In this issue: Sharing talanoa in the Pacific | Faith and Hope amidst extra-judicial killings in the Philippines | Matching gifts see lives transformed | PNG report identifies impact of LNG project | Running for a cause
“Colour, gentle voices, laughter, tears, ideas… they all blended together recently as I sat beside three of my colleagues and 12 women from Kiribati, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. We listened to one another and shared “talanoa” – stories. As the stories unfolded, so did important priorities for each of the communities these women leaders represent.”
Last week UnitingWorld had the privilege of meeting with twelve women from across the Pacific to share stories and discuss an ongoing partnership to address issues faced by women.
In her reflections on the process, Kathy Pereira (Associate Director, Church Connections) spoke of the immense joy she experienced meeting with these women and hearing about their lives. There were also tears as the women shared the struggles they face every day.
“We heard stories of wonderful joys, and deep pain,” Kathy says. “Stories of land where families have lived for generations being consumed by the seas and people relocated to strange new places where they have to start again. Stories of widows, at the bottom of society and without support, using their gifts and skills to raise income for their families. Painful stories of hurt and pain as communities struggle with emerging social issues – substance abuse, violence against women, and the disempowerment of men faced with limited employment prospects.”
Kathy shares the story of one woman from Vanuatu, Leiwani.
Leiwani lives right on the ocean’s shore and is fearful of the future – will she lose her home, her land, to the rising tides? This land, which belonged to her mother and grandmother before her? And how will she, along with the other women in her village, respond to the increased danger of substance abuse infecting the community?
Women in the Pacific face many struggles. But they are strong, and have hope. Together, these local church women are seeing possibilities for speaking into the challenges their communities are facing. UnitingWorld is currently engaging with women from our Pacific partners, together listening for the possibility of a major cross-Pacific program for women. We are eager to support them however we can and will need many Australian partners if this is to succeed. We invite you to step out with us, patiently and respectfully listening to and supporting in practical ways the programs our Pacific women friends develop.
Reverend Luna Dingayan and his wife Perla are visiting Australia this month as guests of UnitingWorld. They have spoken with deep faith and hope about the need for social transformation in the Philippines where extra judicial killings continue under the leadership of President Aquino. At an on Tuesday night in Sydney Rev Dingayan said the church continues to be motivated to act for social justice in spite of the murders of a number of local pastors and students from the Baguio Seminary. In standing up for the rights of indigenous people against mining interests the pastors have become targets of the military.
“Our involvement in social justice is motivated by our faith,” said Reverend Dingayan. ”It comes from our belief that God is ruler of all, and also from our knowledge that God can not stand people being oppressed and exploited. It comes from the example of Jesus, who came to bring sight to the blind, liberty to the captive and life in all its fullness. And it comes from our faith in the church which we believe is God’s instrument in establishing his Kingdom here on earth.”
In the Philippines the interests of large mining companies continue to conflict with the interests of indigenous people who are struggling to protect their land and natural resources. In recent years church leaders, students and others who advocate for the rights of indigenous land owners have been the victims of extra judicial killings. Investigations have stalled even under the new leadership of President Aquino. Last night Rev Dingayan told stories of people organising to assist the very poor negotiate with mining companies to gain fair access to profits. These faithful members of the community were gunned down by militia as they went about their daily routines. A similar extra-judicial killing was been reported in yesterday’s media from Luzon.
“My firm conviction is that our country can be saved not by the power of a gun but by grace through faith.” Rev Dingayan said. ”Deep within our hearts we have the same dream- the military, the church people- to become generally peaceful and prosperous. But we need to open our hearts and minds, listen and respect each other and work together if we are to be truly free.”
Reverend Dingayan will be providing the bible studies for the UCA National Assembly in Adelaide from July 14-21.
At 29, Gloria is a young woman with big dreams. She dreams her three children will be able to have the education that she never had. She dreams she will always be able to provide the simple necessities for her family. She dreams for what many of us take for granted – a television to watch in the evening.
Three years ago, Gloria’s family faced serious troubles. Gloria’s husband struggled to find work and the profits from Gloria’s small kiosk business, which she ran from their home, went into paying off debts.
Attracted by its friendly staff, low interest rate and weekly repayment system, Gloria decided to take out a loan through Tanaoba Lais Manekat (TLM), UnitingWorld’s partner in West Timor. She soon became involved in the group lending program and received a loan of IDR 750,000 (around AUD $100).
Gloria thought hard about what to do with the loan. She identified a need and decided to start a small business selling gasoline by the edge of the road in front of her house. Her business model is simple: she buys gasoline at the Gas Station and then sells it onto her local community in smaller containers.
This initiative was successful, and Gloria was able to pay back the loan easily. With her second loan Gloria decided to re-open her kiosk business. As a result her daily income has significantly increased and she can meet the needs of her business while covering the costs of her family. She is thrilled she will be able to provide for her children into the future.
Gloria is just one of the many people whose lives have been transformed through a small loan. UnitingWorld’s partner TLM is passionate about seeing lives transformed through microfinance and watching dreams like Gloria’s come true. A big thank you to all who generously gave to our Matching Gift Fund. Your donations, combined with Australian Government funding, will go a long way to helping people overcome poverty in West Timor through small loans.
Interested in engaging with the work of TLM in West Timor? See here for an opportunity to travel to West Timor and engage in the life of our partner, especially the work of the micro-finance project.
In Canberra last month Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles launched an extensive report into the impacts of the multi-billion dollar Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea. The report identifies that the LNG project offers the prospect of substantial economic growth to Papua New Guinea’s Hela region. But with that promise has come significant social upheaval.
The report, “The Community Good – Examining the Influence of the PNG LNG Project in the Hela Region of Papua New Guinea” – recognises the industry’s contribution to the community and warns of continuing major concerns that must not be ignored.
“This report identifies opportunities and does not shrink from naming key issues the community, church, government and industry need to face up to,” Dr. Enright says. “It also shows the various parties’ willingness to work together for the community good. The challenge is to act on the report in the crucial next two years.”
United Church in Papua New Guinea Development Secretary Uvenama Rova echoes Dr. Enright’s hope. “The research project enabled people with a range of views – the community, government and industry – to talk together about the issues we face,” he says.
Following the official launch of the report, UnitingWorld ran workshops at ANU that included both PNG and Australian panelists. Key players talked openly and with good will, with the dialogue aiming to lift the outcomes for communities in Hela.
The research process was led by Dr James McIlraith of Otago University and guided by a partnership of Churches, NGOs and academic institutes. UnitingWorld convened the group as part of its role with the PNG Church Partnership Program.
Have you been waiting for a good opportunity to get out of the house and put your running shoes on? Looking to share your passion for overcoming poverty and seeking justice with your family and friends? As the running season quickly approaches, using personalised online fundraising is a great way to get motivated – after all, what could be better than running for a cause?
Whatever your state of fitness or however far you hope to run, you can help raise money for the life-giving work of the Uniting Church in Australia’s overseas partners by creating your own mini website to encourage your friends and family to get on board through Everyday Hero or GoFundraise. Check out the City to Surf or the Blackmore’s Running Festival for starters. We’d love to have you on the team.