations, including our own, and churches especially, have alone under severe difficulty been able to get some relief supplies in. The political issues in the conflict are serious. But we are speaking concerning vast starvation, and are convinced that large scale relief of this human suffering must not be subordinated to the tragic conflicts of battle.

We appreciate the leadership of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), especially the efforts of its President Emperor Haile Selassie, to secure the agreement whereby relief supplies may be distributed. We support continued efforts by the OAU, confident that African leadership is essential, and hopeful that it will be successful in the immediate future. Under that leadership, many peoples and nations will be willing to help in the massive relief effort now required.

We note with appreciation the offer of President Johnson, expressed to Emperor Haile Selassie, to provide large scale relief supplies. We urge the President, using every effective influence, to continue his efforts toward the objective of immediate delivery of desperately needed relief supplies to children and adults who are starving.

Appeals for increased money for relief are already out to our churches; we pledge our efforts to secure generous support of church people and agencies in this effort.”

A member of a US medical missions team, working with the ICRC in Biafra, in April 1968. Source: ICRC archives.
See Also:

 Gill, Jill K. “The Politics of Ecumenical Disunity: The Troubled Marriage of Church World Service and the National Council of Churches.” Religion and American Culture 14:2 (Summer 2004): 175-212.

Sources: http://www.ajcarchives.org/ajc_data/files/653.pdf; http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/about-us/history/