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Author: UnitingWorld

Thank you so much to all those who signed the pledge to urge the Australian Government to provide vital support to nations hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

You were among more than 25,000 Australians whose signatures were passed on to government to let them know we care about our neighbours. In the 2020-21 Budget announced in early October, the government committed $304.7 million of additional money for the Pacific and Timor-Leste to help them recover from COVID-19. This is critical assistance for nations whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic and a real win for the campaign you’ve been a part of. Thank you!

Your support and action has helped make announcements like these possible:

Micah Australia has released a video to say thank you and highlight the achievements of the campaign. Click the post below to share the good news!

“Together, we are showing what it’s like to be a generous nation and to step up,” said Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia.

“Together we are going to End COVID for ALL”

It’s critical that we keep speaking up for aid and collaborating for a more just world in these challenging times.

Thank you for standing with us.

The End Covid for All campaign is an initiative of Micah Australiaa coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty. Click here to visit the campaign homepage.

Our partners, the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG), have been running a successful behaviour change campaign for many years, teaching thousands of people about the importance of clean water and good hygiene. When the pandemic hit Papua New Guinea, they were ready to expand this work to include COVID-19 awareness and prevention, and they’ve been out in force educating communities about the threats of COVID-19 and the importance of regular hand washing.

With the permission of the PNG Government, over the past six months the UCPNG team (along with volunteer change agents) have:

  • educated 14,500 people on best practice water hygiene and sanitation
  • distributed 687 pamphlets, 2505 posters, six banners and 3840 bars of soap
  • worked with 11 congregations, 14 communities and six schools along the East Cape Coast

A team of three theologians also shared COVID-19 safety messages to help people understand this and other disasters from a theological perspective. One of them was Kerron, a recent Master of Theology graduate of Raronga Theological College. “Every home now is implementing the tippy tap approach to wash hands in the villages we visited, church seats are marked a metre apart and masks are sewn by women to help with schools and public,” said Kerron.

Thank you for supporting the work of our partners UCPNG and helping them make a huge impact in their communities!

 

The United Church in PNG Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

 

 

 

 

 

Header image: A Volunteer with UCPNG’s ‘Rait Mama’ behaviour change campaign.

Australia’s recent experience of lockdowns, home schooling and economic downturn have been tough. How do these things play out in places where cases of COVID-19 continue to grow? We talked to one of our partners, Om Prakash (OP) in Amritsar, India, to find out.

UW: What’s the situation in India at the moment OP? We’ve been hearing that maybe the cases have peaked?

OP: Yes, we feel a little hopeful. We had up to 90,000 cases a day a few weeks ago but numbers have dropped in the last two weeks. The rate of testing is still not high enough though and we are very worried about winter coming.

UW: What’s happening with the lockdown? How much has opened back up?

OP: Pretty much all parts of society are open again except for colleges and schools. This is a big danger period for us with shops and malls operating again, but still many people don’t wear the masks, and it’s hard to enforce. But there has been such an economic impact, we can’t afford the lockdown. Many, many people have no work, no income, no food.

UW: What government services are available to help people survive and recover?

OP: Workers and other vulnerable people registered with the government have been allowed a small pension during the pandemic. Two payments of 3000 rupees ($A57.00) have come through. But the problem is that most people are not registered. There is very low awareness in the community of the social services that are available, and people don’t know how to go about getting registered.

UW: That’s a huge challenge! How has your team responded?

OP: Even before the pandemic, we were running education workshops with communities to help people get registered for support. We still do that but we have to be smart and careful about social distancing. We do more door-to-door than in groups, and we use posters and social media. Our main practical impact right now is in education. School is online, but most families don’t have a smart phone to use for their children – there might be only one in each family. Our study centres are allowed to open even though schools can’t and so our staff are helping children who wouldn’t otherwise have access online to keep up with their schooling. Government teachers are in contact with our staff to provide resources; we’re even helping students sit their exams this way. Without these centres, so many children would have lost almost a year of their education, maybe even more.

UW: It’s an incredible role to play – and the church has also been providing income generating opportunities for parents?

OP: Yes, we started with sewing masks and women were gaining skills and some cash to buy food. We have a huge order about to go out to a Motorcycle Rally we have planned for the city to raise awareness about COVID-19 safety protocols. But we have also been helping women make and sell paper bags – plastic bags were due to be made illegal last year right across India because of the environmental impact, but that didn’t end up happening. We’re still committed to providing an alternative and an income opportunity at the same time.

UW: OP, your team’s commitment and innovation is really inspiring! We’re praying for you all.

OP: Please pass on my love and thanks to UnitingWorld and to the people of the Uniting Church in Australia. We are very grateful for your prayers and your investment in our work.

 

Sending our Christmas cards to your friends, family and loved ones is a great way to fight poverty, build hope and inspire others about the work of our overseas partners. The sale of our Christmas cards represent a donation to support our work helping people lift themselves out of poverty in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Order while stocks last!

Just $12 for a pack of eight

✅ Christmas greetings to your loved ones

✅ Send joy to the world

Fight poverty!

Click here to order online

or call 1800 998 122 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri)

Christmas card sales represent a donation to UnitingWorld and are tax deductible in Australia.

 

New Everything in Common Catalogue 2020 

Every Christmas, we release a catalogue of gifts that represent many of our projects with overseas partners. It’s called Everything in Common.

In it you can find great poverty-fighting gifts like goats, pigs, clean water, education and livelihood opportunities, as well as gifts that support gender equality and care for creation. Check out our new gifts and shop online!

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and this year it’s especially important.

Global progress on ending poverty is one of the greatest human achievements of our time.

Since 1999, nearly a billion people have escaped extreme poverty. At the beginning of 2020, the global poverty rate was lower than it has ever been in recorded history.

That progress is now under threat.

The pace of change has been slowing in recent years and now the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing those decades of progress.

More than 700 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, still live in extreme poverty today and the World Bank recently estimated up to 150 million more people could be added by 2021.

“COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis that is far from over,” said UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe.

“The pandemic is pushing more people into poverty and vulnerability every day. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a reminder that we all have a role to play.”

The theme for 2020 is ‘Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all, and it aims to highlight the dimensions of poverty beyond income deprivation, including the rapidly growing impact of the environment. A more holistic approach is needed (like what our Pacific partners are creating for their context).

“No one should be deprived of what they need to live with dignity and each of us can choose to work together to create a fairer, more sustainable world for all,” said Dr Goringe.

Some ways to take action:

 

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been marked on 17 October since 1992. Learn more.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and UnitingWorld have joined Christian organisations around the world to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people and call attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines.

The VIC/TAS Synod is running a letter-writing campaign and has released a helpful resource with background information on the situation on the Philippines, who you can write to and helpful information to include in your letters.

Click here to read more and write a letter.

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer is encouraging UCA members to join the campaign, and has also written to the Philippines Ambassador in Australia and to Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne about the issue.


Context

Following a global virtual meeting convened by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and International Ecumenical Convocation for the Defense of Human Rights, a ‘Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines’ was drafted.

The statement highlights serious ongoing human rights violations that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A militarized response to the COVID-19 pandemic … has unravelled lingering social inequalities and has further deepened economic misery in the country,” reads the statement.

“The proliferation of extrajudicial killings, including the killing of thousands of people under a so-called ‘war on drugs’, is reprehensible. We are concerned that a general climate of impunity has been synergized with the Philippine president’s unabashed incitement to violence and regular calls for state forces to punish legitimate dissent by the citizenry.”

The statement is also a call for international solidarity and a commitment to action.

“Continuing violations of human rights under the COVID-19 pandemic … accentuate the urgent need for intensified accompaniment and solidarity from Church formations and people of goodwill within and outside the Philippines,” the statement reads.

“In continuation of our historic commitment as faith-based bodies within the wider ecumenical community worldwide to peace, justice and the integrity of creation, we hereby join to keep watch and bear witness to the hopes and struggles of the Filipino people.”

“We call for an end to these killings. We stand with the Filipino citizenry in denouncing state impunity and the wanton display of violence and brutality by state forces.”

Read full statement.

Our partner, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), is among the many civil society organisations routinely targeted for their human rights and social justice work.

In July this year UCCP’s Rev. Dan San Andres Sr, known as a human rights defender, was arrested a week after the passing of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act.

UCCP mission workers in Davao who have provided sanctuary to displaced indigenous peoples since 1994 had their building raided and closed earlier this year. They are now facing a series of outrageous charges instigated by the government anti-insurgency agency, the National Task Force to End Localized Communist Armed Conflict.

In August last year, 51-yr-old UCCP Pastor Ernesto Javier Estrella was gunned down by men on motorcycles in Antipas, Cotabato Province without an apparent motive. Investigations focused on whether he was assassinated for alleged ties with “left-leaning groups.”

Please pray for and end to the violence and persecution, our church partners and all those working for peace and justice in the Philippines.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46)

Flooding ravages South Sudan

For the past week, families in Jonglei state, South Sudan, have watched the waters around their homes rise and rise. They’re the product of early rains that fell even before the previous flood waters receded, and once again the deluge has stolen homes and crops. An extra 700,000 people – already vulnerable to hunger – have been impacted.

Many of you have been keeping up to date with our recent campaign, and you’ll know that floods are only the most recent complication in a disastrous year. Earlier, a locust plague wiped out millions of sorghum and cereal crops; COVID-19 lockdowns closed borders and choked food, water and fuel supplies; conflict between tribal groups robbed thousands of their loved ones, homes or livelihoods. Officially reported COVID-19 cases remain low, a miracle in a country where almost six million people live in refugee camps either inside or just beyond the borders with Ethiopia and Egypt.

 

Still standing strong

In the midst of suffering, the courage and faith of South Sudan’s mostly Christian population stands firm.

“We will not fear,” our partners from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan say. “God is with us.”

Rev Peter Gai, the Moderator of the Church, tells us that he clings to the words of the Apostle Paul, who learnt the secret of being content no matter what his circumstances.

“In times when Paul had nothing, he was happy. When he had enough, he was happy,” Peter says. “Being content is the secret to being able to serve others.”

It’s a humbling perspective from someone who lives with the critical challenges of everyday life in South Sudan.

What now?

Always looking outward, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan are pressing on with their plans for peace and stability – plans you helped make possible through your compassionate, generous response to our South Sudan appeal last month.

  • Two more peace workshops are being organised for the coming six months, in places the leadership has assessed as being of great need and able to be accessed safely.
  • The upcoming National Assembly will be an opportunity to bring together church leaders from throughout the country to pray, elect new leaders, implement new policies on child protection and learn peacebuilding skills. A third of Presbyterian Church members live in refugee camps outside the city, making the gathering in Juba particularly challenging and vital.
  • Your funds continue to be used to help provide critical health information, food and water to people at risk of hunger.
  • Always with their eyes on the horizon, the leaders of the Church are training young ministers through Nile Theological College, which UnitingWorld supports with a small grant to help provide theological resources. The students are learning peace studies alongside their theological curriculum, and there’s an emphasis on engaging women like Rev Paska, who has served the church for many years in practical ways, supporting other women to engage in income generation and providing trauma counselling.

“The one thing we can all do is pray,” Rev Paska says passionately. “We need you to pray for us, brothers and sisters in Australia.”

Your gifts have helped us raise $103,908 so far for the work of the Church in South Sudan and beyond. THANK YOU SO MUCH! To find out more, including an updated list of prayer requests, click here.

Don and Sylvia Wright, from Hervey Bay in Queensland, have been running Everything in Common gift stalls for UnitingWorld at Christmas for a few years now.

It’s a simple concept: buy a card for a loved one that represents a ‘gift’ to help someone overcome poverty: a goat, clean water, school books…

The Wrights send gift cards every year to their children who live overseas, and they love having the chance to put into practice the call to love their global neighbours through practical help and generosity. But they also get a kick out of learning from others.

“Everything in Common focuses on the needs of our partners in non-Western cultures, and we’ve learnt so much from hearing about them and how they’re meeting the challenges facing their communities,” the Wrights say.

“But we also love the chance to chat with others in our congregation and hear about their experiences travelling or supporting communities outside of Australia. We’ve developed some really strong friendships through running the stalls!”

UnitingWorld supplies everything you need to run an Everything in Common gift stall, like cards and promotional posters. It’s easy and the funds you’ll raise have a big impact. Over the last five years, people like the Wrights have helped us inject more than $2 million into projects that provide clean water, education, small business start-ups and much more.

“Consider getting involved in running a stall as you’re able, or plan to help promote the gifts in other ways if congregations are still unable to meet,” say the Wrights. “You can be part of talking with others about the needs of the wider world and experience just how effective accountable giving can be.”

Click here to register a stall as an Everything in Common Coordinator

Alternatively, you can call  us on 1800 998 122 or email info@unitingworld.org.au to get your gift stall up and running from October through to Christmas.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

UnitingWorld has relocated our office just a short walk down the street to Pilgrim House, next to Pitt Street Uniting Church. We’re loving the new environment, even though most of us still aren’t back full time in the office due to COVID-19 restrictions.

We made the move to cut overheads and we’re sharing the space with the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia. We’ll still get all your mail and calls, and when things are back to normal and you’re in Sydney sometime, do drop by to say hi at Level 3, 262 Pitt Street, Sydney.

The mural on the side of Pilgrim house (by artists Monk, Humphries and Taylor, 1984) was commissioned by Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon and Pitt St Uniting Church on the theme ‘Peace Justice and Unity.’

With international borders still closed, and far fewer tourists visiting places like Bali, we spoke to our partners in Indonesia to find out what life is like in the grip of the pandemic.

“People here are more worried about having no food and no jobs than about the pandemic,” says our Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator, Dr Debora Murthy.

“While that’s understandable, cases in Indonesia are still growing – there are more than 3,000 cases in Bali alone, with almost 100,000 across Indonesia. The threat is very real and we’re doing everything we can to share information about stopping the spread, especially among people who rely on traditional markets, where community transmission is highest.”

Our partners the Protestant Christian Church in Bali and their development agency MBM have been working hard to respond to food insecurity as well as safeguard against disease.

Here is what your gifts have been achieving in their capable hands:

  • Food assistance for 8,062 vulnerable women, children and especially those living with HIV/AIDS
  • COVID-19 prevention education for 2,237 families via brochures and social media
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants helped 31 communities supplement their dwindling food supplies
  • Packages of masks, soap and vitamins to protect against disease for 806 families
  • Hand washing videos sent directly to
  • 61 children in targeted communities
  • Quarantine support and care for 20 health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital
  • Sewing training for 12 women to make fabric masks; 3,890 purchased by MBM
  • to distribute
  • Training for ten Bali church leaders so they can become COVID-19 volunteers in their communities
  • Marketing support for six villages so they don’t have to physically travel to produce an income.

THANK YOU

to everyone who has helped men, women and children stay safe and avoid hunger in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and across the Pacific.  You’re amazing!