Diakonia - People change the world

50 year of struggle for a just world

In 2016, Diakonia has been working for 50 years. During the years we have fought for human rights and for a better world for all people. Here you can read about, see photos and films about some of the events in history where we, and our partners, have been involved.

Jotham Myaka grew up on a farm owned by a white farmer. His father was an agricultural labourer with no rights. Due to his parents’ efforts and Jotham’s own determination, he escaped having to work as a child labourer in the fields and was able to attend school. Jotham ran the Zibambeleni organization (the name means “to fend for oneself” in Zulu) that Diakonia supported for many years. We worked together to fight for the rights of poor people to land, for democracy and for human rights. Jotham helped more than 2,000 families to get their land back. Photo: Robban Andersson #90s

We have worked for a better world for 50 years.In 1966, India was hit by a severe drought. The country’s cry for help led to the formation of Diakonia, which at the time was called “Frikyrkan hjälper”. Food was distributed to those most in need, wells were drilled and help was given to sick children, mothers and older people. The photograph shows a girl in the drought-afflicted state of Bihar pumping water from a well that was funded by money collected by “Frikyrkan hjälper”. 

To change the world, we need to work in different ways in different places. A few years ago, we helped to run the international “Make Poverty History” campaign with Bono from U2 as one of the frontmen. This is Diakonia at Hultsfred Festival talking about poverty and unfair structures. 


When Prateep Ungsongtham Hata was 11, she watched as her best friend fell from some rickety scaffolding. Blood poured from his head. They were both child workers at the port of Bangkok. No-one told her that he had died, but she never saw him again. “That was when I decided to try to improve conditions for poor people,” says Prateep. “I thought – when you are poor, life is so miserable.”  When she was 16, she opened a school in her own home for poor children who had no identity card and were not allowed in to ordinary schools. Diakonia supported the school for a long time; the children were also provided with food and preventive healthcare. Photo: Robban Andersson 

“I dream of becoming a correspondent,” says Isabel. “But most of all I want to study.” Isabel was 15 when this picture was taken, shortly after the civil war in El Salvador had ended. She was abandoned as a child, but had the strength to forge a life for herself. We helped in the work for peace during the bloody civil wars in Central America. Photo: Robban Andersson

Children play in the rubble in the capital city Beirut. During the 1980s, Lebanon was badly damaged by civil war. Diakonia was there helping people in need. 

In 2000, Mozambique was hit by terrible floods. Many people died as a result. This picture was taken six months after the flooding. The family’s farmland has become a lake. Farmers were retrained as fishermen. Photography: Robban Andersson

The borderlands between Thailand och Burma/Myanmar are the scene of dreadful human trafficking. Young girls risk being exploited as sex slaves in brothels in northern Thailand. Diakonia’s partner organization New Life Center gives vulnerable girls the opportunity to get an education and live in security. Here are some of the young people living at the New Life Center, wearing traditional Akha dress. 

Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered while he was preparing for Holy Communion in a church in El Salvador. A few minutes earlier, he had been preaching on the subject of the commandment “You shall not kill”. He dared to speak about peace and reconciliation as the civil war was raging. The life of Oscar Romero has become a symbol of the fight for social justice. Diakonia worked with Oscar Romero and supported his fight. He had been awarded the Diakonia Peace Prize two weeks before he was murdered.

The bridge in Mapera, Kenya is more than a bridge. It is a punch in the face for corruption. Diakonia’s partner organization Clarion educated a group of villagers about their rights, the tax system and the laws of the country. They started asking questions about the bridge that had never been finished. It turned out that the building contractor had been paid before the bridge was in place. A classic case of corruption, in which the contractor and the civil servants took the money for the bridge to line their own pockets. But after Clarion’s education, the villagers knew what to do to get answers about the finances; they organized themselves and put pressure on the people in power. The bridge now stands in the midst of the lush African greenery as an expression of people’s power and their ability to take control of their lives.

Life in the shadow of the wall can be tough, both on the Israeli and the Palestinian side. But here too daily life goes on, with children playing games and kicking a football. 

After the Liberation War in Bangladesh, parts of the country lay in ruins. Many schools had been completely destroyed. Diakonia led a project to train teachers and build schools that also functioned as the focal point of the community. Transporting building materials was often laborious work. 

Doña Alicia has played an important role in the organization for the rights of domestic servants in La Paz, Bolivia. Together they have fought to get fixed working hours, holidays and maternity leave. They have succeeded in raising the wages of tens of thousands of women and worked to ensure that their rights are respected. Diakonia works on a long-term basis to achieve lasting change for the most vulnerable in society. Photo: Robert Kilström

Diakonia has worked for many years with disabled people in Palestine. This is a vulnerable group of people that has long been neglected.


Laxmi Priya Sahoo, a sunflower grower in India, was tricked into buying a new sort of rice that would produce a big crop. But the seed was sterile and required the use of expensive chemicals. “It feels cruel – we were already poor, and now we will just get poorer,” she said. “But now we’re going to change things! The whole village has agreed to join in a project where we will grow a greater variety of crops. We will be putting our eggs in several baskets, as we say. Now no-one needs to get into debt and lose their fields any more. I grow sunflowers that supply the whole village with oil. I feel very proud when I see how they brighten up the fields in the morning.” Poor farmers in poor countries find it hard to find an outlet for their products when the market is swamped with subsidised goods from abroad. At the same time, high tariff barriers make it difficult to export. Photography: Markus Marcetic 

Poor farmers in Chiquitano, Bolivia march for their right to land. Land distribution in Latin America is extremely distorted. Most of the land is owned by a small percentage of the population. Land being worked by subsistence farmers is often sold to major foreign investors. Diakonia has been working for some time to support farmers’ organizations that are fighting for fair distribution of land.

Eleven year-old Geetha survived the tsunami. This picture was taken just under a year after the disaster, when she had just got a new bicycle. Her school had been repaired and she and her family had built a small metal shack on the site of their previous house. “With my bicycle, I can cycle to school and if there’s another tsunami I can cycle away from it quickly,” she said. Photography: Markus Marcetic 

In the 1970s and ‘80s, there were a series of bloody civil wars in Central America. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. Diakonia supported the refugee camps and provided humanitarian help to those affected by the conflict. Everyday life continued in the shadow of war. These girls and women in El Salvador are washing clothes.