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Live simply, reflect on your faith, help free people from poverty – that’s Lent Event!
Join the movement, sign up now to receive your Bread for the Road  daily devotions sent via email each day throughout Lent starting 1st March. Bread for the Road will replace the usual Bible Studies. We’re also preparing a new look Lent Event website! Please visit www.lentevent.com after 8th February to learn how congregations and individuals alike can participate in Lent Event this year. In the meantime, watch the video to learn about the communities and people that Lent Event support.

Since 2005, faithful people have raised more than three million dollars through Lent Event to provide clean water, schooling and health services around the globe. 

Fiji’s recovery from Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston is a great story of what partnerships can achieve:  partnerships between government, local church and people from all over the world, including Australian Uniting Church members who provided over $500,000 toward recovery efforts.

Six months on, we look back.

When Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji on 20 February, 2016 it was one of the strongest category-five cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. Winds over 300 km per hour flattened villages and cut a path of destruction across the country, taking the lives of 42 people and displacing more than 62,000. At the height of the disaster, there were more than 120,000 Fijians in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, and more than 540,000 were affected by its impacts.

At least 28,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, and in the hardest-hit towns, up to 90 per cent of structures were completely destroyed. In just one night the cyclone caused over a billion dollars in damage (approx. half a billion USD).

Fiji was well prepared, with vital disaster management measures in place before the storm. Early warning alerts and disaster mitigation policies saved countless lives. People were able to get to

MCIF volunteers packing relief supplies in Suva

evacuation shelters well in advance – most of them in schools, churches and community halls.  In cooperation with church networks, government services communicated effectively to get the word out about where and when people should move.

After a state of emergency was declared, relief began to be distributed and countries around the world pledged their assistance, including Australia. Our partner, the Methodist Church in Fiji (MCIF) immediately organized a fundraising drive within the country, asking for donations and goods from people in unaffected areas. People generously helped their neighbors, sending in food, clothes, blankets, cooking utensils, kerosene stoves and lamps, solar lights, and other essential living items.

The MCIF then organized hundreds of volunteers and Methodist youth to help sort and distribute goods in the days following the emergency, ensuring the relief supplies were quickly transferred to where they were needed most.

After setting up an office to coordinate disaster relief and responses, the MCIF used their existing church networks to assist the Fijian government in assessing and mapping the extent of damage across Fiji. Building assessment teams were then deployed to identify where to allocate resources for the recovery efforts.

Working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, the MCIF has been purchasing food crops and helping people re-establish their livelihoods.  The Church is also working with civil society organisations on long-term disaster risk reduction strategies.

The work of the MCIF has been helped by the generous donations of people in Australia. In response to an appeal launched by UnitingWorld, Australians raised over $AU 500,000, which is going a long way in the rebuild and recovery efforts. MCIF are committed to a ‘build back better’ approach, ensuring new buildings are more resilient to extreme weather events.

The spirit and perseverance of the Fijian people never faltered, even as Cyclone Zena closely followed Winston, threatening to make relief efforts even harder. Miraculous stories highlighted their courage, like the women of Naveiveiwali village, “heroines” who saved 22 lives.

A social media campaign quickly sprang up in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston. The hashtag ‘#StrongerThanWinston’ started to feature in all that related to the disaster recovery, a rallying call for a strong and resilient people not to despair – and a reminder that together they would overcome the odds.

Six months on, this strength and character were on show at the Rio Olympic Games, with their Rugby Sevens squad routing every team they faced to win Fiji’s first Olympic gold medal! When the final whistle blew, the Fijians boldly sang a hymn together in the middle of the field with characteristic Polynesian harmonies.

There are still many challenges facing the people of Fiji as they work to rebuild. Thousands lost their homes and their sources of income. Many are struggling to access food and essential infrastructure after it was wiped out, and is yet to be rebuilt or repaired. Remote communities have been especially slow to recover, with fewer supply runs reaching them. It is unclear how long it will take for Fiji to fully recover, but they they are well underway.

We are grateful to God for His love in helping us in rebuilding the lives of the victims across Fiji. It is anticipated that it will take 4 to 5 years to recover from this situation and I appeal to you today that we need to stand together and work together – Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa, General Secretary, Methodist Church in Fiji.

Thank you for helping the Fijian people get back on their feet by supporting the great work of our partner, the Methodist Church of Fiji. As the partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, we’re heartened to tell you this story of people working across all sectors to build back better.


Please continue to pray for Fiji and the work of MCIF. You can continue to support their work by donating here.

Cover photo by Fiji Government
Other photos by MCIF

16 August, 2016

Prayers for peace and reunification written on ribbons and tied together on the border of North and South Korea

 

The Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) has published 100 Prayer Topics on Healing, Reconciliation, and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Nation and invited partner churches to pray with them as they work for peace and unity.

The publication coincides with the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from the Japanese in World War Two, a date marked by the church as the beginning of the Cold War geopolitics that led to the division of the country.

The Presbyterian Church of Korea invites its church partners and all “friends of the Korean church” to join with them in prayer and have written the 100 Prayer Topics so you can be informed on the issues that face the people of North and South Korea.

They have also developed a mobile app that contains the prayers as well as promptings to help you remember.

“It has been a 71 year-long unfulfilled liberation for the Korean people who have been longing for healing, reconciliation, and peaceful reunification.” said PCK General Secretary Rev. Dr. Hong Jung Lee.

Download the 100 Prayer Topics document

Download the app

Read the PCK’s full invitation to pray below


12 August, 2016

Dear Ecumenical Partners and Friends of Korean Church,

Warm greetings from the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK)!

This year August 15th marks the 71st anniversary of Liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese Imperialism following the end of the World War II. But the Korean Peninsula had been divided into the two Koreas by the superpowers, particularly the U.S.A and the former USSR. The Division brought the outbreak of the Korean War which recorded 5.5 million casualties and fixed the division structure on the basis of the Cold War system. It has been a 71 year-long unfulfilled liberation for the Korean people who have been longing for healing, reconciliation, and peaceful reunification.

In this regards, the PCK published the 70 Prayer Topics on Healing, Reconciliation, and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Nation both in Korean and English last year. Once again, we have updated it and come to publish 100 Prayer Topics on Healing, Reconciliation, and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Nation in Korean and English. We have also developed an application for smart devices so that whoever wants to join the prayer can easily download and pray for the Healing, Reconciliation, and Peace.

By sharing these prayer topics with our committed ecumenical partners, we humbly and sincerely invite you to participate in remembering the 71st anniversary of the unfulfilled liberation of the Korean peninsula due to the division, and specifically to join in our special prayer movement for the Healing, Reconciliation, and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean nation.

I heartily wish that you will use the 100 Prayer Topics by downloading here, and the mobile application here at your own convenience, in your church. Thank you very much for your ecumenical friendship and solidarity.

May the peace of our Lord be with you all!
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Hong Jung Lee
General Secretary
Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK)

21 July 2016

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and UnitingWorld are concerned about the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe, as expressed in a joint statement from church leaders to the World Council of Churches (WCC). UCA President Stuart McMillan has called on the members of the UCA to pray for Zimbabwe and the work of the Church there.

“We cannot ignore the plight of the people of Zimbabwe, millions of whom are struggling to secure  reliable sources of food and income, and are increasingly denied their basic human rights,” said Mr McMillan.

“We pray for our partner the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the work of their development and relief agency MeDRA, and all those working to see justice for Zimbabwean people. We will continue to pray, speak out and act alongside our partner as they work to overcome the huge challenges they face.”

WCC statement:


Church leaders in Zimbabwe expressed their concern for their country’s political, social and economic meltdown that has caused increasing civic unrest and violence over the past month.

In a joint statement from eight churches and community organizations, church leaders said they are “concerned about intra-party conflicts that are distracting the government from dealing with real economic and social issues that are affecting the country.”

They called upon the Zimbabwe government to listen to the cries of citizens who are suffering. “There is a need to act justly and mercifully on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged in our nation,” the statement read.

As church and community leaders, they condemned brutality by law enforcement agencies on citizens. “The citizens’ constitutional right to demonstrate and protest must be protected,” they stated. “In exercising this right, we implore citizens to always remain peaceful in their demonstrations.”

Zimbabwe is facing an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent; restrictions on imports that have crippled cross-border business, destroying livelihoods for thousands of Zimbabweans; unnecessary police roadblocks which are fueling corruption; and many other urgent issues.

“Given all this, citizens have lost confidence and trust in our government,” read the statement. “We call upon the government to immediately investigate and prosecute law enforcement agents who are alleged to have brutalized people.”

The government should urgently act and address these genuine concerns of the citizens to avoid total collapse of the state, urged church leaders.

“We call upon the church, which is the salt and light of this nation, to continue to pray and also to speak out prophetically against any unjust system, until we have a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe in which every citizen’s God-given and constitutional rights are respected,” the statement read. “May God grant us Zimbabweans the courage, faith and hope to face our challenges.”

Daily infringement of citizens’ rights and constant extortion at police road blocks have created a climate of fear in Zimbabwe, said Georges Lemopoulos, deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“We pray for the three million people in Zimbabwe who are food insecure, and we also pray for churches and community organizations there as they unite to help Zimbabweans reach a meaningful solution.”

Lemopoulos said the WCC stands ready to help amplify the voices of justice and peace in Zimbabwe. “The human costs are too great for us to ignore the plight of the people,” he said.

Article originally published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

Read More:

“Feed the world?” Just share the tools – blog on UnitingWorld’s work with MeDRA in Zimbabwe (10 March, 2016)

Churches bring strong voice for justice in Zimbabwe – WCC news (18 July, 2016)

18 July, 2016

The recent violence in South Sudan that resulted in the deaths of over 300 people has thankfully deescalated over the past week.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and first Vice-President Riek Machar have ordered a ceasefire, and we are praying that it will hold long enough for government agencies to restore stability and humanitarian agencies to respond to the crisis.

The ACT Alliance has warned that there is a real possibility that the situation could deteriorate again, and they are closely monitoring the situation.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan Leadership & Peace Training Conference, 2016. Rev. Peter Gai with UnitingWorld’s Dr Sureka Goringe and Megan Calcaterra

“The developments in the country are alarming and threaten all that has been achieved in the last decade and through last year’s peace agreement,” said Pauliina Parhiala from the ACT alliance.

UnitingWorld has been in contact with our church partners in South Sudan who are grateful for the prayers and support of the Uniting Church in Australia.

“Thank you so much for your kind words of comfort. From day one we’ve known that your love and kindness are so great for us and that we are in your hearts. May God bless you and please keep on praying,” said Rev. Peter Gai, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS).

One of the biggest factors in the conflict is widely held to be failing leadership that has fed a sense of distrust and frustration in the South Sudanese people, who are tired of tribal politics and violence – a sentiment widely echoed by the international community.

“The people of South Sudan desperately want peace,” said UnitingWorld’s Megan Calcaterra, recently in South Sudan to connect with the PCOSS and attend one of their peacebuilding conferences.

“They see it as the most important step in developing their new nation and overcoming the challenges they face. Peace and trauma healing are key to their journey in overcoming poverty, achieving justice and reconciliation, developing leaders and building effective government and institutions.”

Since South Sudan became independent in 2011 the nation has been marred by civil war. In December 2013 a civil war was triggered by clashes between rival soldiers in Juba that degenerated into nationwide conflict. Tens of thousands died and close to one million have been displaced by the violence.

Please continue to pray for peace in South Sudan and the work of Presbyterian Church of South Sudan

12 June, 2016

In response to the famine emergency caused by El Nino-driven drought in Papua New Guinea, UnitingWorld and its partner the United Church in PNG (UCPNG) have been distributing food and providing vital leadership to ensure relief operations reach the worst affected areas.

Collaborating with the World Food Program (WFP) and Church Partnership Program (CPP) agencies, UnitingWorld and UCPNG played a key role in developing the ‘PNG CPP El Nino Response Program’ to coordinate relief work.

As part of the response program, impact assessments conducted by UnitingWorld/UCPNG-trained personnel were instrumental in the WFP being able to secure $14 million (USD) from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. The money is being used to effectively distribute food to four areas in the Highlands and Milne Bay that were identified as most severely affected.

The funds were urgently needed, as the cost of providing a diet containing sufficient energy and protein for large populations is enormous, and it meant that UnitingWorld’s capacity to respond

Photo credit: James Komengi

was limited and had to be carefully targeted to particular areas based on need. The WFP funding assistance made possible by the efforts of UCPNG staff and others, has meant that food distributions now better match the scale that is needed to address the emergency.

UCPNG staff have also been involved in delivering frontline emergency supplies as part of the World Food Program’s national response, delivering emergency food supplies to the four ‘Local Level Government’ areas in Hela and Enga Provinces in the Highlands; home to more than 140,000 people.

Food distribution and livelihood recovery activities in many of these areas are extremely challenging because of their remote locations and fragile security situations caused by enduring tribal conflicts. The expertise of UCPNG staff has provided invaluable support to the WFP in ensuring food is distributed in ways that avoid fueling tribal tensions.

 

UnitingWorld’s Emergency Response Coordinator Michael Constable has praised the work of UCPNG in responding to the emergency.

Photo credit: James Komengi

“These successes highlight the strength of collaboration and innovation in delivering humanitarian assistance in extremely difficult environments. Supporting local communities to take leadership roles in preparedness, response, early recovery and risk reduction is not only effective, it’s essential in PNG” said Mr Constable.

“Enabled by the support of donors, the work of UCPNG has likely prevented thousands from dying of starvation, kept entire communities from becoming entrenched in poverty, and spared a generation of children living in remote communities from the irreversible effects of malnutrition.”

The emergency is far from over, however. The drought has severely impacted food security in many areas of PNG, exacerbated by weather patterns that are expected to continue into late 2016. UCPNG staff are currently involved in planning a collaborative food distribution to 77,000 people in Milne Bay Province with a range of national and intergovernmental organisations.

UnitingWorld will continue to support our partner UCPNG as they carry out relief operations and rebuild the livelihoods of people in Papua New Guinea.

Thank you! This work would not have been possible without the more than $180,000 raised by UnitingWorld supporters. Together, we’ve made a huge impact to the lives of people struggling to overcome famine and drought. Please continue to pray for the work of UCPNG and the people of Papua New Guinea.

11 July, 2016

More than 300 people are reported to have been killed in South Sudan since heavy fighting broke out between political factions late last month.

Intensifying gun battles between government and opposition forces in the capital Juba and in the north-west town of Wau have resulted in dozens of civilian casualties, and thousands have been displaced from their homes.

Leaders of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan say the people want peace

70,000 civilians have been forced to seek shelter in churches, surrounding villages and UN camps – many of which have come under fire along with government buildings. A rocket-propelled grenade reportedly landed in one of the UN camps wounding eight people.

South Sudan’s civil war was divided along ethnic, tribal lines with the president – Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and the vice-president Riek Machar, a Nuer – representing their respective tribes. Earlier this year they formed a power-sharing transitional government, a move that was hoped to bring a lasting peace to a conflict that has a death toll estimated by some to be as high as 300,000.

Despite recent press statements from both Kiir and Machar’s staff making a joint call for calm, recent events suggest it’s unlikely they are in full control of their forces. The renewed fighting has raised fears that the fragile peace deal they made in August last year will not hold, and the country could deteriorate into full-scale civil war.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan Leadership and Peace Training Conference, 2016

Rev. Peter Shabak Gatluak of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan has described the feeling in Juba
right now as one of “fear and panic”, and has asked the Uniting Church in Australia to pray for them as they fear for the future of their country.

Please join us in praying for the people of South Sudan, as well as our partner church as they work for sustainable peace and lead their people through uncertain times.

Read more:

Scores killed in South Sudan fighting, gunfire erupts in capital Juba – SMH

‘Wounded in spirit, South Sudan’s people need the salve of mutual forgiveness’ – Guardian (Op Ed)

28 June 2016

Amid reports of a deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua, a minute of support for Papuans was issued on 28 June during the closing day to a meeting in Trondheim, Norway, of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The WCC has followed the situation since before the 1969 incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia.

During peaceful protests of government policies in May and early June of this year, more than 3,000 people are said to have been placed under arrest. A further 1,400 West Papuans are reported to have been arrested on 15 June.

Calling on member churches to pray and act in support of Christian witness in the region, the Central Committee authorized an international ecumenical delegation to be sent “as soon as possible” in order to “hear the voices of victims of violence and human rights violations, and to pursue the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this context.”

Read more:

Minute on Human Rights Situation in West Papua (WCC)

A call to pray for our brothers and sisters in West Papua (UCA)


This press release was originally published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

Do you ever have days, even while you’re still in the middle of them, that you know will always stick with you? My first visit to a village in West Bengal, India, was one of those days.

My colleague Steph and I had driven three hours from the church office with our brilliant partners from the Diocese of Durgapur, through bustling market streets full of people and cows and very fresh butchers, past fields of corn and rice and cauliflower, and eventually along a long and bumpy dirt road to our first village visit of the day.

Before we even got out of the car, the welcome drums began. The pathway to the village was lined with beaming kids and their parents, clapping along as men and boys beat huge drums while women dressed in bright red and orange saris danced ahead of us. Kids began throwing handfuls of marigold petals over us (sometimes with a fairly abrupt whack in the face and giggles from all) and older women played seashells as trumpets. It was one of those moments you just try and drink everything in as quickly as you possibly can – the colours and sounds and sun beating down – but really there’s no way to absorb it all. All we could do was slowly shuffle along in the middle of it all, catching petals, clapping along and grinning back.

Once we made it to the village itself, after squirming a little during the impossibly generous foot-washing ceremonial welcome, the real purpose of our visit began. We were there to hear from women, men and children about what the Community Development Project, run by the Diocese of Durgapur and supported by UnitingWorld, really means. What difference is this making to you, in your everyday life? What has this meant for your community? What is life like here?

Answers were honest and direct. Life is hard, but this project is making a difference. Our children at the study centre are working hard and their grades are improving – they’re no longer at risk of dropping out of school and we’re not scared for them. This woman here (she is pointed out to us) was supported to apply for and access the old age pension, so she doesn’t have to work all day long in the forest gathering leaves anymore. Our community worker, from our village (he stands up), helped us get government grants to build houses and toilets and access to water sources for irrigation. The government health worker is visiting and we know how to stay healthy, how to keep our children well. Our women’s self-help groups (they raise their hands) have saved money this year, and have plans to start their own business.

Of course, life is still hard. The village is far from government services, seasons can no longer be relied upon, water has not reached everyone. But what struck me more than anything, and what we shared together that day, was the fierce sense of community in this place and determination to find solutions together. Even this project itself is not something that is ‘done to’ people here; it’s what they’re doing for themselves and what they’re supported to keep doing, day after day.  It’s just part of who they are – and it’s this determination and dogged effort that will change their futures.

This project is doing good: real, tangible, important things – and can do more. We left the village after dancing and drumming back to the car and went on to the next. And of course it wasn’t the only day like this I’ve had. But this really was one that stuck with me.  How we spend our days is our we spend our lives, and these days are well spent.

For just two more days you can make your donation to these projects up to six times more effective.  We need to raise $1 in supporter donations for every $5 we have access to in Government Funding for our Community Development Projects.  To see your gift multiplied to make a significant difference, please give now at here.

Laura McGilvray, among other roles with UnitingWorld, supports our partner the Church of North India.  She loves her work and wishes everyone had the opportunity to experience days like this one, seeing first hand the impact of long term planning, training and funding.

27 June 2016

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has called the people of the Uniting Church to pray for our Papuan brothers and sisters in Christ as the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua (Gereja Kristen Injili Di Tanah Papua ‘GKI-TP’) lead their people through troubled times.

“We ask for congregations across Australia to hold our partners in prayer as they lead their church towards God’s justice, peace and reconciliation”, said Mr McMillan. Mr McMillan was responding to a letter written to the Uniting Church in Australia and other international partners. In the letter, our partner the GKI-TP has condemned the increasing levels of political tension in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, and has asked for prayers and assistance from its international partner churches.

The GKI-TP outlines four issues it believes must be addressed to reduce political tension and avoid conflict in Papua:

1. Freedom of expression: Throughout May, more than 2000 people were arrested and arbitrarily detained across Papua, including the mass arrest of more than 1700 people in Jayapura for publicly stating their political views and requesting a dialogue with the Indonesian Government. The GKI-TP calls for a commitment to peaceful dialogue, the lifting of media restrictions and respect for freedom of expression.
2. The monopolisation of their region’s natural resources by transnational companies keeping the wealth out of the hands of indigenous Papuans and denying them the opportunity to determine their own development.
3. Alleged human rights violations including assassination, torture, rape and kidnapping, particularly directed against peaceful activists. GKI-TP is calling on the government to resolve cases of human rights violations through the independent national Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM).
4. Greater respect for the ongoing debate in Papua regarding the history of its integration into Indonesia. The GKI-TP requests that the expression of their political views not result in violent crackdowns and unlawful arrests.

“The Uniting Church celebrates Indonesia’s cultural diversity through our extensive church partnerships with Indonesian churches, and that diversity has enriched the life of UCA widely as many Indonesians have found their home in our Uniting Church,” said Mr McMillan.

“However, we are deeply troubled by the situation in Papua as expressed by our partner church.

“We express solidarity with GKI-TP, in its ministry of peace and reconciliation, and in its call for all Papuans to be granted an effective voice in determining their own futures.

National Director for UnitingWorld Mr Rob Floyd said the Uniting Church in Australia greatly valued the courage and commitment of its church partners in Papua.

“The GKI-TP provide wonderful ministry in Papua often under the most difficult circumstances.”

Echoing the concerns raised by GKI-TP, Mr Floyd said, “We call on the Indonesian Government and all parties to make a commitment to peaceful dialogue, an end to violence and a respect for freedom of expression.”

– 27 June 2016

Read More

Read Stuart McMillan’s response to GKI-TP President, Rev Alberth Yoku

UnitingWorld’s Rev Dr Ji Zhang has written a Prayer for the People in the Land of Papua on the blog

Briefing Paper on UCA relations with Papua – 23 June 2016

World Council of Churches declares solidarity with Tanah Papua (West Papua) -28 June 2016