In this issue: Uniting Church stands with the poor | Conflict between Sudan and South Sudan | Teenagers united in Tonga | Students on board to stop the Traffick | Fiji flood clean-up continues | Loans lead to income growth in West Timor
The overseas aid that Australia gives is changing the lives of people living in poverty. Children are attending school, babies are being safely delivered and people at the margins are building their own capacity to look after their families. For years, both major political parties have agreed to increase overseas aid to 0.5% of our Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015. That’s just 50 cents out of every hundred dollars!
There are serious concerns, however, that the Australian Government is going to renege on their commitment to increase our overseas aid spending in the Federal Budget next week. Even a small decrease will mean that it is very unlikely we will make it to 0.5% by 2015.
More importantly, it could put the lives of 800,000 people at risk.
Yesterday the Australian Council for International Development released an open letter to the Prime Minister – signed by more than 100 prominent Australians – calling on Julia Gillard to ensure next week’s budget does not break our promise on aid.
Uniting Church in Australia President, Rev Alistair Macrae, has signed the open letter, along with Synod Moderators, the Administrator of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress as well as the National Director, Rev Dr Kerry Enright, and Chairperson, Mr Malcolm Gledhill, of UnitingWorld.
Church leaders from all over the Nation are also on board, with leaders from across denominations concerned about the effects of Australia backing away from our promise to the world’s poorest people. Signatories to the letter also include well known entertainers, politicians, business leaders and community sector representatives.
For a full list of signatories see the open letter.
You can also stand alongside the world’s poorest people. Write today to Julia Gillard to ask her to stay committed to the world’s poorest.
The Federal Budget, Aussie lifestyles and Christianity. Where does overseas aid fit in? Take our quiz to find out…
As conflict escalates between Sudan and South Sudan, UnitingWorld offers prayer for the people of both nations and stands in solidarity with the World Council of Churches and All Africa Conference of Churches in urging both sides to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute. The UN Security Council has today unanimously passed a resolution giving Sudan and South Sudan 48 hours to halt hostilities or face potential sanctions.
After weeks of clashes, including aerial bombardment, Sudan has reportedly declared a state of emergency along the border with South Sudan. US Ambassador Susan Rice told the UN Security Council yesterday: “The current conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is on the verge of becoming a full scale and sustained war.”
In a statement released last week, the World Council of Churches and All Africa Conferences of Churches said: “We express grave concern over the escalating armed conflict between Sudan and South Sudan and call upon both parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any further deterioration of the situation.
We call for mutual respect of the territorial integrity of each other’s state. We have followed with deep concern the developments that led to the occupation of Heglig by the armed forces of the Republic of South Sudan and advocate for a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict starting with immediate ceasefire.”
UnitingWorld’s National Director Kerry Enright and International Programs Co-ordinator Geoff Dornan both visited South Sudan late last year to discuss potential new partnerships in the fledgling country. More than two million people died in the two-decade conflict between the north and south up to 2005, with South Sudan gaining independence last year. Infrastructure needs are enormous.
“We are deeply concerned for the people of Sudan at this time and ask Uniting Churches throughout Australia to join with us in praying that there will be a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” Geoff says.
You can read insights from Geoff and Kerry’s trips here.
It began with an idea hatched in the back of a car on the way home from a camping trip, and ended with personal introductions to the Queen of Tonga! 15 young people and their leaders from Wagga Wagga Uniting are just home from Houma in beautiful Tonga, where they spent time with local families and gained life-changing insight into everything we have in common with our near neighbours.
“Our young people wanted to contribute something to another country,” says leader Cindy James. “I think they gained as much as they gave. They’re so enthusiastic they want to go back tomorrow.”
Wagga’s pilgrimage to Houma began with an idea hatched in the back seat of a car on the way home from a camping trip. Teenagers Gemma Flynn and Lily Philip were keen to get out in the big wide world to make a difference- and with the help of UnitingWorld, who matched them up with billet families through our partner the Methodist Church in Tonga, the girls and their leaders made it happen.
$26,000 dollars poured in from community fundraising events. The Wagga teenagers, some of them refugees who have been only in the country a few years, have just returned from two weeks on the island where they spent time helping out in local schools and making friends they plan to keep for life.
“We had thought we might be involved in something really hands on and practical, but of far more value was just developing relationships and being involved in everyday life.” says team leader Cindy James. “The young people just bonded so well and gained such an insight into another way of living. Personally I was quite confronted by the relative poverty, particularly in the schools.”
The young people’s enthusiasm is running high, with many of them already keen to plan another trip. In the meantime, left over funds will be used to support UnitingWorld’s new preschool projects in Tonga – helping train under-resourced teachers and providing up to date facilities for children.
“This really was a life changing experience for us all,” Cindy says. “You can’t go on these trips and come home and just unpack your bags. We now know the names and faces of people who don’t have the resources that we do. That makes a big difference.”
Talk to us about visiting another church community overseas! It will be transforming… Call Roslyn Elkington on 82674269.
More than 60 students from Victorian Uniting Church schools are freshly inspired to take action after participating in a workshop to raise awareness about human trafficking in India. Young people and their teachers came away deeply challenged by the issue, which affects more than 12.6million children in India.
“It’s hard when you realise that so much of it just comes from poverty,” commented a student. “It’s not just the people who are trafficked who are trapped and feel they have no choices, but sometimes also the people who are recruiting in local villages.”
Stories from UnitingWorld’s partner, The Church of North India, which runs awareness and rehabilitation programs for the victims of trafficking, highlight the horrors of human trafficking.
Charu couldn’t say no. With an alcoholic husband, and two children to educate and feed, Charu knew that the opportunity to make this kind of money simply didn’t exist in her village in West Bengal. And so, accompanied by a new ‘friend’, Charu set off for Mumbai…
You can probably guess how this common story ends. Charu’s ‘job’ disappeared and instead she was coerced into working as a prostitute- there are 2.3million sex workers in India, 15% of them children. Imprisoned within the walls of her brothel, never paid and mistreated by her ‘clients’, Charu’s disappearance eventually raised concerns in her village, where UnitingWorld’s partner, the Church of North India Anti-Human Trafficking Project, took action. They tracked Charu’s friend down, threatened legal action and Charu’s location was subsequently revealed. She was rescued and brought back to her village, only to be met with suspicion.
“The rehabilitation and awareness program has to tackle so many issues,” says John Barr, Associate Director Church Solidarity (Asia). “People are vulnerable because of poverty, lack of education, and domestic violence. And then they also face the shame of returning home to people who don’t understand that trafficking is not an isolated event but happening wherever poverty makes people vulnerable, and that it shouldn’t evoke hostility toward the victim.”
More than 80% of trafficking victims are women, and many of them are children as young as 8. To support UnitingWorld’s Anti-Trafficking project go HERE.
And many thanks to the Uniting Church schools and the Uniting Justice and International and Mission Unit in Victoria for the opportunity to work with you on this issue!
The United Nations Development Program has reported that last month’s floods continue to impact people’s livelihoods in Fiji. They also report that a rise in communicable diseases, particularly typhoid, leptospirosis and dengue fever is attributed to the floods.
Initial reports indicated that around 8,000 people in the west of the main island Viti Levu were forced from their homes into evacuation centres but now people are slowly returning to their homes.
But the clean-up job is immense.
Our partner the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma are on the scene working with local people to help return life to normal. The local church have held a major offering across the nation for flood relief and the Methodist Church in the UK donated 10,000 UK pounds for the work.
Local Australian Uniting Church Fijian congregations have been fundraising for support and others have donated through UnitingWorld. If you would like to make a contribution to flood relief efforts in Fiji, please call us on 1800 998 122.
The sun hasn’t quite made it into the sky as Martha sets up her stall alongside others at the local market in Sumba, an island in West Timor. Throughout the day, the market will bustle with people buying local goods, vegetables and clothing. Martha is a real local, having grown up in the area. She has been selling her goods at the market for years and uses the small profits to support her four children.
A few months ago Martha approached UnitingWorld partner Tanaoba Lais Manekat Foundation (TLM), the development arm of the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor, to take out a small loan of around AUD$100 to grow the size of her business. TLM have worked in West Timor for years, providing local people with small, low interest loans to invest in business ventures. Mid last year TLM opened a new branch in Sumba with UnitingWorld funds and by the end of the year the new branch was serving over 700 active loan clients, over half of whom were women. Another 146 people have opened a savings account for the first time ever.
Martha used her loan to grow the size of her stall, which now generates double the amount is used to. Having a bit of extra money also meant she could get creative, and she now runs a small cafe from her stall, selling coffee and tea to passers-by. Since taking out her loan and investing it into her stall, Martha’s income has increased significantly. This will mean real change for her whole family.
Read more about TLM and microfinance here.