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Author: UnitingWorld

In a letter to Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressed disappointment over sanctions and fines imposed on members of the National Council of Churches in (South) Korea (NCCK) after they participated in a dialogue encounter with representatives of the (North) Korean Christians Federation (KCF).

Penalties were imposed on Dr Noh Jungsun, Rev. Jeon Yongho, Rev. Cho Hungjung, Rev. Han Giyang and Rev. Shin Seungmin, all representatives of the NCCK Peace and Reunification Committee, who participated in a meeting with the KCF leadership in Shenyang, China, on 28-29 February this year.

In the letter, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit recalled that the WCC has been actively engaged in promoting peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula for more than 30 years.

“Through such national, regional and international ecumenical commitment and cooperation, the ecumenical movement seeks to witness to the peace of Jesus Christ and to make visible the unity of the Church in a divided and conflicted world,” he wrote.

Tveit referred to the recent escalation of tensions and confrontation on the Korean peninsula, and stressed that “It is especially in this situation that encounter and dialogue is even more urgently needed.” With regard to the fines imposed on the members of the NCCK delegation, he expressed a critical standpoint:

“We do not believe that penalizing encounter and dialogue between South Korean and North Korean Christians is a necessary or effective measure for reducing tensions and advancing the cause of peace; on the contrary. Moreover, such a measure impedes and undermines the longstanding inter-church relationship on the Korean peninsula that the WCC has sought to encourage over more than three decades.”

Tveit called on the South Korean government to revoke the penalties, and appealed to President Park “not to close channels of communication and encounter, but to intensify efforts to promote dialogue at all levels.”

Expressing the hope that “the cycle of threat and counter-threat can be broken, before the threshold to catastrophic conflict is one day crossed”, Tveit asked for President Park’s leadership “away from this precipice, towards peaceful co-existence and an end to the suspended state of war.”

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

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

It is with great distress that the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) has been receiving disturbing news about the violent response and firing of bullets by Police on 6,000 farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, a southern island of Mindanao, on 1 April. It is unfortunate that the legitimate rights of poor farmers, who are demanding appropriate action by the government to provide assistance to the sustenance of farmers in the drought ravaged area, are being ignored. We understand from reliable sources that at least three persons were killed and hundreds of people were wounded while the police opened fire against the protesting farmers, who were insisting for a dialogue with the Governor of the Province, and for 15,000 sacks of rice that were previously promised to them.

It was during the firing against the protestors that the farmers sought refuge in Scottswood Methodist Centre and took sanctuary in the Methodist Church compound. We are deeply disappointed that the Governor’s office has threatened Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Francisco for harboring protestors, and the United Methodist Church with legal action in the form of revoking their legal permit.

The Christian Conference of Asia extends solidarity and prayers to the members and leadership of the United Methodist Church in their continuing protection of some 3,000 farmers and tribal leaders, who were faced with bullets fired on them by the Philippine National Police on 1 April 2016.

While CCA condemns this violent response to the protesting farmers, we applaud the efforts of the United Methodist Church in their perseverance in sheltering the farmers and tribal leaders as they continue their struggle for rightful sustenance. It is a known factor that the lumad farmers in the area have been continuously faced with discrimination and persecution. There is no justification for violent oppression as response to the legitimate demands of farmers for their right to food and livelihood.

On behalf of CCA, I convey our prayerful regards to Bishop Ciriaco Francisco and express our solidarity with the United Methodist Church at this time of their travail. We join hands with those who are struggling for basic human rights and justice, and urge the government and provincial authorities to provide adequate provisions and security to the farmers, who are legitimately registering their concerns. We pray and hope that peace with justice will prevail in the area and rights and dignities of the persecuted farmers involved in the struggle will be upheld. We appreciate the commitment of those who are demonstrating the values of the love of Jesus Christ and the biblical spirit of compassion, as has been shown by the United Methodist Church in sheltering the wounded and unprotected: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

Mathews George Chunakara
General Secretary

Letter originally published by The Christian Conference of Asia of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

National Council of Churches in Pakistan
Church of Pakistan
Presbyterian Church of Pakistan

Respected church and ecumenical leaders in Pakistan,

We are deeply shocked and saddened to receive the news of a suicide bomber killing more than 70 people and injuring more than 300 others at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore on the Easter Sunday. We learnt from some of you that the deadly suicide attack on Easter evening caused untold sufferings for many people while several families from predominantly Christian settlements in Youhanabad and Bahar Colony areas were spending time with their children in the park on Easter services in churches.

Candlelight vigil in India for the victims of the bombing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in Lahore

 

It is unfortunate that sectarian violence and blatant terrorism continuously takes place in Pakistani society due to the widespread of religious hatred. Such cowardly actions in fact destroy the very core of the social fabric and communal harmony in the country. The recent attack on innocent people, affecting mostly children and women, is a heinous crime. The increasing trend of attacks against innocent people raises questions over the security measures by the government to protect the lives of its citizens. It is our sincere appeal to the government of Pakistan not to allow these savage inhuman actions to over-run the lives of people who have every right to live in peace, security and freedom of movement.

The Christian Conference of Asia is concerned about the plight of the minority Christians in Pakistan, who are constantly faced with deadly attacks but the perpetrators continue with impunity. In fact, we are also reminded now of the suicide attacks carried out in 2013 at All Saints Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area, killing 80 and wounding hundreds as well as other suicide bombings at two churches in Youhanabad area in March 2015. These incidents are clear indications of the vulnerable situations in which Christians in Pakistan are forced to live. While we express our solidarity with you all at this time of grief and ordeal, we send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those loved ones killed and injured during the blast. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people and communities affected with this tragedy. Please convey our profound sorrow and condolences to the bereaved families and the injured.

The CCA will also hasten to assure the people of Pakistan that the Christians are nurtured on the best practices of peace and harmony and the values of fairness, justice and unconditional love. We urge all member churches and councils of CCA to pray for the comfort and solace of numerous victims irrespective of their religion or faith.

Yours along the journey.

Mathews George Chunakara
General Secretary, CCA

Letter originally published by The Christian Conference of Asia of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

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.