The Visa Foundation Announces Grantee to Support COVID-19 Recovery in Central Europe (including Georgia), Middle East and Africa

Published in Economics
Wednesday, 13 May 2020 17:44

Funds will support relief efforts being undertaken by the Red Cross

Tbilisi, May 13, 2020 – The Visa Foundation today announced its approval of a $1.6 million COVID-19 relief grant to the Red Cross to support their COVID-19 recovery programs across Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Red Cross is supporting the frontline response to the pandemic and providing critical services for vulnerable communities through public health and disaster relief services.

This grant is part of the Visa Foundation’s previously announced $210 million global commitment, with $10 million in COVID-19 relief focused on the emergency needs announced this week for organizations worldwide and another $200 million to address longer-term needs of the small and micro business community over the next five years. Globally, the Visa Foundation is providing $4.3 million in funding to support the Red Cross’ COVID-19 programs.

“Societies around the world have faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the outbreak placing immense strain on public health providers and other essential services,” said Andrew Torre, Regional President CEMEA, Visa. “We are incredibly grateful and inspired by the tireless work of all humanitarian organizations at this time, and are pleased the Visa Foundation grants will support the ongoing efforts of the Red Cross.”

Across the CEMEA region, COVID-19 has placed additional challenges on communities, with many already suffering the effects of poverty, insecurity, conflict or climate change. The grant to the Red Cross aims to provide much needed support to continue providing vital services across the region.

“We’re grateful for the amazing work humanitarian assistance organizations are providing to communities around the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, “ said Graham MacMillan, president of the Visa Foundation. “The Visa Foundation is proud to offer these grants to support these organizations’ mission-critical work during these perilous times.”

The forthcoming 5-year $200 million program will support small and micro businesses, with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement, both of which will be critical to long-term economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This commitment expands the Visa Foundation’s long-standing support for small and micro businesses globally. Additional information on the Foundation’s grant and investment strategy will be shared in the coming months.

For more information: 

About the Visa Foundation

The Visa Foundation seeks to support inclusive economies where individuals, businesses and communities can thrive. Through grantmaking and investing, the Foundation prioritizes the resilience and growth of micro and small businesses that benefit women. The Foundation also supports broader community needs and disaster response in times of crisis. The Visa Foundation is registered in the U.S. as a 501(c)3 entity. For more information, visit https://usa.visa.com/about-visa/philanthropy/visa-foundation.html.

About Visa Inc.

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network - enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of connected commerce on any device, and a driving force behind the dream of a cashless future for everyone, everywhere.  As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit usa.visa.com/about-visa, visa.com.ge, facebook.com/VisaGeorgiaGE

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  • International Scholars Raise Concerns over “an Attempt to Destroy a New Religious Movement” in South Korea

    On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea and its political, religious, and social dimensions with the recent COVID-19 crisis invited international scholars and experts in the field of religion, international law, and human rights.

    Titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea”, the webinar addressed the recent issues of aggressive attack from politically powerful conservative and fundamentalist Protestant churches in the country on a newly-established, fast-growing Christian denomination named 'Shincheonji (New Heaven and New Earth) Church of Jesus' founded in 1984.

    The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.

    Alessandro Amicarelli, Chairman European Federation for Freedom of Belief, pointed out that the South Korean authorities problematized Shincheonji as a cause of the COVID-19 crisis to shut down the church. “Already 30 other people were tested positive before the patient 31 (a member of Shincheonji criticized for the widespread of the virus). Many Chinese including ones from Wuhan had visited Daegu (of South Korea) and infection spread,” he said.

    Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), said that the recent attack on Shincheonji can be viewed as an attempt by the fundamentalist Protestant groups in South Korea to weaken and destroy the competitor in the religious market. He added, "Human rights violations against Shincheonji members through coercive conversion program (also known as 'deprogramming') with kidnapping and confinement for the last decade have been made as a result of the failure of competition from the Protestant churches in the country."

    Ciaran Burke, Associate Professor in University of Derby, said that the South Korean health authorities explicitly link Shinchoenji and outbreak of the COVID-19 until now even though a greater link between the virus and confirmation cases has been found in other churches. He also expressed concerns over “collecting personal information of 300,000 domestic and international Shincheonji members by the government which is a possible violation of international agreement, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) South Korea ratified in 1990.”

    The prosecution initiated investigation of Shincheonji leaders including founder Man Hee Lee for his alleged role in the widespread of the COVID-19. Three Shincheonji officials were arrested on July 8 on a charge of playing a role in major outbreak at its early stage by “(submitting) inaccurate list of members.”

    “The authorities ignored requests to change the word ‘sect’ in their official reports when referring to Shincheonji church. Local governments encouraged the residents to report Shincheonji congregation and facilities to the authorities, creating stigma that the members were to be treated as criminals,” said a Shincheonji official in the webinar.

    A recent statement issued by “families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19” wrote that "the thousands of the damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government." It added that the Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that she is trying to avoid her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for a raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.

    A leading South Korean TV network, MBC reported that a recently conducted screening at Daegu, epicenter of COVID-19 major outbreak within South Korea added the weight to the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government. The report, citing analysis from a local university hospital, inferred that at least 180,000 of the total population of 2.4 million people in the city of Daegu were infected with the COVID-19, 27 times to the official 6,800 confirmed cases. Most of the confirmation cases, over 5,000, are members of Shincheonji Church as their personal information was collected by the government, while the remaining 180,000 potential infections have not been investigated.

    Press Release of the Department of Public Relations

    Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light

  • NGOs in the UN and Religious Leaders Demand Correction on Repression and Violation of Human Rights against Religion

    NGOs in association with the United Nations and religious communities in the globe are raising their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violation against a religious group in South Korea named Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

    11 NGOs including European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted a report for “annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” to the UN Secretary General at the 44th session in the UN Assembly Human Rights Council. The report is titled “scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.”

    By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, the report to the UN said, “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”

    “The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.

    The report stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.”

    Religious communities initiated to issue statements to advocate improvements in the unequal treatment against Shincheonji.

    "The news of Chairman Lee and Shincheonji are being singled out and blamed for COVID-19 spread and sued is deeply concerning to all faith leaders who valued freedom of religion and the protection of human rights. This adverse action shall have chilling repercussions through the religious world," said Mr. Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Chairman of Islamic Cultural Center of North America.

    And Swami Vedanand Saraswati, a Hindu Spiritual Leader based in Durban stressed the tolerance and harmony. “As members of the HWPL, our primary goal is unity, equality, respect and tolerance. Only together can we overcome the enormous challenges we face. United we stand, divided we shall fall. Let us unite and support each other and stop these unwarranted attempts to tarnish pure intentions and righteous actions.”

    Recently, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus encouraged the members who recovered from the COVID-19 to voluntarily join in donation of plasma. Around 4,000 recovered members said they are willing to donate plasma for research on a new treatment.

    He said that there has been political motives in persecution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus and HWPL (a peace NGO) by “using us (Shincheonji), the victims of COVID-19, as their scapegoat in order to hide their own faults.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”

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  • Myhome and Visa launch a new campaign to support local tourism

    The campaign is a part of Visa’s global initiative to support small businesses around the globe

    TBILISI, 13 July, 2020 - Visa today announced the launch of a joint 2-months, “Your Summer is here” campaign with a real estate platform Myhome.ge to support domestic tourism in Georgia.

    Starting from August 1st, 2020 first 200 consumers booking a property through Myhome.ge with their Visa card will receive a 20% of cashback of maximum 100 GEL back to their account. The aim of the campaign is to promote local touristic destinations and support tourism business that have been most adversely affected by the pandemic.

    The joint campaign “Your Summer is here” is part of Visa’s global initiative “Where You Shop Matters”, designed to support micro and small businesses around the globe as they go through the recovery following the COVID-19 lockdown. In Georgia the initiative has been launched in Georgia with Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses and is powered by a number of Visa activities with banks and merchants.

    “It has always been important for Myhome to support and promote domestic tourism, and for this purpose, during 2019, we’ve been introducing different destinations of Georgia to our customers and helped them create an adventure, loaded with impressions. Over the past summer, 125,000 users have found a place, where to stay daily, with the help of our platform. We want to simplify this process even more and create a platform where you can easily find and book a residential apartment, hotel, house or a cottage” – said Madona Kachkachashvili, Myhome Product Owner.

    “Small businesses are at the center of our local communities and global economies. Being a global brand we’re well aware how important it is to be locally relevant and contribute to the communities we are part of. Especially now that we’re going through these hard times. With this campaign and “Where You Shop Matters” global initiative we support small business as well as encourage consumers to think of the positive impact each of them can make for the local travel industry. We are committed to helping small businesses thrive and expand their purchasing power through Visa’s fast, convenient and secure digital payment options and we will continue to support the big potential of small businesses, everywhere.” – said Cristina Doros, Visa Regional Manager for the Caucasus region.

    ###

    About Visa Inc.

    Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network - enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of connected commerce on any device, and a driving force behind the dream of a cashless future for everyone, everywhere.  As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit www.corporate.visa.com, www.visasoutheasteurope.com, https://www.facebook.com/VisaGeorgiaGE, www.visanewscissee.com

  • 4,000 Recovered COVID-19 Church Members in South Korea Declare Donation of $83 Billion Worth Plasma for Cure

    A South Korea-based religious group named the Shincheonji Church of Jesus said that over 4,000 members of the church recovered from COVID-19 are willing to donate plasma for developing a new treatment.

    The amount of blood will be about $83 billion worth if the 4,000 patients donate 500ml individually, according to the current transaction in the United States. “It is difficult to accelerate developing a medicine for COVID-19 with only 200 recovered patients who expressed their will to donate blood. The massive donation from the recovered patients in the Shincheonji Church will solve the problem of the lack of blood for research,” said an official from Green Cross Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company in South Korea.

    For the first quarter of this year, the rapid virus spread hit the church members in Daegu of South Korea, where the early signs of the crisis appeared with the controversy over the massive visitors from China before the infection of church members.

    Mr. Man Hee Lee, founder of the Shincheonji Church, said that members of the church are advised to donate plasma voluntarily. “As Jesus sacrificed himself with his blood for life, we hope that the blood of people can bring positive effects on overcoming the current situation,” said Mr. Lee.

    “We had a discussion with the health authorities and tried to establish a plan with details for donation. Some of the recovered members have already donated individually, feeling thankful for the assistance from the government and medical teams. They expressed their will to make contribution to the society,” said an official in the church.

    Some local governments in South Korea recently brought lawsuits against the church with allegations that the church did not cooperate with the authorities by not submitting the full list of church facilities and members. 

    “No evidence has been found that Shincheonji supplied missing or altered lists. And there were only minor differences,” said Kim Kang-lip, vice-minister of Health. Academic researches on Shincheonji and COVID-19 stated that the church “provided the list of its South Korean members six days after it was requested” and “it was initially unclear whether shut down facilities and properties should be included” when the government asked for the lists of real estate.

    (Shincheonji and Coronavirus in South Korea: Sorting Fact from Fiction - A White Paper https://www.eupoliticalreport.eu/covid-19-and-the-shincheonji-church-in-south-korea-a-white-paper-reveals-the-truth/)

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