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Author: UnitingWorld

The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has called for the urgent implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and for leaders to hear the voices of Pacific Islanders – the most vulnerable people to the impacts of climate change.

The PCC made its statement during a meeting of church leaders in Auckland, New Zealand this week.

The meeting comes as Fiji prepares to chair the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23), the annual climate change conference of 196 countries to be held in Bonn, Germany in November.

The statement calls on governments to increase their pledges to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5℃, and to support local and community-based approaches to risk management and climate change resilience.

The Pacific Church leaders said: “We exercise our prophetic voice as churches and believers of the faith to amplify the cries of our people and Moana (ocean) who are directly or indirectly affected by climate change and encourage the spirit of stewardship among ourselves as custodians of God’s creation.”

“We recognise the existing local knowledge and community strengths as an important factor in building a more sustainable and climate resilient Pacific. We call for full consultation and participation of our communities in national climate adaptation planning processes… and to create a new culture of proactive rather than reactive risk management.”

UnitingWorld this week launched an appeal to support our partner churches in the Pacific as they build critical resilience to disasters and climate change. Our partners have highlighted their urgent need for disaster preparation and how it will save lives in their communities.

The PCC also issued statements on nuclear proliferation in the region and a series of ‘calls to action’ on the self-determination of Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the French territory of New Caledonia and the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Pacific church leaders also called on churches in Australia and New Zealand to be spaces where Pacific Island diaspora communities are affirmed of their identities.

The PCC is a fellowship of 27 churches and nine member councils of churches in 17 island states across the Pacific. The Uniting Church in Australia is a member.

The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Standing Committee has approved the appointment of Dr Sureka Goringe as the National Director of UnitingWorld.

Dr Goringe is currently UnitingWorld’s Associate Director of International Programs for the Pacific region and a previous Chairperson of UnitingWorld’s Relief and Development National Committee.

The General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Colleen Geyer has welcomed Dr Goringe’s appointment.

“Sureka is a dynamic and passionate advocate of the Uniting Church’s overseas mission work who’s built strong relationships with our church partners in her current role.”

“I look forward to working with her as she takes up this key leadership role, and to Sureka’s continued contribution to our shared expression of God’s mission to change lives for the better around the world,” said Ms Geyer.

Dr Goringe succeeds outgoing National Director Rob Floyd, who is taking up the role of Associate General Secretary in the newly created Assembly Resourcing Unit.

Her appointment will take effect on 17 July 2017.

MEDIA RELEASE: June 16, 2017

The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has announced a consortium of eight church agencies, as one of the successful agencies that tendered for the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP).

The “Church Agencies Network Disaster Operation” (CAN DO) consortium comprises of Caritas Australia (consortium leader), Act for Peace, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Australia, Anglican Board of Mission, Anglican Overseas Aid, the Australian Lutheran World Service, Transform Aid International (Baptist World Aid Australia) and UnitingWorld.

The AHP is a five-year $50 million commitment from the Australian government which brings together six NGOs (Care, Caritas/CAN DO, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision) to rapidly respond to global crises.

The AHP also has a new strategic focus on Pacific preparedness and resilience work. This new focus, in particular building capacity of local organisations, will enhance the effectiveness of the CAN DO networks ongoing disaster preparedness work through its extensive network of churches across the Pacific.

Speaking at the AHP’s launch in Brisbane today, Foreign Minister Bishop said the partnership will increase the capacity of local organisations and communities to manage crises.

“Building on the NGOs’ extensive regional networks, we will help to ensure Pacific nations are more resilient to disasters, and can more quickly rebuild and return peoples’ lives to normal,” Ms Bishop said.

CAN DO Chair, Anthony Sell, said the network members will use their extensive network of Church partners throughout the Pacific to reduce the disaster risk of highly vulnerable urban, rural and remote island communities.

“As individual agencies we already play respond well to natural disasters. By joining together into a strong network, we can make an even greater difference, especially to vulnerable communities in neighbouring Pacific countries,” Mr Sell said.

“CAN DO enables us to pre-position, prepare and resource churches to be first responders. We will apply our strong, lifesaving programs to help the most vulnerable in these communities,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

All members of CAN DO are signatories to the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Code of Conduct.

CAN DO is a member of the Australian Humanitarian Partnership between the Australian Government and some of Australia’s leading international NGOs. The AHP has a strategic focus on Pacific preparedness and resilience work, in particular building capacity of local organisations across the region to manage disasters more effectively.  

Media contact 
CAN DO: Cassandra Hill 0402 756 027, cassandra.hill@caritas.org.au
UnitingWorld: Marcus Campbell 0432443744, marcusc@unitingworld.org.au

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Australia’s worst maritime disaster, the sale of Margaret Reeson’s books will support UnitingWorld’s work in the Pacific.

On 1 July 1942, the Japanese ship Montevideo Maru was sunk by an Allied submarine off the coast of off the coast of Luzon, Philippines. It was later revealed that it was carrying more than 1000

Montevideo Maru memorial at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

prisoners of war, mostly Australians, all of whom died in the sinking. The tragic event remains Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

A lesser told story, is that among the prisoners were ten Methodist missionaries who had been captured by the Japanese in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea and were being transferred to Hainan, off southern China.

Margaret Reeson, a prominent author, historian and leader in the Uniting Church in Australia has written two books on the sinking of Montevideo Maru, recounting the untold stories of the prisoners, survivors and the families who waited years for reliable news about their loved ones. Margaret herself was a Methodist missionary who worked in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and 70s.

To mark the 75th Anniversary of the Montevideo Maru, Margaret Reeson’s two books are on sale and 75% of the proceeds will go to UnitingWorld’s work in the Pacific.

A Very Long War (2000) $20

Describes the deep impact on those affected by the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, the families of the missing and the wider Rabaul community.

“A respectful narrative, beautifully told…shocking stories treated with insight and restraint. A book of hope and healing.”

“A tragic and largely uncommemorated episode of Australian war history, although this sensitive book, generously illustrated, goes some way towards rectifying that omission.” —The Australian

Whereabouts Unknown (1993) $24  

The moving story of those who disappeared after the fall of Rabaul in 1942, the mystery of the loss of over 1000 POW’s with the sinking of the prison ship Montevideo Maru, and the pain of wives and families who waited in vain for news. It also recounts the experiences of a handful of Australian nurses, captured and transported to Japan, four of them Methodist missionaries.

  

To Purchase

Contact  Ron Reeson rdreeson@bigpond.com Ph 02 6262 3677

Payment by cheque or bank transfer (details can be provided)

Postage (anywhere in Australia) 1 book $6; 2 or more books $10

Media Release
5 May 2017

UnitingWorld will facilitate it’s fourth Annual Regional Workshop for Women’s Fellowships to be held in Nadi, Fiji from 22 – 26 May, 2017. This year the workshop will focus on gender equality, church transformation, partnership and projects.

The workshop will continue to build on the shared learning and experiences of participating organisations from across the Pacific, with practical assistance for running effective community development projects; understanding and advancing gender equality within churches; and promoting the leading role of women and women’s fellowship organisations in transforming churches and communities.

Having facilitated workshops in previous years, UnitingWorld Pacific Program Manager Bronwyn Fraser has seen the power of women leaders coming together from across the Pacific to share resources and learn from one another’s experiences.

 “Bringing these women together to share knowledge and stories from the field is not only an excellent way of learning from one another, it’s also valuable self-care and solidarity for them – knowing there are many other women out there working to overcome the same challenges,” she said.

There will also be sessions the on theology of gender equality and God-given human dignity for women, reflecting on Rev Dr Cliff Bird’s recent Bible study resource, ‘God’s Vision for Human Relationships Vol. 2’. As in previous years, the workshop will continue to focus on the practical, discussing how to embed gender equality within churches and how women’s fellowship organisations can implement practices of gender equality in their development projects.

 “Participants will be invited to discuss how traditional interpretations of the Bible have defined women and how God’s view of equality shifts these expectations and provides women with the opportunity see their worth as equally created in God’s image and likeness for abundant life,” said Bronwyn Fraser.

This workshop, part-funded by Australian Aid, is part of UnitingWorld’s Partnering Women for Change Program (PW4C), which focuses on the strength of women to identify and address key development challenges in their own countries and communities. UnitingWorld works with churches and ecumenical networks to challenge traditional patriarchal views of the Bible, in favour of a framework that sees the Bible as a foundation for advancing equality, inclusion and dignity of all human beings. The PW4C Program also works closely with women’s fellowship organisations in supporting voice and leadership opportunities for women within churches and community.

The Partnering Women for Change Program is partly supported by funding from Australian Aid.

Dated: 5 May 2017
Contact:
Bronwyn Fraser +61 401 023 756
bronwynf@unitingworld.org.au

Read more:

UnitingWorld: Gender Equality in the Pacific Through Theology (Pacific Women)

A Biblical take on Human Rights – Bridging the Gap for Gender Equality in the Pacific

Case study: Faith and Gender Equality in the Pacific (DFAT)

The following was adapted from a letter sent to encourage a large network of partners who work, pray and advocate alongside the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS). South Sudan is currently the epicenter of an emergency in Africa described by the United Nations as the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII.

April, 2017

I am sensing that many of us who advocate for the people of South Sudan are feeling discouraged. We all desperately seek an immediate end to conflict, to loss of life, and a way to provide humanitarian assistance for the people who suffer unimaginably. Millions displaced; uncounted killed; thousands starving… but they are not just numbers for us. They are family, friends and neighbours.

 

We feel the pain of the people and pray for them, yet nothing seems to improve. Our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears.

Sometimes we feel that we have done everything we can, yet nothing works. The truth is that the political, military and humanitarian situation in South Sudan is hard. People and governments disappoint and discourage us; the government of South Sudan seems to have become evil and the United States seems unwilling to intervene.

Photo credit: ABC, Martin Cuddihy (2016)

There is no value in pretending we don’t feel what we feel. We will never overcome discouragement by ignoring it or letting it paralyse our efforts. We always think that good will triumph, yet right now it seems more like failure.

When opposition seems to triumph, real conviction and genuine dedication are needed to stand against it. In my mind, I hear the clock ticking. Each tick equates to a baby starving, a woman being raped, a child being conscripted into the war, senseless killing of an aid worker… it is an ongoing nightmare. But we can’t just do nothing.

The following words of God were not just for Joshua, and that encourages me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

We must stop looking backwards at efforts that did not work; instead, we must shake off discouragement and keep trying. The price of failure is measured in lives lost and lives wasted. We cannot allow ourselves to falter or fail.

We won’t give up

At the same time, we, who work alongside you and consider you our friends and family in South Sudan, want you to know that we have not given up, and you must not either. We remember you, weep with you, and pray for you daily. We do not know when, but this horror will end. You will have a chance to rebuild your lives and establish a proper government that seeks to assist you rather than hold you back.

We know that people are divided and that even within ethnic groups there is disunity and distrust. But we also know that there is strength and unity in Christ.

South Sudan will be free

Just as there was a time when God called on Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt, there will be a time when God provides freedom, justice, stability and peace for the people of South Sudan.

Time and time again, God tells us, “Do not be afraid.”

You are never alone. God walks ahead of you to guide you, beside you to be your friend, above and below you to support you, and behind you to encourage you. Call out to God for help in these troubled times.

Remember Jesus’ words at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, “I am always with you, to the end of the age.”

Shake off discouragement. Don’t accept failure.

Instead, take heart – God’s success is inevitable.

– Bill Andress
Trinity Presbyterian South Sudan Ministry
South Carolina, USA

At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 wounded after suicide bombers targeted two Coptic churches in northern Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations.

The first blast was inside St George Coptic church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, north of Cairo, killing 27 people and injuring 78.

A second bomb was detonated in front of St Mark´s church in Alexandria on the country’s north coast after a suicide bomber tried to storm the entrance but was stopped by police. 17 were killed in the attack and at least 48 were injured.

As we grieve this tragic loss of life and attack on the Church body, we hold our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer.

Prayer for the Coptic Church in Egypt

On this Holy Week,

As we journey with Jesus to the cross,

We hold our brothers and sisters in Egypt in prayer.

We pray for the congregations in Alexandria and Tanta,

We pray for Coptic Pope Tawadros II,

and the families of the victims.

May our condolences be a support in their sorrow,

May the passion of Christ be their solidarity

as communities in the process of counting of their losses.

If one part of the Body of Christ is suffering, all members are suffering.

We pray for Coptic communities in Australia,

In the face of this brutality, we speak faith-inspired peace.

Where there are hateful deeds, we pray for good will and actions.

In the world of religious diversity,

We pray for Muslims and Christians, and people of all faiths.

Be unified in the common good of humanity.

May their interfaith dialogue be a pathway towards understanding and respect.

We pray for national leaders to work in collaboration for the people

May they recommit to upholding religious rights.

We also pray for ourselves

In this Holy Week, we look to each other.

Where fear distorts people’s judgement,

Let us step forward and lay our burdens onto the Cross.

Where anger intensifies violence,

Let us put the sword away and proclaim compassion to all.

In this Holy Week, we look deeply into the Passion of Jesus.

Where hopelessness rests in the minds of many

Let us listen to the cry of Jesus.

In the emptiness of his forsakenness,

There rests the source of perpetual truth

– His passion is our path of salvation.

-Rev Dr Ji Zhang

Read more:

World Council of Churches condemns terror attacks on churches in Egypt, calls for end to violence

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency after Palm Sunday church bombings kill 44

Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
7 April 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon is celebrating the the second female minister to be ordained in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon. 

Preacher Najla Kassab was ordained on 24 March, 2017 at a ceremony held at the Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Rabieh, Beirut.

Dr George Sabra, President of the Near East School of Theology (NEST), gave a sermon at the ceremony entitled ‘A day created by God’. “The fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Righteousness that has brought us so far… has led us to open all doors to this woman … for we can see her service to the Church and society as a whole,” he said.

Dr Sabra called on Preacher Kassab to persevere and never give up, irrespective of the circumstances.  He told those present that perseverance, no matter what, along with the love of Lord Jesus, represent the qualities of leadership needed to serve the church.  Addressing Kassab directly he said, “I am confident, as well as everyone else, that you possess these two qualities.”

Dr Sabra then presented Preacher Kassab with a Holy Bible, in the name of the Synod.

To conclude the ceremony, Kassab gave her first blessing as a Pastor, which was greeted with warm applause and congratulations by members of the Synod.

This historic event follows the ordination of Preacher Rula Sleiman, almost a month earlier in Tripoli, as the first female Evangelical Minister in Lebanon and the Middle East.

One in every five people currently in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.

Yes, you read that right.

Lebanon hosts the largest percentage of refugees in the world given its population, with over one million Syrian refugees registered in a country with just 4.5 million citizens. All these people living in an area less than a quarter of the size of Tasmania.

Over half of the refugees are children, and 48% of them aged 6-14 are out of school.

That’s 250,000 kids.

The influx of new arrivals fleeing the conflict and persecution by Daesh (or “ISIS”) militants has put an enormous strain on church and government services, particularly educational institutions. In response, the government of Lebanon has restricted Syrian children’s access to state schools, making the role of the church schools more important than ever.

UnitingWorld has launched a campaign to support Syrian refugee children get back to school.

Through our networks, UnitingWorld will support churches in Lebanon to provide education for more Syrian children and prevent them falling further behind in their education.

This exciting new campaign has grown out of the Uniting Church in Australia’s desire to help churches in Lebanon support new arrivals from Syria.

Recently, the UnitingWorld communications and fundraising team were privileged to sit with members of Bankstown Uniting Church and newcomers from Syria, to listen to their experiences of fleeing their home country into neighbouring Lebanon, before resettlement in Australia. They all spoke about wanting to do something to help their friends and families still in Syria and Lebanon.

We hope to raise $80,000 to get the project off the ground.

With your help, together we can make a big impact for the children of Syria.

How you can help

  1. Help us reach our goal by making a donation: https://chuffed.org/project/syriakids
  1. Share the page on social media
  1. Fundraise for us!We can create a team page for you on Chuffed so that you can fundraise at your church, community group or with your friends. Set your own group target and help the overall campaign to get Syrian kids back to school.You could also host a fundraising event or a group challenge that people can support you in.So get a team together and get in touch! marcusc@unitingworld.org.au or (02) 8267 4223

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