In this issue: Homelessness, Starvation and Disease Threaten North Korea | New project: Sri Lankan women and girls, victims of war | Christianity thrives world-wide: leaders visit Adelaide | Time and Tithe – the view from Tonga | Gift a Cow Today | Flooding in the Philippines
Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless and starvation once again threatens the people of North Korea after heavy flooding this month left more than 150 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. A United Nations Team visiting the area is assessing the damage with a view to developing an aid plan. UnitingWorld’s partners are also on hand to assist.
UnitingWorld’s Reverend John Barr is just back from a visit to Korea where he met with the Uniting Church in Australia’s partner in North Korea, the Byul Bit Foundation. He says the situation in many parts of North Korea is grim.
“We heard reports of children scouring the countryside, looking for anything green that can be boiled up and eaten”, he said. “The threat of starvation is so great that people resort to eating grass.”
Last year the UN estimated almost 6 million people required urgent food assistance to avoid famine, and that almost a third of children under 5 showed significant signs of malnutrition. In their weakened state, people are highly susceptible to tuberculosis, which is fatal when left untreated. North Korea has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis infection in the world.
North Korea remains one of the world’s most closed societies. Its population of 24 million people is unable to access free media, express political opposition or enjoy religious freedoms.
However, the Uniting Church in Australia, in partnership with local organisations, has been offered a significant opportunity to provide assistance. UCA partner, the Byul Bit Foundation, is working to provide health care, particularly for tuberculosis sufferers, accommodation for orphaned children, nurse training and food relief.
To make a donation that will help save a life right now, visit www.unitingworld.org.au/nevertoofar
News this week that Tamil refugees have been deported from Australia to Sri Lanka has heightened concerns for the wellbeing of the Tamil people within their homeland. Sri Lanka’s long-running and brutal civil war has left 86,000 war widows and between 125,000 and 200,000 internally displaced people. Through partners in Sri Lanka, UnitingWorld is working to assist those who have been traumatised, particularly women and children.
Reverend A.W Jebanasen, President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, recently visited Australia for the Uniting Church’s Triennial Assembly.
“Sri Lanka is traditionally a very patriarchal society and unprotected women and girls are very vulnerable,” he explains. “With so many widows as a result of the conflict, poverty among women and girls is a very significant problem. The exploitation of such women is unfortunately common.”
One of the aims of the new project is to provide counselling and health support for these young women so that they are able to continue their schooling.
Please pray for the people of Sri Lanka, for our brothers and sisters working in the new project and for Tamil refugees seeking asylum in Australia.
Christianity may be waning in the west, but it’s on the rise in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The leaders of many of these significant world churches were on hand as guests of UnitingWorld last month to share insights and learn from the Uniting Church at the 13th Triennial Assembly in Adelaide.
They came from the Solomon Islands, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, India, the Philippines, Vanuatu, China and Kiribati – each bringing wisdom, compassion and warmth to the national gathering of more than 350 National Uniting Church representatives.
“The Assembly is an opportunity for us to recognise that we are a global church, a Catholic church,” said National Director Kerry Enright. “We are much richer when we experience an event like this together with our international brothers and sisters.”
The presence of the international guests allowed UCA Assembly delegates to hear that while Christianity is waning in the west, it’s alive and thriving in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. In China the Church is growing faster than anywhere else in the world and is actively involved in social change. The Assembly was pleased to host an historic delegation from the Chinese Christian Congress, which has a conservative membership of some 24 million. UCA delegates at the Assembly welcomed the opportunity to get to know our international brothers and sisters and learn about the work that we engage in together across the globe.
The international guests were warmly welcomed to the Assembly and participated in events throughout the week. Rev Luna Dingayan, from Baguio Seminary in the Philippines, challenged delegates each morning with devotions that focussed on Life Overflowing for all, particularly those at the margins. An evening event celebrated 128 years of mission in Korea, while the Cato lecture, delivered by Dr Kirsteen Kim, Professor in Theology at Leeds Trinity University College, highlighted the changing nature of missiology over the years. UnitingWorld hosted three lunches, focussing on the ‘Power of Women and Girls’, the Impact of Changing Climate in Tuvalu and Zimbabwe and the Changing Face of Christianity. Each event was full to overflowing.
For many, a highlight was the interaction between international partners and our indigenous people during a visit to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Congress Church at Salisbury. Stories, songs and kangaroo tail were shared. At the heart of the visit was a deep solidarity between people who understand each other’s suffering and draw great strength from their faith.
Thanks for your continued support of all our partnerships across the globe. Together we’re providing support to congregations, training to pastors, clean water and education to communities and are part of God’s mission of love and justice.
Volunteers Jo and Kim Starkey are officially in Tonga to work in the School and develop proposals and projects alongside the Church for the Education Department. But it’s quite possible they’re learning every bit as much as they’re teaching- especially about the use of time and generosity.
No one who takes up a volunteering position in another country is under any illusion that the experience will be anything other than challenging. For Kim and Jo Starr, from Canberra, cooking enormous turkeys for impromptu Tongan feasts, working out the vagaries of transport that spends as much time stationary as moving, learning the language and coming to grips with the intricacies of the culture has been every bit as rewarding as the day to day challenges of the volunteer workplace. Half way into their six month placement, Kim is still working out how to make the most of his time in the Education Department, while Jo has finally learned how to pronounce all the names of her students at the school and is busily motivating students to attend class and participate. Observation number one: attitudes toward time and the way it’s best used are very different in Tonga!
Observation number two: the position of Minister of a Church is revered within Tongan society. Church members often provide gifts of food, other goods or money. Most services don’t include a weekly collection, but the ministers salary is financed by quarterly collections taken up specifically for this purpose, and the amount pledged by each family is announced to the whole congregation. Tongan people are very generous in their giving to the church, which is central to their lives. Some families are so generous that it places pressure on their other household expenses, and the leader of one denomination has asked members of his church to be less generous in their giving. Interesting problem to face!
Are you interested in serving alongside our overseas partners in their own, unique settings? Are you ready to learn more about what it means to be a global church? Are you interested in the volunteering experience of a lifetime? We are excited to share exciting opportunities for engagement with you. These NEW placements, requested by our partners in line with their needs, cover Asia, the Pacific and Africa and are suited to a variety of ages and skills.
Are you wondering how you can practically support partners overseas? Dairy cows are not only giving agriculture students in Fiji the chance to build their skills in animal husbandry, they are also filling the deficit in Fijian milk demand. Calves are on sale right now in Fiji and you can sponsor a calf for just $150.
The Navuso Agricultural Training Institute Fiji, an initiative on the Fiji Methodist Church, is a training college and a working farm. Currently thirty students aged between 18 and 28 are studying a three year course leading to a Certificate in Tropical Agriculture. Over 100 young Fijians are currently on the waiting list.
Situated on a 1200 hectare property near Suva, students spend a quarter of their time studying agricultural theory and the other three quarters in practice on the farm. The main areas of study include cropping, dairy farming, beef farming, poultry, piggery and mechanics. Students are accommodated in seven houses and get a share of the profits of crops harvested – a portion of this goes to their school fees and some back to their communities.
The Institute is currently raising funds to buy 350 Friesian calves at FJD250 each – that’s only AUD150! These calves will be raised and milked at Navuso to help fill the deficit in Fijian milk demand.
Do you want to sponsor a calf for the Institute? Call us today on 1800 000 331 or donate online. Please note donations are not tax-deductible.
More than 1.2 million people have been affected by flooding in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Gener. In just 24 hours, the typhoon has dumped more than half the Philippines total average August rainfall.
783,000 people have evacuated their inundated homes. Benito Ramos, head of the Philippines Disaster Response Agency, estimates that almost 90% of Manila is under water.
A report received by UnitingWorld this morning from long-term partner in the Philippines, the United Church of Christ (UCCP), said that hundreds of families are being rescued from the roofs of homes and are in need of food, medicine, clean water and shelter. They are being cared for by UCCP disaster response units and local churches’ community ministry desks are being swamped with requests for assistance.
“This is reminiscent of our experience during Typhoon Onday in 2009”, said Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza. “We are urgently in need of your help as we ask local churches to respond. Ongoing disaster is the context of our local ministry.”
To support relief efforts in Manila and five other affected regions, please contact UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or download a donation form here.
To donate online, click here. At step 3 select Typhoon Aug 2012 Philippines (TD).