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Author: UnitingWorld

Early this week we received news of the death of Reverend Sir Samson Lowa, former Moderator of our partner, the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG).

Rev Lowa will be remembered as a great Pacific leader and peacemaker who saved a church, championed ecumenical partnerships and influenced all those around him with humility and servant leadership. Leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia past and present have been paying tribute to a remarkable man and leader this week.

Former National Director of Uniting International Mission (now UnitingWorld) and close friend, Reverend Bill Fischer said of him:

“Rev. Samson Lowa was a most outstanding spiritual leader. He was of small stature, was gentle and humble, and radiated a deep faith and a genuine and pure heart. He reflected the love and peace of Christ and touched the hearts of all those he met.”

When Rev Lowa was elected Moderator in 1998, UCPNG was reeling from leadership disputes and facing insolvency. Banks were threatening to sell church properties to recoup debts. Rev Lowa met with the banks to negotiate a repayment plan so that churches could stay open, even offering to go to prison for the unpaid debts.

After negotiating a solution, he dealt with the leadership and transparency issues in the church, shifting the moral culture and steering UCPNG into the well-governed church that it is today.

Former National Director of UnitingWorld Reverend Dr Kerry Enright remembers Rev Lowa’s leadership as a turning point for the entire church that can be credited to the “power of his humble and transparent goodness.”

“… that goodness flowed through a large and complex church, hundreds of languages, many islands, dispersed people. When he retired, he left a church that had hope and a sense of unity,” said Rev Dr Enright.

Rev Lowa was influential in establishing the Church Partnership Program (CPP), an ongoing ecumenical collaboration of PNG churches to strengthen the institutional capacity of churches to deliver crucial health and education services, as well as activities in gender equality, social inclusion, peace and disaster risk reduction.

Current National Director of UnitingWorld Dr Sureka Goringe said his legacy in Papua New Guinea and Australia taught us what is possible when we choose to connect and have real relationships across boundaries. Both parties can be enriched forever.

“His recent work in brokering peace between communities in Bougainville in the run up to the referendum was nothing short of miraculous and inspiring – a testament to Rev Lowa’s courageous faith, and commitment to building bridges and healing relationships,” said Dr Goringe.

Immediate past National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd also remembers the way he brought people together to solve problems.

Rev Samson Lowa was a great leader and a great friend. Samson was loved and respected by everyone he met. He always made time to meet and listen to people and was able to bring people together in fellowship and shared purpose, often in very difficult situations,” said Mr Floyd.

During his time in leadership, Rev Lowa was a strong advocate for gender equality and the role of women in the church. When asked about his role in establishing the CPP, he was always keen to credit women’s fellowship groups on the success of church-based community development in PNG and for convincing the Australian Government to follow their lead.

“The women’s ministry is the most powerful ministry in the United Church of Papua New Guinea,” he said in 2012.

Throughout his life, Rev Lowa made strong connections with people and churches throughout Australia and the Pacific.

In Australia, he formed close friendships with Aboriginal leaders Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, former Moderator of Northern Synod, and civil rights leader Rev Charles Harris, who established the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). Rev Lowa supported Harris with the formation of UAICC and regularly attended Uniting Church Triennial Assemblies to connect with First and Second Peoples of the UCA.

Rev Dr Gondarra wanted to pay tribute to Rev Lowa this week in Tok Pisin language, as a sign of the deep respect and connection they shared:

Mi bin bungim Talatala Samson Lowa long nambawan taim, taim emi kam wok wantem Uniting Church NSW Synod long hia long Australia.

Talatala Samson wantem Rollie Bush na Pastor Charles… blong Uniting Church Townsville ibin wok bung wantem, long kamapim gopas wok na mekim kamap driman na visin blong faundasin bilong Aboriginal na Islander Congress aninit long lukaut blong Uniting Church Australia.

Lo makim UAICC, mi tok tenk yu long Papa God long sevis bilong Rev Lowa. Em trupla lida, brata insait long Krais, na man husat ibin sanap pas klostu wantem mipla.  Mipla tok tenkyu long yu.

Rev Lowa was widely known and respected across the Pacific region.

Reverend James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches called him an “ecumenical giant,” whose passing calls each of us to reflect on our own contribution to God’s people and creation. 

“We give  thanks to God for the life and ministry of servant leadership of Rev. Lowa and his contribution to the ecumenical movement. The passing of this humble ecumenical giant calls us to reflect on what our contribution, what our legacy will be as we serve God’s people and creation in the Pacific during these challenging times,” said Rev Bhagwan.

In 2010, Rev Sir Lowa was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his long service to education and the community as Moderator of the United Church in Papua New Guinea.

Uniting Church in Australia Assembly President Dr Deidre Palmer has asked UCA members to keep Rev Lowa’s family and colleagues in the UCPNG in their prayers.

“We give thanks to God for the life of Rev Sir Samson Lowa – and God’s great blessing of his faithful service alongside Uniting Church members in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the whole Pacific region,” said Dr Palmer.  

Rest in Peace Reverend Sir Samson Lowa:  15 August 1949 – 24 June 2020


More Uniting Church members pay tribute to a remarkable man and leader

Samson Lowa was a remarkable international church leader, particularly in the Pacific region. His quiet humility, his total integrity, his complete determination and, most of all, his passion for proclaiming the gospel in word and action were together an inspiration to his many friends, myself included   During the twelve years that I was privileged to work with him, as Chairperson of Uniting International Mission and as President of the Assembly, the blessings which he bestowed on us as a Church were enormous, in addition to all that he meant throughout the Pacific.

Rev. Professor James Haire AC, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

It was Sam’s gentleness, humility and grace that was so marked. He did not seek out high office. He ministered and worked with integrity. He trusted others and had a way of rebuilding trust in the way he quietly and without fuss brought his intellect to bear to work patiently through matters that seemed impossible to solve. He was a living example of the fruit of the Spirit. It was a blessing to know him.

-Reverend Dr Dean Drayton, United Theological College

I looked up to the late Rev. Sir Samson Lowa as a spiritual mentor in my early youth formation years, and later as my congregational minister. I will always remember him as a humble servant who served everyone equally. He believed in forgiveness and reconciliation which was very much part of his life and ministry testimony. May he rest in eternal peace in the presence of His Saviour and Lord.

-Amos Leana, Nungalinya College

Rev. Samson Lowa was a very special person who reflected the love and peace of Christ and touched the hearts of those he met.  One of the greatest privileges and blessings in my life was to work closely with Samson for six years and to form a deep spiritual friendship that endured.

-Reverend Bill Fischer, Former Director of Uniting International Mission

Samson was indeed a very special man and I always had deep admiration for his faith, wisdom and gentle leadership. The don’t come any better than he did.

-Bruce Mullan, former Director of Church Connections, UnitingWorld

He was indeed a very special person, and gave the church wonderful leadership, as well as his peace-making work in the Bougainville conflict.

-Reverend Neville Threlfall

“One of the Pacific church fathers. He was a charismatic leader in the PCC (Pacific Conference of Churches) family, a man of great mana. The church will miss the humble Samson Lowa.

Reverend Dr Matagi Vilitama, UCA Being a Multicultural Church Advocate

(If you would like to add a tribute, please email it to marcusc@unitingworld.org.au)

Brooklyn Distephano blogs on life as a student in Ambon during COVID-19. Brooklyn is a 17-year-old Ambonese high school student and UnitingWorld Peace Workshop participant.

The COVID-19 pandemic first spread to Indonesia on 2 March 2020 when a dance instructor and her mother were infected by a Japanese national. By 9 April, the pandemic had spread to all 34 provinces in the country after Gorontalo confirmed its first case, with JakartaEast Java, and West Java being the worst-hit.  Today, there are almost 49,000 cases with 2,500 deaths.

On 19 March 2020 I went to school, and when I arrived there was an announcement saying that there was going to be a teacher’s meeting. After the meeting our teachers went to each class to give assignments to the student because we were going to be learning from home due to Covid-19.

When I first heard that I felt so happy! In my mind I could sleep late, wake up late and go on vacation etc. After teachers finished giving the assignment, we were allowed to go home. Within the first week all my assignments were finished and I thought, “During this learning from home I’m going to be so happy!”

It didn’t turn out like that.  Everyday, there’s more bad news than good news. Everybody has become sad, and so am I. My life has became very boring because all I can do is wake up, eat, and play on my phone until I got to bed again. Also I can’t meet my friends so that has made the situation even worse.

In the middle of this pandemic, things in Ambon have become very different. Most of the places that are usually crowded have become very quiet. The Government has said to the people that we must always wear a mask if we want to go outside. But still there are a lot of people who do not obey the rules. That’s why there’s so many police and authorities patrolling in Ambon. If they catch people who don’t wear a mask when they go outside, usually they get punished. If a man is caught and he doesn’t have a mask, he will be asked to open his t shirt and use that as his mask. But many people can’t stay home because they have to work – if they don’t work they will have no food. So it is very hard for us here.

I’m afraid that if we don’t obey the Government and wear masks then this pandemic will end with so many casualties. And I also worry for the people who can’t stay at home and be safe. I appreciate so much the people that are fighting Covid-19 at the forefront. Please respect them because while we are able to sit down in our house and talk to our family, they can’t. So let’s give these fighters a big respect and appreciation.

Thank you for reading my story of being a student in Ambon during this pandemic. All I want is to go back to school, to see my friends and be part of building a better future for Ambon.

-Brooklyn.

Lent Event 2020

A huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting Brooklyn, other young leaders, women’s groups and small business start-ups through gifts to this year’s Lent Event.

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UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe gives an update on COVID-19 and appeals for support.

Right now, your gift has a bigger impact because it will be combined with Australian Aid funding (find out how).

Please donate before June 30.

DONATE NOW

(click here to download video to show in church services)


UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

Header photo via SBS news.

Our partners in Bali have been finding innovative ways for children to stay safe, connected and spreading awareness about COVID-19.

As part of safety lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia, the Bali provincial government recommended all school children study at home.

With children isolated in their houses, our partners MBM held a drawing contest to keep students connected and help promote social distancing, handwashing and awareness about COVID-19. Entrants were primary and junior high school-age children who lived in communities connected to our partner church GKPB and community development projects run by MBM.

61 children enthusiastically entered the competition and came up with some great creations!

Kadek, a junior high school student won first place in the competition. The theme of his cartoon is keeping a safe distance and using a mask to prevent transmission of the virus.

Kadek with his cartoon

Kadek lives in a village in the Bangli region and he and his family are assisted by an MBM community development project. He said he was inspired to enter the competition after sitting in on one of MBM’s education sessions on COVID-19 that his parents attended.

His cartoon is now being published by MBM and GKPB as part of educational resources to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

MBM Project Coordinator Irene Arnawa said the project encouraged children to think about health and safety, as well as creative ways to spread the message to others.

“We hope that by doing these kinds of activities, children will be able to realise the importance of following health advice to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19,” said Ms Arnawa.

Great work Kadek and all the other entrants!

Some of the finalists – so many great entries

MBM’s COVID-19 crisis response in Bali:

  • 1,838 families provided with educational brochures about COVID-19 prevention.
  • 320 families assisted by existing projects have received a COVID-19 health package (containing masks, soap and vitamins) to reduce their vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.
  • 5,929 people given food assistance.
  • 61 children in target communities have been sent videos about how to wash their hands properly.
  • Six villages have been aided with marketing their products to enable to them to continue to receive an income without needing to travel to city markets.
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants prepared to help improve long-term food security and nutrition for people who have lost work or must isolate themselves.
  • 12 women trained to make fabric masks; 3,110 were then bought by MBM to distribute.
  • 21 village leaders helped with technical assistance on how to realign their village budget to support families impacted by COVID-19. They are using a website to access health information and have created an independent isolation room for the arrival of migrant workers needing to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Ten church leaders in Bali trained in safeguarding so they can become COVID-19 volunteers in their communities.
  • 20 health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital have received food and accommodation from MBM’s quarantine facility to enable to them to isolate from their families and community while working.

Our partners will continue to serve their communities throughout this crisis and beyond. Donate now to support their critical work: www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow


UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. Our partner in Bali is the Christian Protestant Church in Bali (GKPB) and their development agency Maha Bhoga Marga (MBM). Click here to support their work.

The Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has begun a series of roundtable public hearings to inform the inquiry into strengthening Australia’s relationships with the Pacific Islands.

The Sub-Committee was asked to inquire into how Australia could meet current and emerging opportunities and challenges facing the Pacific island region.

The initial roundtable on June 18 heard witnesses from non-government and intergovernmental organisations working with partners in the Pacific region. UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe was invited as a witness to present to the Sub-Committee and answer questions.

Dr Goringe’s initial comments to the roundtable are below, and the full transcript can be found here (which also contains responses to follow-up questions from Committee members).


We are the aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church and, through our relationships with the churches in the Pacific, we have a history that goes for over a hundred years of connecting and collaborating with Pacific island churches and church communities. That’s historically been in collaborations in social services like health, education and WASH, and in more recent times the collaborations have also included support for building up governance and leadership capacity, supporting Pacific churches to do sustainable community development in the Pacific communities, and working on gender equality, in particular around women’s equality and the safeguarding of children. Our perspective is one of both an aid organisation and a church relational organisation which has very deep connections throughout the Pacific.

Our primary recommendation to this inquiry was that our relationships with the Pacific really need to engage with churches in the Pacific, churches being probably the strongest and most influential civil society organisations in the Pacific. Engaging with them has a whole range of reasons around it, which include the fact that they are deeply embedded in community and are very influential in the public. You can build on a very long relationship between Australian churches and Pacific churches, a history of collaboration and mutual respect. Also, the Pacific diaspora in Australia is very active within Australian churches. To channel that and to leverage those connections between the Australian Pacific diaspora and Pacific communities, working through churches, would be very useful. And, finally, churches, as established local community institutions within Pacific countries, have leadership structures at sub-national, national and also regional levels that give us hooks for the Pacific step-up program to connect with and meet people. I think it’s a channel into deep community grassroots as well as highly connected and influential aspects.

Our second recommendation is the Pacific step-up and the building up of relationships in the Pacific really need to be centred on the aspirations of Pacific Island people, and I think that kind of manifests in a couple of different ways in our experience. For us, the biggest thing is that it requires Australia to deal with the issue of climate change with integrity. Before the pandemic wiped everything else off people’s agendas, climate change was the No. 1 issue to worry about. Climate change remains, still, the biggest existential threat to life in the Pacific. And if we don’t engage with Pacific people with a willingness to grapple with that, we have the risk of undermining everything else that we try to do with the step-up initiative.

The second thing that comes out of that—that is, if we focus our desire to build relationships with the Pacific on the needs of the Pacific people—is there is, in our experience of engaging very widely across many countries, a desire for models of development that are not just a mimic of the Western model of development that Australia may have pursued in terms of industrialisation and trade. There is obviously desire for an improvement in quality of living and access to services, but there is also a very strong desire for tapping into Indigenous knowledge, being conscious of social and cultural values in development. In particular, for the past 12 months we have been engaging with a movement called Reweaving the Ecological Map, which is a collaboration between universities and churches in the Pacific. It is actually trying to put together a framework for development, from a Pacific perspective, that brings together the value of the natural environment, and the social, emotional health and wellbeing of people as well as the economic wellbeing of the community. We have an opportunity here. This is a moment in time where Australia could step in—not step in, but step up to partner, to nurture, to support and to accompany Pacific countries in a journey of development that is driven by their own agenda. This is a great opportunity for us to have a huge amount of integrity, rather than necessarily driving development in the Pacific based on our own understanding of what is the right solution.

Another aspect of the needs of communities and people in our relationship is just making sure that with the things we are doing to support Pacific economies, like the labour mobility programs that we’ve got—both of them—that we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by creating economic wellbeing at the expense of community. We are finding at community level that long-term absences of working-age parent cohorts cause significant harm to families, and there is a price being paid at the community level for having Pacific Islanders spending long times working in Australia. We’re not saying we should stop that; we’re just saying those schemes need to be re-evaluated to look at social impacts. As an aid organisation we’re being asked by communities to support them to address the social problems that are being caused by the absence of adults when children are growing up, so issues of dependency, abuse of alcohol and other substances, gambling, pornography and whole range of other issues when parents are absent from communities for lengths of time.

And the last aspect of what we’re really recommending to this committee is the whole-of-government aspect and how Australia’s efforts to approach the Pacific through the step-up is perceived in many places as being fairly self-serving. We’re hearing back this idea that Australia was treating the Pacific like a pawn in a game of a regional stand-off with China. I think we need to make sure that other policies and how we work holistically, particularly in trade agreements around our aid program, and in particular how we as a country address climate change with our internal policies, is going to play a significant role in whether our approach to the Pacific is seen to be genuine and have the interests of both parties. The Pacific’s relationship with Australia is very strong. One of the most profound experiences for us in the last months is realising that when, during the summer of the bushfires, when Australia was going through a pretty tough time, all of our Pacific partners raised money for the Australian churches’ emergency effort. This contribution and this mutuality is a very strong base from which to build.

I’ll wrap up by saying that we have very strong relationships between Australia and the Pacific, particularly through the churches and through a huge amount of collaborative work that has been done in social and sustainable community development. But that approach will have to be built on assertiveness in the Pacific and a willingness to grapple with climate change and our ability to make sure that things that we do in one place don’t backfire in other places. That’s what’d we’d like to say, and we’re very happy to take questions later.

The Committee is accepting submissions for the inquiry until Tuesday, 30 June 2020 and is keen to hear views from within Pacific island countries, individuals who have participated in labour mobility schemes and those who have settled permanently in Australia, amongst others.

In February 2020, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne requested the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee to inquire into strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region.

UnitingWorld made a submission in April and was published on the Committee’s website here.

We made the following recommendations:

1. Engage with and through Christian churches in Pacific countries

  • Christianity is the dominant paradigm in the Pacific, it is the language of life and culture.
  • Churches are the most influential non-government community network in the Pacific.
  • Existing church-led Australian engagement can be leveraged for growth and impact.
  • Pacific diaspora embedded in Australian churches can be leveraged.

2. Engage with Pacific Regional Christian organisations

Regional multi-church organisations such as the Pacific Conference of Churches, and similar bodies at national level, are places that draw together influential leadership from across the Pacific communities and provide a valuable space for high return on relational investment.

3. Deal with the issue of climate change with integrity

This is the biggest existential issue in the Pacific, driving both rapid-onset disasters and slow-onset destruction of livelihoods. Acknowledge that this is not just an ‘aid’ issue but one that requires regional and global collaboration on a range of fronts.

4. Create space for alternative models of development

Recognise that development and social flourishing for the Pacific people must be self-determined with due weight given to indigenous wisdom, culture and context. GDP and economic growth may not be the desired indicators.

5. Address the Pacific societal impacts of the labour mobility scheme

The current high rates of working age adults spending extended periods away from their partners and children is causing significant social dysfunction in Pacific communities. Increased remittance income is being offset by marriage breakdown, juvenile delinquency and addiction issues.

6. Align Australia’s emission control policies to signal a clear commitment to climate change mitigation

Australia’s credibility in the Pacific is significantly contingent on a consistent policy approach to climate change. Offering aid-based solutions to the Pacific while signalling a lack of commitment to curbing fossil fuel emissions locally is counter-productive.

Click here to download the full submission.

Due to COVID-19 and its impact on countries in the Pacific, the date for submissions been extended to 30 June.

A reflection by Brooklyn Distephano, 17-year-old Ambonese student and UnitingWorld Peace Workshop participant.


In 1999 Ambon suddenly became a war zone. A conflict between religions caused over five thousand people to lose their lives and half a million to lose their homes. Many children and teenagers became child soldiers and risked their lives for something that destroyed them. The conflict ended in 2002 after the signing of the Malino Agreement.

Right now, Ambon is more peaceful, and tolerance between religions is becoming so good here. There are a few lessons about peace from Ambon for the world.

The first is the past conflict. It made the people of Ambon know that conflict will only bring chaos, death, and that nobody can win. They wanted to change for the future.

The second is the people in Ambon. The people who suffered because of conflict of course didn’t want the next generation to have the same suffering as them, so they teach their kids about peace and love. In fact the conflict ended not only because of the signing of Malino Agreement but also because the people who were tired of living with conflict and fear made a movement to end the conflict.

The third is this movement joining with world organizations like UnitingWorld to make workshops about peace for kids, teenagers and all people. The workshops are really important for the people of Ambon because they can end the trauma that some people still have and give learning for the new generation.

I take part in the workshops and I am very thankful. It’s not just important for the people in Ambon, but to all the people in the world who can see how Ambon turned from being a warzone to a city of music. Even from the dark past and conflict, Ambon is finding its way back to the light and hopefully to the brighter future. When we all learn from this, the world can have peace.

Now it is just up to us – each living human being. Are we going to turn this world to a warzone or to a better place? This is every person’s choice. So what’s your decision?

Brooklyn Distephano

Lent Event 2020

A huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting Brooklyn, other young leaders, women’s groups and small business start-ups through gifts to this year’s Lent Event. There’s still time to learn more about the projects, watch our video series and donate at www.lentevent.com

(Editorial from our Update Newsletter🙂

It’s 260 AD and across the Roman Empire, as many as one in four people are dying from plague. Bodies are left to rot in the streets and civic life grinds to a halt as people abandon the sick and flee from the cities.

One group is remarkably, consistently different.

In an Easter pastoral letter to his flock at the height of the carnage, Dionysius the Bishop of Alexandria notes: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ…”

Over the next sixteen centuries, through plagues that wiped out 60% of Europe’s population, historians credit the caring actions of Christians with not only saving countless lives, but with prompting the exponential growth of their faith.

Today, our leaders have called us to dig deep into the roots of this practical, other-centred faith. We were made for times like these.

“The whole premise of the Judeo-Christian faith is that we’re blessed to be a blessing to others, to be a gift, to make a contribution, to grow and co-create. At times like this the siren call to just hunker down and look after ourselves is seductive, but it fundamentally contradicts everything we understand about ourselves as people of God.” –Rev David Baker, Moderator of the Queensland Synod.

“During these testing COVID-19 days we keep hearing “we are all in this together”. We tend to interpret that as we must look after our family, neighbours and friends. As people who follow the way of Christ our orientation needs to be much broader.” –Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Western Australia Synod.

“Please join me, in supporting the work of our partner churches through UnitingWorld’s COVID-19 Appeal. Now, more than ever, we all need to support one another, so that we can come through this crisis into a world where the basics of life: clean air, water, food, shelter, healthcare, love and community are part of all our lives. Let’s join with our global partners in embodying God’s vision for the flourishing of all people and the whole creation.” –Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Click here to read our latest Update Newsletter.

Click here to download the PDF version.


COVID-19 update 

While many project activities have been put on hold due to lockdowns, we are redirecting people and money to meet immediate COVID-19 related needs. Our partners are continuing to serve their communities in innovative ways and working hard to retain the development gains you’ve helped make happen.

Thank you so much to all our regular givers and all of you who’ve helped resource our partners to respond to this crisis. Your donations are being put to use protecting lives, preventing hunger and building the long-term resilience of communities in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

Thank you for supporting this critical work.

Join the power of people uniting against COVID-19

As a valued partner of the Australian Government, we can access funding each year to implement our poverty alleviation programs. Every donation you make to our tax-time appeal will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to reach more people. We have committed to contribute at least $1 for every $5 we can access in government funding, which means right now your gift can go up to six times as far!

Donate now at www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow or call 1800 998 122

As South Sudan emerges from seven years of brutal civil war, COVID-19 is creating new threats to peace. Our partners have asked us to pray in solidarity and keep holding onto hope.

Earlier this year, the struggle for peace in South Sudan took a significant step forward. In February, President Salva Kiir Mayardit swore in Dr Riek Machar as Vice President and both declared the end to their rivalry; a power struggle that resulted in a seven-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.

After many failed starts at peace and a great deal of international pressure, the agreement of leaders to form a ‘Transitional Government of National Unity’ was a cause for celebration.

Power vacuums causing new waves of violence

Unfortunately, the new government has failed to appoint state governors to provide much-needed local leadership and this has already resulted in renewed violence. An estimated 800 people have been killed in intercommunal clashes since February.

Just last month, hundreds of people were killed in outbreaks of  violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei state. Hundreds of women and children have also been abducted and are still in captivity.

PCOSS Vice General Secretary Rev Orozu Daky shared these words with us recently:

“My heart is bleeding with what is happening between Lou Nuer and Murle…I know for sure through prayers of many believers around the world, there will be peace between them. However, God has time frame to that to happen. We need peace among the two sister tribes.

Pray together without ceasing. Amen”

South Sudanese faith communities in Australia have also called on the Church for prayer and solidarity. Responding to the recent violence, Pastor Moses Leth of the South Sudanese Nuer Faith Community in Queensland wrote to members of the Uniting Church in Australia:

At this point, we do not know what else to ask of you besides your will to plea to God with us. As always, we seek for your prayer and solidarity. 

Click here to read Pastor Moses’ full letter.

New stressors on cycles of violence in South Sudan

As well as the of lack of political leadership at the state level, ongoing food insecurity and COVID-19 are also fueling intercommunal violence.

In South Sudan, 6.5 million people, or 55% of the population, are expected to face severe food insecurity between May and July 2020, owing to the dire economic situation and events like last year’s floods and locust invasions that destroyed crops, killed livestock and contaminated water supplies of whole communities.

While food insecurity increases the risk of violence over land and resources, violence in turn works in a vicious cycle to increase food insecurity. Conflict prevents people from moving in search of food, it restricts humanitarian access to deliver emergency food and supplies and disrupts trade routes and access to markets.

COVID-19 is also expected to put further pressure on the cycle of violence. Social distancing requirements have meant peacebuilding and mediation efforts have stalled and people’s ability to go to work and buy food have been severely restricted.  In addition, a sharp fall in government oil revenues has meant  funds for peace processes have been cut.

What can be done? Is there any hope?

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has been committed to working for peace in South Sudan since the 1970s. This has included running peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops for South Sudanese people of various tribes living in refugee camps in bordering countries, training church leaders in peacebuilding skills that can be shared with the wider community, as well as collaborating in ecumenical peace efforts as part of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC).

Now, PCOSS is working as part of the SSCC to mediate between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities to seek a peaceful resolution. At a time when there is an absence of local leadership and UN peacebuilding missions and NGOs are facing difficulties in implementing peace programs, the work of the Church is especially vital for reconciliation and peace.

PCOSS Moderator Rt Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow said:

“The church cannot sit back and watch while the nation is bleeding.  Now am asking your prayers in this process of mediation we started trying to bring together the two communities to the table to talk about possible reconciliation.”

“The church, no matter how fragile is the leadership of this country, will try her level best to say “STOP” fighting and let people resolve this recycling revenge amicably through peaceful negotiations…Let’s hope for success, keep going on in our thoughts and prayers.”

PCOSS Moderator Rt Rev Peter Gai

During COVID-19, PCOSS is providing vulnerable communities with awareness about COVID-19, food and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) items and delivering psychosocial support. They are also continuing their critical peacebuilding activities.  You can help. Click here to support our partners to respond to COVID-19 and save lives in South Sudan.

Please join us in prayer:

  • For PCOSS and SSCC, and that their peace mediation efforts are successful
  • For lasting peace between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities and others across South Sudan
  • For the safe return of abducted women and children
  • For the recovery and healing of people physically injured or experiencing trauma; and
  • For our partners PCOSS as they respond to COVID-19.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports our partners the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) to train ministers and lay leaders and equip them with the tools they will need to teach reconciliation and peacebuilding skills in families and between tribal groups throughout South Sudan. Read more 

My name is Anna and I am 58 years old.  I live in Gokwe South. I’m a proud member of a group started by the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe Relief and Development (MeDRA) in 2017.

Our group is called kunzwa nekuita which means ‘hearing and doing’. As well as education about health and hygiene, we began an internal lending and savings project to help boost our household income. We started our poultry breeding project with 50 chickens and sell an average of 6 chickens to neighbours at an average monthly income of 800ZLW (A$3.17)

We inject this money back into our group so we can expand our activities. We encourage our communities to maintain clean homes free from litter and practise personal hygiene by washing with soap and water. We’ve also taught our community to erect tippy taps at their homes, dig rubbish tips and use blair toilets.

Recently MeDRA staff visited us to provide COVID-19 awareness to our group and gave us education and communication materials for an in-depth knowledge of the disease. We weren’t sure about the hand washing, social distancing, symptoms of COVID-19 or the referral path for a person suspected of a COVID-19 infection, but we now have flyers and posters so we can prevent the spread of the disease.

As a group we really feel there is a need to reach out to men as they have challenges in practicing measures given by our government on COVID-19 prevention. Many men also believe hygiene is only a women’s issue and do not take awareness campaigns seriously.

I would like to thank MeDRA for supporting us with this education so we can spread the word and keep our community safe from COVID-19. I also feel there is a great need for sanitisers, masks and more training to prevent the myths about the disease from spreading.

If we remain united and practice the regulations, we are very hopeful we can fight COVID-19 in our community.

UnitingWorld’s partner, the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe Relief and Development Agency (MEDRA) is working to raise awareness and stop the spread of COVID-19. While many regular activities are currently on hold due to lockdowns, the team have re-focussed all their energy toward providing vulnerable communities with education and awareness on COVID-19, as well as supplying food and sanitation items like soap and hand washing stations.

You can help by donating today to our COVID-19 appeal. Please give to help save lives and protect livelihoods.

*As a valued partner of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, we are eligible for funding that means tax-time donations can go up to six times as far in the field saving lives. We’ve committed to raise $1 for every $5 for which we’re eligible, and that’s where your donation has its power.

Every dollar will be used for immediate COVID-19 responses providing food and sanitation packs, health information and hand washing facilities, as well as fighting to keep poverty at bay long term through sustainable development projects.

Please give at www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow or call us on 1800 998122

UnitingWorld is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).