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Author: UnitingWorld

UnitingWorld will be holding a series of public seminars to connect our partners with supporters in Australia.

Across three events, representatives from eight of our international partner churches will discuss the unique challenges they face being the Church and addressing poverty and injustice in their contexts.

The events are free, open to members of the public. However, places are limited so please register to book your place here.

These events form part of UnitingWorld’s presence at the 15th Triennial Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia to be held in Melbourne, and Assembly delegates are enthusiastically encouraged to attend.

 

Event details for sessions

HOPE IN A TIME OF ADVERSITY (Mon 9 July, 1-2PM)

Our partners from Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Maluku discuss how they respond to these uncertain times in world affairs. In this seminar, Prof Andrew Glenn explores with them the challenges the church faces in these political hotspots and the Christian hope that sustains them.

BEING A MINORITY CHURCH (Wed 11 July, 1-2PM)

Living in the midst of Hinduism and Islam in Bali and Buddhism, Daoism and Islam in China, our partners from Bali and China discuss with Associate Director, Jane Kennedy, how the church is working to play a vital role building Christ’s kingdom.

THEOLOGY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (Fri 13 July 1-2PM)

How does the church respond to the prevalence and severity of domestic violence? On average one woman is killed every week by a partner in Australia and the spread of the #MeToo movement internationally since 2017 attests to widespread sexual harassment and assault. Our partners in Vanuatu, Fiji and India discuss with Associate Director, Bronwyn Fraser, how they are working to address belief systems which perpetuate domestic violence.

 

Venue / Location

The Matsudo Room

Box Hill Town Hall

1022 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC

Parking on street, behind library or multilevel carparks nearby

 

Cost

Entry is free – BYO lunch.

Tea and coffee provided.

 

Register for a session

Registration is essential as seating is limited and the venue is secure.

Register online: https://www.trybooking.com/WEKP

Or call: 02 8267 4267  |  0412 875 656

 

More information/enquiries: assemblysupport@unitingworld.org.au

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) has issued a statement calling for peace ahead of national elections on 30 July.

The elections will be the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under military pressure, and it’s feared that intense partisanship in the nation could lead to violence. On 25 June, a bomb exploded as Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa was leaving a campaign rally, killing two people and injuring at least 49.

In a national newspaper article, the MCZ has urged all Zimbabweans “to uphold a peaceful environment where non-violent, free and fair elections are experienced.” The church also appealed to political leaders to respect voting rights and refrain from violence and hate speech in their campaigns.

Read their full statement here.

Please join us in praying alongside our MCZ brothers and sisters that peace prevails.

In this edition of Update, you’ll read about families in Indonesia, Maluku and West Papua who, with your support, have been trained in goat breeding, learned about family farming or used micro credit loans to start small businesses. They’re not just seeding a new future for their families, they’re contributing to a better future for all.

You’ll also read about the impact of using the Bible as a powerful lens through which to see the world and drive change for women in the Pacific.

Download here.

Read here:

“Since the conflict,” “after the conflict,” “during the conflict.” These phrases pepper almost every conversation.

It might be 20 years, but the violence that broke out between Muslims and Christians in Ambon, Indonesia in 1999 is still the watershed event that shapes all narratives.

People died, homes and businesses were burnt down and two communities that used to live intermingled were left segregated and distrustful. How do you come back from that?

Chickens. Garbage. Hydroponics.

Unlikely you say? Not so, says the church in Ambon.

They’ve been setting up community projects where groups of people work together on an area of common need – women raise chickens to generate income; students clean up garbage pollution in their local river; families without land start hydroponics to grow food.

The magic? Each group is half Muslim, half Christian. Friendships are made, trust is rebuilt, the poor have new income. They learn to depend on each other. When friction flares up between individuals, people step in and diffuse it.

Six years since the start of this initiative, the two faith communities are intermingling, doing business and socialising with each other. When there was a flare up of violence during a recent election campaign, it did not affect any of the villages where this project has been running.

If that wasn’t enough, our local church partner has been deliberately seeking out the involvement of people with disabilities to include in the income generating and peacebuilding collaborations.

So much hope! If you didn’t believe it was possible to turn swords into ploughshares, think again – the Protestant Church of Maluku, with our support is doing it with chickens and hydroponic kale.

Biblical training continues to help unlock chains of oppression for women in Papua New Guinea, one of the toughest places on earth to be born female.

Many of you have heard about our gender theology work for women’s equality. Last month thirty-four men and women from all seven of the mainline church denominations in Papua New Guinea met together to continue to champion the cause. Each received intensive training in gender equality from the Bible and is passionate about influencing gender awareness and equality among individuals, churches and government.

“The participants were pastors, theologians and people who are voluntarily committed to social change,” says International Programs Manager, Aletia Dundas.

“They all come from different theological and doctrinal backgrounds, but they’re all committed to working from their Christian faith to respect the dignity and human rights of all.”

As is the case across much of the Pacific, women in Papua New Guinea experience high rates of domestic violence, have few opportunities to earn incomes and are seriously under-represented in politics. But PNG is also a deeply religious society, and churches are leading the way toward challenging cultural practices that hold women captive. Our partners are working to train leaders in the ‘Ten Pillars of Gender Equality’ using the Bible, casting the relationship between men and women in a transforming new light.

“Each day the workshop began with Bible Study, led twice by Rev Dr Afereti Uili from Samoa and once by a team from the PNG Anglican Church,” Aletia reports. “The group was incredibly open to discussing tough topics like household codes and how culture influences gender roles.”

Participants spoke of the ways they have sought to share gender equality theology in their work or church. One participant from the United Church in PNG described the challenges of not being taken seriously as a lay woman offering to lead a Bible study. Others shared about confidently responding to challenging questions with equally challenging answers.

Your gifts are helping support this vital work. The group in PNG will continue to meet together, encourage each other and learn so that more people can be trained to strengthen the voices and roles of women.

UnitingWorld’s Gender Equality Theology work in PNG is part of the Church Partnership Program and is supported by the Australian Government in partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea.

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