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Leaders from our church partner in South Sudan have asked for prayer as they host training and discussions for peacebuilding in neighbouring Sudan.

Leadership and Peace Training in South Sudan, 2016

Since the civil war broke out in 2013, tens of thousands of South Sudanese have fled into Sudan to escape the fighting. Many now live in refugee camps in Khartoum, and South Sudanese Christians worship in churches there.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) have sent leaders to conduct peacebuilding workshops in five different refugee camps in Sudan.

They will be addressing issues of trauma and reconciliation among the people, and also concerns of persecution, with the threat of planned demolition of some 28 churches by the Sudanese government.

Several church pastors have also been arrested for publicly challenging the church demolitions. Thankfully, they have now been released.

This work by PCOSS would not be possible without UnitingWorld supporters, who have helped fund peace and reconciliation workshops and peacebuilding activities in South Sudan and Sudan.

The leaders ask for prayer as they carry out their critical work in Sudan this week (ending 30 March).

Please join us in praying for the work of these courageous peacemakers, as well as the international response to the ongoing famine that is threatening millions in South Sudan.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan is responding to the famine through their development agency PRDA. You can help them get urgent food and water to people in affected areas. Donate Now

16 March, 2016

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) has released a statement urging President Trump to de-escalate the growing tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Tensions have risen due to the deployment of a US-supplied anti-missile defense system ‘THAAD’ (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) in South Korea. In response, North Korea has announced they’re preparing a nuclear weapon, and many are predicting Kim Jong Un’s regime wants to strike first before THAAD is operational.

In a letter to international partners, the NCCK has made a call for peace and asked for prayers.

“[These] weapons are terrifying Koreans with the threat of nuclear war. We want peace for the Korean peninsula,” they said.

“Please pray for peace and justice on the Korean peninsula.”

Join us in answering their call. Please pray for peace, justice and for the people working across Korea to prevent war and nuclear disaster.


Letter to President Trump

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of the National Council of Churches (NCCK), I bring the warmest greetings to you in the name of God of Peace.

The National Council of Churches in Korea wishes to express our concern with the growing tensions on the Korean peninsula. For over sixty years since the signing of the armistice agreement, the people of the Korean peninsula have lived in fear of war breaking out again in an instant. Where President Obama had failed using “strategic patience” you have the chance to either succeed in negotiation or on the other hand to bring disaster upon us.

Especially we worry now as the THAAD missile defence system has arrived in South Korea, and North Korea has fired off four missiles in response. We fear the tensions have risen higher than they have been in decades. We ask you to move now. Turn back these steps toward war, and take up a successful strategy for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

We have heard your administration is considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea as one of your options. We urge you to take this off the table, as it would guarantee an all-out war. In this current situation of upheaval around South Korea’s presidency and impeachment process, ruling party members are clamoring more loudly for South Korea to obtain its own nuclear weapons. All of these actions take us closer to open battle. Turning the Korean peninsula into a battlefield again would ensure our annihilation.

We ask you to seek dialogue with North Korea immediately to decrease tensions. Dialogue is the only way toward de-escalation and convincing the North that their immediate survival is not at stake and does not depend on military defense.

For the sake of our continued existence we call upon you to enter into dialogue and turn Northeast Asia away from what might begin a new world war.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kim, Young Ju
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Korea

This was posted in solidarity with our partners, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), the Korean Methodist Church (KMC) and the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK).

The National Council of Churches in Korea is the largest ecumenical agency in South Korea. Supported by the major Protestant denominations, it is at the centre of movements for human rights and peace across Korea. Many Korean churches are working faithfully to bring peace, reconciliation, and reunification to the Korean peninsula.

Photo via koreareport2.blogspot.com

Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
March 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon has announced the ordination of the first two women as ministers in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon.

Rev. Rola Sleiman is ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli

As the Evangelical Church celebrates the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation this year, Rev. Joseph Kassab, General Secretary of the Synod, has announced that two women Preachers in the church will be ordained “to serve the Word and Sacraments.”

The two women are Preacher Rola Sleiman, who was ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli on Sunday 26 February 2017, and Preacher Najla Kassab who will be ordained at Rabieh Church in Beirut on 24 March 2017.

The ordination of Rola Sleiman has been hailed as an historic milestone, as she is the first woman to be ordained in a Middle Eastern Church. After her ordination service she told journalists, “Christ’s justice has been finally fulfilled.”

Reverend Joseph Kassab acknowledged that this event was an important step in the life of the Evangelical Church in the Middle East. He gave thanks to the Lord “for opening our hearts and minds while we celebrate the 500 years of the Reformation Movement by fully opening our arms to women in ministry.”

Read more:

Arab World’s First Ordained Female Pastor is Historic

21 Feb, 2017

“What do you have left when all you can see and touch is lost?”

That was the starting point for deep discussions on disaster response at workshops hosted by UnitingWorld at the Pacific Theological College in the Fijian capital Suva from 15-17 February 2017.

Over the course of three days UnitingWorld’s Regional Coordinator of Pacific Programs Rev. Dr Cliff Bird, Associate Director of International Programs Dr Sureka Goringe, Manager of Church Partnerships for the Pacific Rev. Dr Seforosa Carroll and the Uniting Church’s National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson gave presentations to partner church representatives on the vital role of emotional and spiritual support in disasters.

The workshops took place in the lead-up to the anniversary of Cyclone Winston which struck Fiji on 20 February 2016 with winds of more than 200 km/h, causing 44 deaths, damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes, and significantly impacting around 350,000 people.

Since Cyclone Winston UnitingWorld has worked with the Pacific regional partners to strengthen humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction capacity. This has included supporting the establishment of a trauma counselling chaplaincy network in Fiji.

Pacific churches involvement in humanitarian work is important because of the pre-eminent place they occupy in their respective countries and the increasing intensity and frequency of climate change driven natural disasters in the region.

“If God is loving, good and all powerful, why do disasters happen?” Rev. Dr Cliff Bird unpacks some difficult theological questions.

UnitingWorld has been increasingly drawn into assisting these responses, which has led to the agency setting up an Emergency Response & Disaster Risk Reduction Program.

In 2016 UnitingWorld joined seven other Church agencies to form the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN DO) consortium. CAN DO consortium members are committed to ensuring that churches of all denominations are supported to increase community resilience to natural disaster.

UnitingWorld and its partners will continue to work together with the other CAN DO agencies and their respective in-country partner churches in cooperation with national government disaster management offices.

“Regional humanitarian response capacity will be greatly strengthened by churches and faith-based development agencies cooperating with each other,” says UnitingWorld National Director Rob Floyd.

Male and female delegates attended the workshops from the United Church in PNG, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the Methodist Church in Fiji, the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu, the Kiribati Uniting Church and the United Church in Solomon Islands.

“It is critically important that disaster readiness and response planning be informed by the priorities and insights of women and so the gender balance amongst the workshop delegates is intentional,” said Sureka Goringe, UnitingWorld’s Associate Director of International Programs.

Workshop outcomes sought include the establishment of the counselling chaplaincy network, clearer understandings about humanitarian response planning, development of national disaster response and readiness strategies, and how to leverage the support of regional governments to strengthen the effectiveness of this work in the Pacific.

Make a donation to UnitingWorld’s emergency relief fund

In 2016, the world received a harsh wake up call – we saw the rise to power of Donald Trump and growing support for nationalist and isolationist views from people such as Pauline Hanson, Rodrigo Duterte and Nigel Farage. We watched the heartbreaking situation in Aleppo, the horrific and inhumane treatment of people on Manus and Nauru and the Government’s lack of leadership on climate change. For most of us, 2016 was one big horror film that kept on dishing up the scares.

But we can’t afford to give up or give in because the stakes have never been higher and the importance of people power has never been more important.

That is one of the reasons we’re reshaping the Campaign for Australian Aid as “Up To Us”.  Up To Us is a community of people who lead the resistance to nationalism and isolationism and who support an internationalist approach to tackling global issues such as climate change, inequality, and poverty.  We are harnessing people power toward a vision for a fairer world.

Late last year, we spoke about an incredible opportunity for every Australian to have their voice heard. Right now, the Government is writing a long-term plan for Australia’s foreign policy – they’re calling it a “White Paper.” This White Paper will guide the way Australia engages with the rest of the world.

Make no mistake: we’re living in one of the most turbulent periods in history. It’s vital that the Government listens to all Australians and develops a plan that reflects our views. This means it is critical that people like you and your friends and family have your say on shaping the kind of world we want to live in and the role Australia should have in making your vision a reality. You can have your say today, just by taking the 60 second #UpToUs survey  to create a submission to the Government.

What kind of Australia do you envision in the years to come? If we want Australia to become a global leader on issues like climate change, people seeking asylum and ending poverty, it’s up to us to lead the way. Together, we are powerful – we can inspire thousands of globally minded Australians to make submissions and ask for a more sustainable, welcoming and compassionate country.

The need for the world to work together to address shared global challenges has never been more urgent – the world is facing multiple challenges of war, poverty, hunger, displaced people and climate change. Thousands of submissions from people who care like you , will make a powerful statement about the kind of world we want and the important contribution Australia can make in tackling these challenges.

While we’ve made it easy for everyday Australians to have their say about Australia’s place in the world, our work won’t end here. We’ve got plenty of creative ideas as to how you can amplify your impact with decision makers… stay tuned.

In the meantime, head down to one of the Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane  forums to have an open discussion and share some food (and your ideas!) with like-minded people. (For details on the forums, contact communications@unitingworld.org.au).

After the Government releases its White Paper, we’ll publish a people powered manifesto (The People’s White Paper) that captures the views of our supporters and the public.

Remember, it’s up to us to fight for the change we want to see. Time is ticking – submit your views in just 60 seconds right now and look for the it’s #UpToUs hashtag on social media so you can spread the message. Don’t forget: you can also share this blog post on Twitter and Facebook (look for the buttons at the top right hand side of this page).

Blog written by the Campaign for Aid, of which UnitingWorld is a member (representing the Uniting Church in Australia).

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