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Author: UnitingWorld

Dolores (name changed to protect privacy) has the most soulful eyes you could hope for on a cow.

Part of her earnest expression, I’m pretty sure, has to do with her confidence that not only is she saving the planet – she’s going to give families a chance to end poverty.  Most of her daily dump goes directly into a big tank where it ferments away, producing methane gas that runs along this pipeline into a gas cylinder. There are technical details here I didn’t catch, but from here it lights up a cooker.  And presto.  Fuel.

Dolores is part of a program being trialled by our partner organisation in Bali, MBM.  This bunch are no slouches when it comes to innovation.  They live in a country synonymous with tourism, although it battles to keep its place as the poster child of cheap Aussie getaways since the Bali Bombings and is in fierce competition these days with other exotic Asian destinations like Cambodia and Vietnam. Still, much of the Balinese economy relies directly on the wallets of international visitors.  Local small farmers without the skills to share in the tourism industry are doubly disadvantaged – prices pushed high by visitors; a system that cuts them out.  These are the invisible poor among whom our partners work, right across Bali’s length and breadth.  For these families, innovation is the name of the game.

Trialling livestock to produce fuel by way of methane; gathering rubbish to recycle and then resell; seeding community gardens where produce can be shared and sold; training people in small businesses and co-ops in which families invest their savings together in order to buy livestock – these are the skills that will help end poverty forever.

For the next two weeks, until June 30, you can help give them and many others among our partner churches up to six times the hand they need.

Combined with Australian Government funding, you’ll make a huge impact ending poverty.

Find out more and make your gift here.

Thanks for standing with us and our partners – we’re better together!

 

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to churches in Indonesia to express sadness and solidarity after the tragic church bombings in Surabaya, Java on Sunday.

11 people were killed in the explosions and more than 43 were wounded in what has been called the worst terrorist attack in Indonesia in more than a decade.

A congregation of our partner church in Java was one of those targeted, wounding an Elder and several young members.

Rev Dr Ji Zhang has written a prayer for the victims of the Surabaya attacks. We encourage Uniting Church members and UnitingWorld supporters to pray with us in solidarity with churches in Indonesia.

It has also been translated into Bahasa Indonesia and can be downloaded here.

Letter to churches in Indonesia
Letter to our partner church GKI in Java

A prayer for the victims of church bombings in Java

Almighty God, we come to you with our hearts full of thoughts.

But you are our refuge and strength,

the light in the darkness,

and so with confidence we offer our prayers to you.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We stand in solidarity with all good citizens in Java

pray for the churches of Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal traditions,

and we are confronted by the attacks on Christian worshipers.

We bring to you all the deceased,

and our trust that in God’s peace their souls find rest.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for those who grieve the loss of life,

for those who are traumatized during Sunday worship,

for those who are separated from the loved ones and friends;

we ask for your healing presence in their lives

and we commend to your love all the injured.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We give to your care all those

who have been involved in the rescue operation.

Be with local churches and government forces

as they minister to the suffering communities.

Sustain them through this time of stress.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We commend to your care those who are cleaning up,

for those burdened by unimaginable losses

and who have found themselves

like refugees in their own locality.

We ask that the emotional and spiritual support

already offered by local communities and beyond

will encourage and lift their spirits.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for communities that have been devastated

– especially in East Java and West Java.

May your peace bring people together

to rebuild their lives and communities,

and bring them healing from all evil.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for families and friends in Australia

who feel far away from the loved ones in Indonesia,

and those who had been through racial and religious attacks

– still trying to make sense of the past.

Comfort them across the physical and emotional distance.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We give thanks to God for the blessing in our lives,

especially the gifts of joy we so often take for granted

until they are in danger of being taken away from us

  • the gift of family, friends, a home, our possessions.

Most of all we praise God for the gift of life itself.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

God of light over darkness,

come into our hearts in the moment of now!

Come to transform our sorrow over the lost

into blessings to the living.

Come to reassure us your eternal truth

in the resurrection of Christ Jesus:

Life is always stronger than death.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

(Rev Dr Ji Zhang  张骥, Assembly Theologian in Residence, for our Partner Church GKI and Indonesian Communion of Churches. The prayer is rewritten based on the prayer of 2004 Asian Tsunami by Homebush Uniting Church)

In a report to the Uniting Church in Australia’s 15th Triennial Assembly meeting in July, UnitingWorld has highlighted the success of a collaborative, network-based approach to community development.

In a sweeping review of three years, the report details the impact of UnitingWorld’s programs across an estimated 250,000 people in breaking down barriers to education, health, human rights and leadership; and strengthening the institutional capacity of Australian and partner churches.

National Director Dr Sureka Goringe attributes UnitingWorld’s successes to its strong identity as part of the Uniting Church, and championing a relational approach over the charity model of “handing out grants in return for timely reporting.”

“Effective programs need to be built on a foundation of strong, resilient relationships between partners,” said Dr Goringe.

“For us, good collaborations start with meaningful connections between people, where all recognise our equal place as children of God, learning from each others’ strengths and caring for each others’ needs.”

In an innovation conceived three years ago, UnitingWorld started using these strong relationships with partner churches to build regional networks, fostering multilateral collaborations; an approach Dr Goringe says was led by the partners themselves.

“In 2015, during a session of the 14th Assembly in Perth, 35 leaders from our overseas partner churches took the spontaneous and unprecedented step of penning a statement which was read out on the floor of the Assembly.”

The statement committed them to:

“Break through the boundaries of our denominations, in order to partner as God’s agents of transformation in the world” and to, “commit to develop, nurture and strengthen multilateral mission relationships by making our God-given resources available to one another, sharing our needs, joys, sorrows, achievements and challenges with openness and joyfully participating in the life of partners in a fruitful and effective manner.”

Following this landmark declaration, UnitingWorld recognised its value to church partners as a facilitator of new multilateral relationships, says Dr Goringe.

“Since then, UnitingWorld’s regional strategy over the past three years has been to create opportunities to bring together our church partners in meaningful ways.”

“We have hosted 11 regional conferences since July 2015, each one aimed at creating a community of shared learning, cultivating connections and relationships and encouraging collaboration between our partners.”

The connections formed at the regional conferences have resulted in partners sharing resources, expertise, management tools and policies on shared issues. These have ranged from the theology of community development to child protection and finance management.

The report also highlights the success of UnitingWorld’s collaborations with the Australian Government (DFAT) on the theology of gender equality, and identifies challenges to be faced over the next triennium.

UnitingWorld looks forward to continuing this journey alongside our church partners.

Read the full report on the Uniting Church in Australia 15th Assembly website.

 

UnitingWorld has facilitated a forum in Fiji to bring together civil society groups, faith-based agencies and educators from across the Pacific to discuss the role of biblical interpretation in progressing human rights and gender equality.

The two-day forum, held over 9 and 10 April at the Pacific Theological College, was designed in response to requests by Pacific civil society organisations (CSOs) that wanted to help widen the conversation on how biblical themes of gender can promote equality for all.

Representatives from 19 CSOs, faith groups and universities representing Fiji and the broader Pacific region made up a diverse group for the forum.

UnitingWorld has been working alongside Pacific churches to explore biblical themes of human relationships based on equality. The work is part of a project supported by Australian Aid within the Department of Foreign Affairs ‘Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development’ initiative.

A major aspect of the project is facilitating theological discussions with national church leaders, Christian educators, church ministers and lay leaders, women’s fellowship organisations and youth to re-examine biblical messaging about the inherent equality of men and women as created equally in the image of God.

This has also meant a process of unlearning old patriarchal gender interpretations and opening fresh views on human dignity founded on biblical equality. Through this vital work, social issues such as violence against women, girls and children are then addressed through the lens of this biblical understanding, and churches are both challenged and empowered to be key agents of change.

“The aim of this forum was to bring church and civil society together as a unified mission to address issues surrounding gender inequality,” said UnitingWorld’s Associate Director for Pacific Programs, Bronwyn Fraser.

“It opens the discussion on resourcing to better work collaboratively to overcome the hurdles often experienced when addressing important but sensitive gender issues.”

“The resulting connections, networks and opportunities for working collaboratively across agencies is vital for long-term effective transformation.”

While the forum was interrupted by the threat of Tropical Cyclone Keni, significant progress was made by the conversations to open avenues for collaboration and to identify what resourcing and support UnitingWorld can direct into the CSO space on gender equality and the elimination of violence against women, girls and children.

CSO representatives who attended the forum were happy the conversations with churches and FBOs went so well.

“The forum was very important because it enabled us to discuss issues that we usually do not talk about with the different church denominations,” said Matelita Seva–Cadravula, Executive Director for Reproductive Family Health Association of Fiji.

“It will be very helpful in addressing bottlenecks within the church with regards to gender and human rights. We will certainly utilise the approach during our community outreach.”

Mr Tura Lewai, a representative for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said greater collaboration between churches and CSOs over past years has already stated bearing fruit.

“To actually have the affirmation and support by the churches and basing it on the Bible will be a powerful tool for change. I already see the paradigm shifts happening as we use the tools with our member association, and them with their communities,” he said.

Ms Fraser says an added positive outcome of such forums is that they flow into other social issues.

“One of the very exciting insights from this forum for UnitingWorld is seeing that both churches and CSOs are grappling with other prominent social issues, such as teenage pregnancy and recognising and including people within LGBTIQ communities.”

“Another is seeing the powerful role that this theological approach can play in supporting and resourcing CSOs, FBOs and churches in working for broader transformation in communities.”

Ms Seva–Cadravula agrees.

“We would love to see the same theological approach for sexuality and sexual and reproductive health,” she says.

A follow-up forum is planned for May this year.

On 26 February a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the highlands region of Papua New Guinea, decimating the area. Tragically more than 150 people have been killed, and many others lost everything they have.

UnitingWorld responded as soon as possible, working with our partners, the United Church Papua New Guinea (UCPNG), to help them provide thorough assessments of earthquake affected areas. All initial assessments have been completed, resulting in the identification of 12 communities in the region most affected and in need after the initial distributions.

We’ve been in constant contact with UCPNG to help coordinate the response, however there have been significant delays in distributing support to more regional areas as quickly as is needed. This has been an issue across the province, the remoteness of affected areas, and the recent intensification of civil unrest has restricted access for many relief agencies.

In response to this a joint Church response plan has been developed through the collaboration of UCPNG with other Churches in PNG, supported by UnitingWorld and other Australian NGOs. We are now in the process of leveraging significant government funding for an initiative designed to best meet the needs of the communities affected. They include:

Phase 1 Emergency (The next 1-4 months): distribution of vital supplies including water containers, hygiene, sanitation and shelter kits, addressing protection, conflict resolution and psychosocial support.

Phase 2 Early Recovery (4-8 months): semi-permanent reconstruction (houses, latrines, schools, infrastructure) protection, conflict resolution and ongoing psychosocial support.

Phase 3 Recovery (8-12 months): permanent reconstruction (houses, latrines schools, infrastructure), protection, conflict resolution and psychosocial support.

UCPNG are committed to providing support to these communities, and have already helped agencies to distribute emergency supplies to many of the communities most in need through the information gained from the assessment. We understand that the need is great and are working closely with UCPNG to help speed up processes, with the procurement and logistics planning for the first phase now underway.

Our partners have been directly affected by this disaster. They are not only working to access to the communities most affected by this tragedy, they ARE part of these communities.

To make a donation to the relief efforts please visit: https://www.unitingworld.org.au/pngearthquake

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) state the most efficient and cost-effective way of helping those affected by this disaster is with your donation. We ask you to please refrain from sending physical items. For more information please click here

Following years of violence, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has seen a heavy loss of ministers. Many died in the conflict and others were forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

But this Easter weekend, the PCOSS celebrated the ordination of six ministers (one of them a woman), five elders, and four deacons in Khartoum, Sudan.

The PCOSS has been working tirelessly with partners and the Nile Theological College to renew leadership within the church. These new leaders will work towards restoring the foundation of leadership within the church and preaching a message of peace and reconciliation in their communities.

The new church leaders celebrated Easter in a refugee camp that is now a temporary home to thousands of  refugees from South Sudan.

PCOSS General Secretary, Rev. John Yor Nyker said there were around four thousand people present for their Easter celebration, and he heard that there were other events held across Sudan.

South Sudan, gained independence in 2011. Its short life has been stunted by conflict, as political differences between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar erupted into full-blown war in 2013.

The conflict and instability in South Sudan led to a devastating famine last year, leaving over 7 million of people dependent on humanitarian assistance and forcing more than a million people to flee the country.

Related reading: ‘South Sudan church leaders in Easter message stand committed to people in face of war and hunger’ (via World Council of Churches)

Read about how your support is helping the people of Tonga recover and rebuild, where we’re up to with training leaders in China, and why pigs are revolutionary in Bali. Plus a reflection from our National Director, Dr Sureka Goringe. Download here.

Read here:

“Do you feel that your personal expenditure reflects compassion for those in need?”

That Bible study question really got me thinking. When I looked at my life, I saw countless blessings – a quality education, opportunities to travel, a generous and supportive family, great friends and a good job. Yet what was I giving back? The amount was tiny. It came entirely from my excess. I remembered the story of the widow’s offering – the poor woman who gave just two small coins, which was all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44). She gave humbly, generously and sacrificially. I couldn’t give everything, but I could be more like her.

That week I prayed, I researched, and then I increased my donations more than tenfold. I began to give a good chunk of money – one that I could not miss on my monthly bank statement. It is now one of my biggest regular expenditures, after paying for the roof over my head.

How do I afford it? Well, I now have to be more careful with my money – it is like a permanent Lent Event where purchased coffees and other luxuries are the exception, not the norm. But I don’t begrudge it for one second! I see it as God’s money – my contribution – to making this world a better place.

After reflection, I chose to give my entire contribution to overseas relief, development, and capacity-building projects. Of course, the need within Australia is also great, but I reasoned that my taxes and the Australian Government contribute a lot already to health and welfare in this country.

I chose to give to one organisation rather than many, because the impact would be greater. I would only get one set of mail-outs, and thus a greater proportion of my money would actually reach the people I wanted to help.

I chose to give regular monthly donations because I knew that planned giving was more helpful to organisations. Nonetheless, I still sometimes give to appeals, and I love purchasing the ‘Everything in Common’ gift cards to share the good news with family and friends.

Finally, I chose to give to UnitingWorld because I believe in their work. UnitingWorld’s relief and development projects have Australian Government accreditation, so I know that I am contributing to good projects. In addition, the project partners are people of faith! I believe that the best way to share God’s love is through action. So I wanted my contribution to help with this.

I always thought that I would make a large contribution in my will (and indeed, I still plan to) but doing it while I am still alive excites me more! We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth…’ and I hope that I will see that day – when extreme poverty is gone, when all children have an education, and when the marginalised are empowered. Imagine that!

UnitingWorld works in partnership with local organisations – building skills, capacity and relationships, as well as funding projects. There are so many opportunities for individuals and communities in Australia to become involved in these relationships – including visiting, sharing stories, supporting and praying for our overseas partners. God and relationships are at the heart of the work and with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

This is my story. What is yours? Do you feel that your personal expenditure – of your time, your money, or your purchasing decisions – reflects compassion for those in need? I encourage you to pray and to ponder.

Blessings,

From a UnitingWorld supporter (who has chosen to remain unnamed because it is my story, not my identity, that is important).

We can’t tell you how much we appreciate stories like this one. If this reflection has challenged you to become a Regular Giver, hop over to our giving page and choose ‘recurring gift’ here

The Methodist Church of Zimbabwe is hard at work conducting Youth Resilience Training. With the 2018 election fast approaching, a major focus of the most recent Marondera and Gweru training have been around peaceful political participation.

61 young women and 49 young men participated in the most recent Youth Resilience Training. Bishop Tawanda Sungai addressed the youth regarding their duties as Christians in peacemaking:

“He started by indicating on the beatitude that says “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God”. He emphasized that as children of God and for us to see God we have to be peacemakers. Elections being around the corner it is the duty of the children of God to pray for peace, participate in elections peacefully, never be used as agents of violence.”

In Zimbabwe, youth are often targeted by political groups as agents of violence and intimidation. With astronomically high youth unemployment rates, they are particularly susceptible to offers to be perpetrators of violence. The 100 youth who attended the training will now be actively working against this risk. They are equipped with a message of peaceful political engagement and they are spreading it far and wide.

There has been a history of violence in past election years. Our partners have indicated that while there is some increased tension, there hasn’t been the same level of violence as seen in the past. The MCZ will continue to work towards peaceful elections through youth training, voter education, and advocating for peace.

Between July and December of 2017, the Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu held nine awareness raising sessions across Vanuatu. The aim of these sessions is to introduce youth, Sunday school teachers, and community leaders to Gender Equality Theology. 707 people were trained in all:

  • 481 children
  • 22 Sunday school teachers
  • 36 Elders
  • 11 Deacons
  • 107 PWMU members
  • 10 Secretaries
  • 6 Presidents
  • 20 Pastors
  • 8 Committee members
  • 3 treasurers
  • 3 Chiefs

One male Pastor who attended the training said, “After the workshop in June, I went back to my parish and encouraged my church leaders. A deacon is now helping his wife do the housework because he always comes to our house and sees me helping my wife with the housework. The message reached other villages and now the people are requesting for Gender Awareness. I am so happy with the changes. We have a strong culture but I thank God that a change is happening and I am happy it started with one of my deacons. For the first time in this community and also this part of the island, I nominated a woman as the Evangelism Coordinator.”