News Release

Elder and Sister Funk Help Strengthen Relationships in the Middle East

Church leader traveled to Jordan, Kurdistan, Egypt and Bahrain

Elder Randy D. Funk, first counselor in the Middle East/Africa North Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, Andrea, recently traveled to several countries in the Middle East to strengthen friendships and support humanitarian projects. They were able to observe how the Church, through its Brigham Young University (BYU) and Latter-day Saint Charities, is helping people in this historically significant area of the world. They also met with and provided leadership training to Church members who primarily come from other countries to work in the area.

In Amman, Jordan, the Funks met with alumni of the master of laws (LLM) program at Brigham Young University’s law school. For over 20 years Jordanian judges have received advanced legal training at the law school in Provo, Utah, which is supported by the Church. This cooperative training program has led to a strong relationship of mutual respect.

In Jordan the Funks were joined by D. Gordon Smith, dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, and Eric Jensen, a law professor and coordinator of the LLM program.

“Every time we go to Jordan, our alums are very grateful to see us and come from all over Jordan to join us for a dinner. They are grateful for their experience at BYU, and they show us great love and respect," Jensen said.

While in Amman, Elder Funk also met with Chief Justice Mohammad al-Ghazo, the secretary general of the Judicial Council of Jordan, and the director of the Judicial Institute that trains judges in Jordan. The Funks observed and met several of the BYU-trained judges at the Amman Palace of Justice.

Jensen commented, “In each of the meetings Elder Funk had with representatives of the Jordanian judiciary, judges were extremely complimentary of the program with BYU and expressed their strong desire for the program to continue.”

“As a former lawyer, I was impressed to see how judges are trained in Jordan and to learn of the benefits of the advanced education many have received at BYU,” said Elder Funk. “We also discussed with the chief justice additional ways Latter-day Saint Charities could be of assistance in Jordan.”

Elder and Sister Funk also traveled to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where Latter-day Saint Charities, the Church’s humanitarian arm, is building the Nursing and Midwifery Development Center in the city of Erbil. This center will provide training for nurses and midwives throughout Kurdistan and Iraq and will feature an advanced simulation laboratory. It is hoped that improved training in the delivery of babies and better neonatal care for newborns will save many lives of both mothers and their babies.

“This is exactly the type of project the Area Presidency desires,” noted Elder Funk. “The land was donated, and the Church, through Latter-day Saint Charities, will fund the construction of the building. The Stirling Foundation will provide equipment, and Eva Said, who received a doctorate in nursing in England, will direct the training at the center.”

Elder and Sister Funk, along with a representative of the Stirling Foundation, were pleased to visit the site of the new center and to meet with Eva and Nazim Said to review the plans for the center and the training. In addition, Elder and Sister Funk and other representatives of Latter-day Saint Charities met with the leaders of the Barzani Charity Foundation to review the success of recently completed joint projects, such as those providing wheelchairs and supplies for refugee camps, and the drilling of water wells. They also discussed future projects, such as the renovation of the region’s schools.

The Funks' trip continued with a visit to Cairo, Egypt, where they met with religious leaders and visited humanitarian projects supported by Latter-day Saint Charities. The Association for the Protection of the Environment (AME), sponsored by Coptic Christians, operates a recycling project at Mokattam, which is referred to locally as “Garbage City.” Garbage is collected and brought to the site, where 80% to 85% is converted to usable products such as blankets, clothing and toys. The project employs many workers and helps improve their living conditions.

AME also operates learning centers to provide day care and education for younger children. Latter-day Saint Charities will provide funding for an additional center. Latter-day Saint Charities representatives Mike and Laurie Hoer are coordinating this effort and have been impressed with the centers.

"The exciting thing about the AME project," Laurie said, "is that not only does it recycle materials effectively, but it also employs many people who need the work. The expanded education center will ensure their children are learning as their parents work."

Latter-day Saint Charities is also working with Dr. Mohamed Omar, who heads up Mother Newborn Care training at the medical school at Cairo University and established the Help Baby Breathe program.

“This course is a simplified version of neonatal resuscitation and uses very simple equipment that can be used in poor rural areas," Mike said. "Even though it is simple, the techniques will save 99 percent of babies who are not able to breathe on their own.”

Elder Funk added, “It was such a privilege to meet with kind and dedicated medical faculty members from Cairo University who are so devoted to caring for others.”

Elder and Sister Funk also made a visit to Bahrain, where they met with other Latter-day Saints to worship and provided leadership training.

“We were so impressed by the fine humanitarian, religious and judicial leaders we met during our visit to this important part of the world,” summarized Elder Funk. “And we were grateful to observe how children and families are helped in such meaningful ways through the combined efforts of many.”

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