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Author: UnitingWorld

Dear Partners and Friends,

Please find attached the Joint Easter Prayer which has come with best wishes from the Korea Christian Federation of the North and the National Council of Churches in Korea of the South of this beautiful but suffering Peninsula. We ask for your prayers to rise with ours.  Please share with your networks and use for worship.

Many blessings as you celebrate resurrection.

Rev. Dr. Kim Young Ju, General Secretary, NCCK and Rev. Shin Seung Min, director of department of Reconciliation and Unification

Oh God,

Thank you for letting us know, as we hear the trickling waters beneath the melting ice, that spring is not far away.

Thank you for showing us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that a new road lies beyond the one that ends.

Our people had shared joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, but for the last 70 years we have lived separated as North and South embracing our wounds and pains.

We have not ended division and conflict only to find out ourselves that such 70 years were not enough. How can it be that 70 years were not enough to end division and conflict?  And in fact a higher wall is rising in front of us. Amidst the vicious cycle of division, distrust, dispute and arms race, our land and sea has become a military experimentation field of weapons, not knowing when war will break out. The bridge that once yearned for peace and unification has crumbled and the bird that once flew over that bridge, wet with rain, is no longer able to fly.

God,

Have we stimulated misunderstanding and enmity even while speaking of reconciliation?

Have we aggravated conflict and confrontation even while speaking of ending the division?

Have we incited misunderstanding and distrust even while speaking of faith?

Have we been blind to our own self-interest even while speaking of co-existence?

Have we chosen the road that threatens our life even while speaking of our people’s survival and security?

God of grace,

Please let us see ourselves rightly, we who have gone against the path of life and taken part in destruction instead of peace. Have mercy on us and forgive us when we repent our foolishness and change our paths with tears in our eyes. When we fail to realize our wrongs and continue to drive community to the cliff, please stop our steps and with your whip of love lash our obstinacy and ignorance.

God,

We yearn that compatriots of the North and South unlock the latch of separation and mightly soar on two wings.

For this hope to be fulfilled, the churches in the North and South will

build a bridge of forgiveness and reconciliation where there is hate and division,

let rivers of dialogue flow where there is distrust and confrontation,

plant trees and create forests where there is violence and destruction.

God of resurrection,

let the churches of the North and South hunger and thirst for righteousness,

Lead us to cultivate such desires and will into courage and wisdom and become communions of faith that make peace.

In this cold and bleak season, let our people and our neighboring countries meet the tidings of spring and lights of life that break free from the icy ground.

In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Click below to read this prayer in Korean.

In Korean

National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)    Korean Christian Federation (KCF)

Both the NCCK of the South and the KCF of the North worked together to prepare this Joint Easter Community Prayer.

Over the past two years, UnitingWorld has worked with our partner churches, Indonesia Christian Church (GKI) and Evangelical Church in the Land of Papua (GKI-TP) to form a three-way partnership. The partnership is designed to improve the quality of Christian education in two provinces of Papua and West Papua.

The Indonesian government has introduced a regulation that requires all teachers to have a university degree by 2020. However in Papua, this task is extremely difficult to achieve as 80% of teachers currently do not have a degree. Unless they gain the qualification, they could be replaced by teachers from other parts of Indonesia. Time is running short, and the need is extensive. For GKI-TP, this is a ministry to preserve their indigenous identity and UnitingWorld will support them.

The project uses internet and satellite communication to deliver in-service training in three locations: the capital city of Papua, Jayapura; the highland city Wamena; and the island of Biak. The purpose is to improve academic qualification of school leaders and teachers. It also aims to strengthen the leadership capacity of the Papuan church to manage community development programs. A joint Coordinating Committee of three churches will work together on the principle of equality to share the oversight of design and implementation of the program.

We invite the friends of Papua in the life of Uniting Church to pray for the Papua education project. We’d love for you to support this great program.

Thousands of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims gathered in New Dehli yesterday to demand the same rights as Dalit Hindus. See attached for a press release from our Partner, the Church of North India and look out for the photo of Bishop ‘Bunu’ Samanataroy – a great friend and partner of UnitingWorld’s!

Silent Rally to demand justice for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims PDF March 11 2016

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to stand alongside those who are working for justice around the world and particularly to help give a voice to those who struggle to be heard.  We’re the modern day prophets:  defending those who are weak, speaking the truth to those who are powerful.  It’s not an easy job.

This week, we hope you’ll enjoy hearing about the work our partners are doing in their own communities to speak up for justice and peace in places where it’s desperately needed.  Throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific, these communities are passionate, well equipped and vocal about their own needs and how they can bring about solutions to their own problems.

In Fiji, for example, the Methodist Church is deeply committed to finding solutions to the problem of changing climate, which has a major impact on the poorest among them but impacts most of their islands in various ways.  45 communities already need to be relocated because of high tides that are reclaiming homes, schools and graveyards.  The Church is holding four days a year where local congregations reduce their use of energy – using public transport – get involved in clean ups, plant trees and speak up about the need to care for creation.  It’s a humbling display given that Fiji’s environmental footprint is so small in contrast to Australia’s.

Pacific nations have also been vocal at the Paris Convention calling upon leaders to commit to targets that will impact most upon the most vulnerable nations of the world.  These leaders understand the nature of changing climate and are not silent in the face of the future.  They need our support to convince western nations to take responsibility for the burdens they place on those who have not caused, and have the least resources to deal with, the impact of changing climate.

You can find out how to SPEAK UP for responsible environmental policies  by checking out the work of our partner here in Australia, Micah Challenge.

Another organisation doing great work among our partners is MeDRA – the Methodist Relief and Development Agency.  Read about the creative work of people who’ve been equipped to speak up for the poor in their midst through MeDRA’s training.  And find out about how YOU can advocate for more support for excellent in-country initiatives like this by speaking to our political leadership about the need for us to continue our Australia Aid program.  You can join the campaign for Australian Aid here.

UnitingWorld is committed not only to seeing you, our supporters, well equipped to providing support for people who struggle with poverty, but also to equipping our partners to find their own solutions and give voice to their own needs.  You can be part of that through our crucial leadership training programs.

Deeply troubling news from the Philippines – we stand with our partner the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in prayer and concern at this time.

“Doom to those who plot evil, who go to bed dreaming up crimes! As soon as it is morning, they’re off, full of energy, doing what they’ve planned. They covet fields and grab them, find homes and take them. They bully the neighbor and his family, see people only for what they can get out of them.” Micah 2:1-2

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) joins the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in expressing outrage over the assault on the Lumads at its Mission Center in Haran Davao City in early morning of February 24, 2016 by burning cottages housing refugees which injured five people including a two year old child. The NCCP vehemently condemns such inhumanity. It is also an utter disrespect to the sanctuary which took in those been displaced from their communities as a result of military operations in their houses, schools and communities purportedly to “protect them.” It is also a repugnant affront to the mission of the UCCP which calls for shelter to those displaced from their communities due to natural and human-induced calamities.

With these series of atrocities inflicted against the Lumads and the Church which comes to their aid, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines firmly maintains its stand against all destructive and unjust activities that exacerbate poverty and threaten life. We join the call for responsible agencies of the government to conduct an investigation on the incident and to apprehend the perpetrators responsible for this deliberate and malicious burning of the UCCP Haran properties that also injured the Lumads. We reiterate our call for the total pull-out of the military from the Lumad communities, and the disarming the paramilitary groups so that the Lumads can return to their respective homes and live peacefully.

As advocates for peace and righteousness in this broken world, the NCCP will continue to stand and speak for those who are oppressed and to journey with the struggling people in the country against the imperial powers of our time. This event and the Lenten Season reminds us of the words of Prophet Isaiah, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (58:6-7) In a world of greed and power where too many are powerless, we take a stand. It may be dangerous but we need to find the courage and vision to emulate Elijah and stand with the oppressed in the struggle for dignity and justice.

NCCP’s Statement on the Burning of UCCP Haran

http://nccphilippines.org/blog/2016/02/the-nccps-statement-on-the-burning-of-the-uccp-harans-shelter-for-the-lumad/

 

 

UnitingWorld launches Emergency Appeal to support the people of Fiji following Cyclone Winston

Our friends in Fiji are suffering widespread destruction in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston, which hit on Saturday 20th Feb. Donate Now

Update: 04 March

It has now been confirmed almost 350,000 people were affected by cyclone Winston.

120,000 people are estimated to need urgent humanitarian shelter assistance, over 54, 700 people are still sheltering in evacuation centres and in the hardest hit areas, up to 90 per cent of structures are destroyed.

The north and north western coast of Viti Levu, the south coast of Vanua Levu and some communities in the East and Central Regions have been particularly hard hit. Two villages on Koro Island have been completely destroyed. 42 people have been confirmed dead and some 135 are reported as injured. More than 62,000 displaced people (approx. 14% of the population) are currently sheltering in nearly 900 evacuation centres. Aid, including food rations, is arriving in cyclone affected communities and assessments are now underway across the country.

Methodist Church in Fiji and UnitingWorld’s Response

26 out of the 57 divisions our partner church covers have been badly affected. Complementing the Government of Fiji’s disaster response, the Methodist Church in Fiji will provide clothes, bedding and kitchen cooking/eating utensils.

In some locations it will also provide some food and water purification tablets. Cooking utensils are very important because they are needed for preparing the type of food that is distributed in emergencies and for purifying potentially contaminated water. The Church will provide relief to all community members in areas where it has congregations that are not already receiving relief from other local civil society or non-government organisations. The town of Ba is an example where the MCIF has a significant presence but the relief effort is already being looked after by other agencies. The MCIF will also ensure that vulnerable households (such as those headed by women or with disabled members) are prioritised.

Supplies of the materials our church partner intends to contribute to the relief effort are all obtainable in Suva and Nadi which were not in TC Winston’s direct path. This strategy helps to buoy the local economy, sustaining the livelihoods of local people.

Our church partner is seeking financial support from UnitingWorld to purchase all of these items. Longer term, funds raised will be used to rebuild schools – using a ‘build back better approach’’ to ensure the safety of people in the future.  Our church partner has also requested psychosocial counselling and training for a core group of pastors in the worst affected areas.

Please give your most generous gift today.

Call UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or click here to donate to our Emergency Contingency Fund.

Funds raised for this appeal will be used to provide immediate humanitarian relief for affected communities and assistance over the longer term.  Any excess funds will be held in our Emergency Contingency Fund and used to respond to future emergencies in the region. All donations are gratefully received. Donations $2 and over are tax deductible. Please click here to read our Privacy Policy.

Update: 25 February

Yesterday, our partner the Methodist Church in Fiji formed a Disaster Response Committee to lead the Church’s response to the humanitarian crisis. They report that thousands of homes have been destroyed, tens of thousands of people made destitute and are without food, shelter or clothing. Schools and buildings are reduced to rubble. The death toll has now risen to 42.

The committee, which is made up of key leaders from the church’s i-Taukei-speaking, English and Hindi-speaking divisions and includes leaders from Women’s and Youth fellowships, is assessing the impact of Tropical Cyclone Winston, developing immediate, short, medium and long-term relief responses and channelling overseas partner support to appropriate church and government relief and resilience programmes.

Immediate Assistance from the National Disaster Management Office includes distributing:

Food Rations, Water, Shelter, Sanitation, Accessibility for all affected people.

In response to gap analysis clothes, bedding, sleeping mats, cooking utensils, Kerosene Stoves and Lanterns and crops for replanting are being distributed.

Please keep our partners and the people of Fiji in your prayers. To donate to our Fiji Emergency Appeal and support the response efforts of our partners, please call UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or click here to donate to our Emergency Contingency Fund.

All funds raised through this appeal will be used to support our church partner’s relief efforts, including re-establishing schools, replanting crops and livelihoods and ‘building back better’ to safeguard communities against future cyclones.

Please give your most generous gift today.

Funds raised for this appeal will be used to provide immediate humanitarian relief for affected communities and assistance over the longer term.  Any excess funds will be held in our Emergency Contingency Fund and used to respond to future emergencies in the region. All donations are gratefully received. Donations $2 and over are tax deductible. Please click here to read our Privacy Policy.

Update: 24 February: Our church partner Rev James Bhagwan has reported this morning that the Methodist Church in Fiji’s disaster response committee is meeting today. Ministers throughout Fiji are reporting back with their disaster assessments and local churches have begun their relief programmes.

29 people are confirmed dead and National Disaster Management Office director Akapusi Tuifagalele said about 14,000 people remain in evacuation centres. Whole villages have been destroyed, particularly on the island of Koro where a relief and assessment ship is being deployed.

UnitingWorld staff member Rev Dr Cliff Bird reports from Suva:

“The destruction has been widespread and very bad. The Lau group of islands, Koro Island, villages on Vanua Levu and their township Savusavu have been hit very badly. Hundreds of homes have been lost, infrastructure damaged, farms, vegetable gardens, livelihoods destroyed. Water and power supply to many areas are still down.”

Photo source looptonga.com and ABC news

Our partner, the Methodist Church in Fiji is the largest denomination in the country, covering an extensive network across 55 districts.

National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd has spoken with President of the Church, Rev Tevita Bainivanua and has offered immediate emergency relief and longer-term disaster recovery.

President Rev Tevita has opened all church buildings for emergency shelter and has directed ministers throughout the country to assess and report on the extent of the damage.

All funds raised through this appeal will be used to support our church partner’s relief efforts, including re-establishing healthcare and schools, replanting crops and livelihoods and ‘building back better’ to safeguard communities against future cyclones.

Please give your most generous gift today.

Call UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or click here to donate to our Emergency Contingency Fund.

Funds raised for this appeal will be used to provide immediate humanitarian relief for affected communities and assistance over the longer term.  Any excess funds will be held in our Emergency Contingency Fund and used to respond to future emergencies in the region. All donations are gratefully received. Donations $2 and over are tax deductible. Please click here to read our Privacy Policy.

Update: 8.30am Monday 22 Feb

Message just received from Rev Dr Cliff Bird in our Fiji Office:

Power supply has just come back on in parts of Suva, so able to send this brief email update on the aftermath of TC Winston.

The curfew is still effective and will be lifted at 5.30 a.m. tomorrow, Monday.

The very sketchy information received so far indicates that destruction has been widespread and very bad. The Lau group of islands, Koro Island, villages on Vanua Levu and their township Savusavu have been hit very badly. One village on Koro Island lost all homes. On Viti Levu, Rakiraki, Ba, Nadi, Lautoka, Sigatoka, and villages along Korovou and Tailevu were hit badly. Hundreds of homes have been lost, infrastructure damaged, farms and gardens destroyed, etc. Water and power supply to many areas are still down. Suva was not too badly hit comparatively speaking. So far 5 cyclone-related deaths have been confirmed.

Photo source ABC News

Minister for Education has given directive that all schools will remain closed for the entire week. Many schools have sustained damages. The USP and Fiji National University will remain closed tomorrow and may resume on Tuesday.

The President of the Methodist Church asked all congregations to stay home Sunday in light of the cyclone and curfew. The church office will not open today and will resume on Tuesday.

The General Secretary of the Methodist Church sent instructions to all divisional superintendents and their ministers to make available church halls as evacuation centres if necessary. He has also requested that they begin to do some initial assessment of damages and let the office know.

Will let you know more details when information come to hand. Thank you for your prayers, and continue to keep in your thoughts the thousands who have been badly affected in one way or other.

Update: 9.15am Sunday 21 Feb

We are slowly hearing back from our team members and church partners today. There are some very sad reports about villages, homes and livelihoods destroyed. One staff member texted just now: I am good. It was so bad last night. It is still blackout since last night. The curfew is still on. All shops are still closed, just found a canteen on another street to buy top up cards and water 5mins ago. We’ll see how today progresses. Trees have fallen so some people are cleaning up”. Thoughts and prayers with the people of Fiji.

You can read more here: www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-21/tropical-cyclone-winson-leaves-trail-of-destruction-across-fiji/7187104

Update 12.25 pm 20 Feb: Our National Director Rob Floyd has now spoken with friend and church partner Rev Tevita Bainivanua, President of the Methodist Church in Fiji. He let him know the Australian church community were praying for them – and offered future support, should they need it.

Previous updates:

Please keep our church partners in the Pacific, our staff in the Fiji Office and the people of Fiji in your prayers as they brace for Cyclone Winston.

ABC News reports that a powerful category-five cyclone is lashing Fiji’s outer islands with hurricane-force winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston is heading westward and has already hit areas in the Lau group of islands as it tracks towards more populated areas.

The cyclone was about 320 kilometres east-north-east of Suva, the capital, at 5:00am (local time), travelling at 25 kilometres per hour.

The storm was carrying average winds of 220 kilometres per hour, with gusts of up to 315 kilometres per hour, Fiji’s Meteorological Service said.

Forecasters say there’s a chance the cyclone will whip up very strong wind gusts around the capital.

You can read the full article below.

National Director Rob Floyd was in touch with our Methodist Church of Fiji partner Rev James Bhagwan yesterday, and UnitingWorld staff member Rev Dr Cliff Bird at 10am this morning. Cliff reports that strong winds are hitting Suva right now, and people are prepared and in shelters with water and food supplies.

Please keep them in your prayers.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-20/category-five-cyclone-winston-bears-down-on-fiji/7186080 

Dear friends,

Greetings from the NCCK.

As the North launched a satellite, Kwangmyongsung-4 on Feb. 7, the Korean peninsula is being seized by furious waves again. In response to the nuclear test and satellite launch, the South and the US decided to deploy the THAAD and establish a MD system on the Korean soil. In a grave and surprising move, the South decided yesterday to close down Gaesung Industrial Complex, “the only remaining link that binds the North and South together.” Furthermore, the ruling party, Saenuri, is pushing an Anti-Terrorism Act which will certainly restrict people’s freedom and human rights.

We are having a week-long holiday, but in consideration of the gravity of the situation, the Reunification Comm. had an emergency online discussion and issued the following statement. We appeal to the international society including the ecumenical community that only dialogues and negotiations can resolve the present crisis.

In Christ,

Shin

Statement

Concerning North Korea’s Launch of Kwangmyongsong-4

The Reconciliation and Reunification Committee of the National Council of Churches (NCCK) expresses a deep regret on North Korea’s launch of Kwangmyongsong-4 on February 7 as it will heighten on the Korean soil the arms race among super powers and eventually threaten peace and stability in North East Asia. We are also greatly concerned that in the present situation the South and the US are jumping into the decision to deploy on the Korean peninsula the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and establish a KOR-US-JAPAN Missile Defense system in response to the launch of Kwangmyuongsung-4 earth observation satellite.

  1. We oppose the deployment of THAAD on the Korean peninsula.

The THAAD deployment will only increase the possibility of military conflict and clash beyond the Korean peninsula, in the entire North East Asia region. China and Russia are strongly opposing the THAAD deployment with the possible establishment of KOR-US-JAPAN Missile Defense system that will follow after. The THAAD deployment will aggravate a new Cold War between KOR-US-JAPAN and China-Russia, at the same time as it may offer a beginning that will lead the whole region to war. The painful experience of the Korean War has taught us that peace and stability in the Korean peninsula cannot be achieved by force. Hence we ask that both the South and the US immediately cancel the decision to deploy the THAAD and begin dialogue with the North, China and Russia for denuclearization as well as a long-lasting peace system on the Korean peninsula.

  1. We pose a fundamental question about the international society’s additional sanctions against the North.

The international society along with the UN immediately declared additional harsh sanctions against the North in reaction to the satellite launch. However the international society has to acknowledge that North Korea as a sovereign state has the right to launch satellites that are not equipped with nuclear warheads. Additionally it cannot be denied that the international society’s sanctions and pressures on the North have not created fundamental solutions and that they have rather aggravated the “vicious cycle of confrontation.” Therefore we appeal to the UN and the international society that it is not sanctions and confrontations but dialogues and negotiations, understanding and tolerance that will prevent total collapse.

  1. We urge Park Geun Hye’s administration to stop the attempt to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Despite the fact that it has been publicly acknowledged that terror can be sufficiently prevented with the existing organizations and laws, the Park administration is attempting to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act using the North’s nuclear tests and satellite launch as pretexts. If the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is currently being pushed by the government and the ruling party, is enacted and implemented, absolute power will be centered on the National Intelligence Service and our society will face a non-democratic reality in which people experience severe restriction of their freedom and rights in the consolidation of the government’s power. With a warning that the Anti-Terrorism Act will heavily damage the healthy development of democracy, we urge the government and the ruling party to stop using the current North situation as a pretext to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Peace on the Korean peninsula and stability in the North East Asia cannot be achieved through an arms race. Only dialogues, negotiations, understanding and tolerance will pave way for peace and reunification.

February 8, 2016

Kim Young Ju, General Secretary, NCCK

Noh Jung Sun, Chair of Reconciliation and Reunification, NCCK

We often have the belief that being in possession of more stuff will bring us a happier life. We must have the newest technology, more clothes or whatever everyone else has got. But once we have these things, think about how many hours go into worrying about them being broken or wrecked?

More possessions will not bring us a happy and full life with Christ.

Don’t believe me?

You may be surprised to discover that some of the happiest people in the world live in poorer communities. These are the communities who are always willing to give, even if it means that they have very little. More people should look at this and see that though these people have fewer items than us, they are more social and giving. They don’t fight over what little they have but share it.

There are a few different walks in the world called ‘Caminos’. These spiritual walks can take a month or more, and involve carrying nothing but a backpack with your absolute essentials. Why do people do this? The simplicity is definitely one reason. My dad walked it himself, and he told me that you get up and walk all day until at night you get to your destination. Than you get up and walk again the next day. The result of this was that he noticed the little rare flowers he might have otherwise just walked past, every sunset was admired, and every sip of water was cherished. You have all the time you need to appreciate God’s little gifts of beauty that we often overlook.

Living fully is something to do in the present, not next week or soon. It’s harder to live fully with so many useless things getting in the way. When you live simply, you notice the beauty and value around you that you might otherwise ignore. Living in the moment, you can truly appreciate what matters.

This is why de-cluttering our lives is so important. When you have less in your house you have more room and time to think. You stop stressing about everything and you learn to value what you do have, instead of wanting more all the time.

It’s an important life skill, so here are some top tips on how to de-clutter you house and your mind today:

  1. Find a garbage bag. While you try to fill up this bag, you’ll begin to realise that there is really no use for some of the stuff that’s taking up space in your house.
  2. Give away one item each day. As well as getting rid of something you have no use for, you might also be making someone’s day better by giving them a gift.
  3. Boxes!!! Label rubbish, donate, and give to a friend. Sort everything until you no longer have things you have no need for.
  4. Pull everything out of a drawer. You won’t believe what gets hidden underneath papers and books. Put only what you need there back into the drawer and either throw away or put the rest in the proper place.
  5. If you are completely serious about decluttering your whole life there is one extravagant thing that you can do. Put absolutely everything in boxes, making sure that you can store them somewhere close and out of the way. When you desperately need something, go and get it out of the box. Leave everything else in there. After a while, you will realise how much you actually never use. From there you can donate, give away or throw out.

De-cluttering can leave you with a more peaceful, simpler and calmer life.

Just think, more time to yourself, more time for others, you can finally focus on what is really important.

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all – Laura Ingalls Wilder

By Kaitlyn Trounce, Year 10

(UnitingWorld Work Experience Student, 2015)