Diaconia Center of Relief and Development (Diaconia-CRD) is the global development and aid branch of Diaconia of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (Diaconia ECCB). The ECCB is a denomination known for its openness and intellectual rigor. We are based in Prague, Czech Republic. Our American office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin opened in 2013. The history of the Czech Republic and of Diaconia ECCB is important to understanding our philosophy at The Center of Relief and Development.
Diaconia ECCB was founded in 1903 in what was then the country of Czechoslovakia. We were a missional outreach of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren (ECCB), a protestant denomination with a history that is traced to the fourteenth century. We are still affiliated with the denomination today. Taking our theology from the teachings of protestant reformer, Jan Hus, we seek to work for justice and equality across the globe.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Diaconia’s mission was focused on caring for orphans, the homeless, and the elderly. Unfortunately, our organizational growth was hindered by the rise of the Nazi state, which gained power in the Czech lands in 1938.
At the end of WWII, we continued to function as a Czech domestic charity, caring for those affected by the abhorrent violence and devastation from the conflict.
In 1948, the communist party took over Czechoslovakia, ushering in the infamous era of “Stalinism.” Diaconia was banned from doing charitable work under the regime in 1956. Our property was taken away. Our staff was laid off, and some were even imprisoned. For the next 35 years, we were completely wiped off of the map.
Thankfully, in 1989, the communist regime collapsed after waves of popular protests spread throughout the country, led by playwright, philosopher Vaclav Havel. Known as the Velvet Revolution, these protests motivated Czechs and Slovaks to fight for justice, freedom, and equality - a fight that resonated around the world.
Upon the collapse of the soviet bloc in 1989, Diaconia ECCB was immediately re-established. We once again started our work with orphans, the homeless, the elderly, and people with special needs. Our organization was at the forefront of building a new, post-communist society of openness and hope. It was difficult and demanding work. We had to professionalize, reclaim our lost property, and start anew. Years under a communist yoke had seriously eroded our 80-year foundation.
American congregations and donors were instrumental in helping us get back on our feet. Together, we worked to ensure a better future for the newly-formed Czech Republic and the surrounding post-communist countries. Through financial donations, expert exchanges, and organizational training, Americans helped Diaconia ECCB quickly become a leading social-service nonprofit. Over the last 27 years, we have grown into a large and strong organization. Diaconia ECCB is now currently the second largest social service nonprofit in the Czech Republic, with over 1,500 employees.
In 2008, Diaconia ECCB leadership began to discuss expanding its mission globally. As a recipient of aid ourselves, we experienced first-hand the powerful impact it can have. We knew it was time to give back. In 2011 Diaconia’s Center of Relief and Development was established to fulfill this need. Our expertise and history give us unique insight into the societal stresses and economic dysfunction that are inherent in many impoverished countries across the world - countries that are have suffered under totalitarianism, or are experiencing rapid societal change.
We are grateful to those who have helped us walk. Together, we are ready to help others run.