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Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and this year it’s especially important.

Global progress on ending poverty is one of the greatest human achievements of our time.

Since 1999, nearly a billion people have escaped extreme poverty. At the beginning of 2020, the global poverty rate was lower than it has ever been in recorded history.

That progress is now under threat.

The pace of change has been slowing in recent years and now the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing those decades of progress.

More than 700 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, still live in extreme poverty today and the World Bank recently estimated up to 150 million more people could be added by 2021.

“COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis that is far from over,” said UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe.

“The pandemic is pushing more people into poverty and vulnerability every day. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a reminder that we all have a role to play.”

The theme for 2020 is ‘Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all, and it aims to highlight the dimensions of poverty beyond income deprivation, including the rapidly growing impact of the environment. A more holistic approach is needed (like what our Pacific partners are creating for their context).

“No one should be deprived of what they need to live with dignity and each of us can choose to work together to create a fairer, more sustainable world for all,” said Dr Goringe.

Some ways to take action:

 

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been marked on 17 October since 1992. Learn more.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and UnitingWorld have joined Christian organisations around the world to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people and call attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines.

Following a global virtual meeting convened by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and International Ecumenical Convocation for the Defense of Human Rights, a ‘Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines’ was drafted.

The statement highlights serious ongoing human rights violations that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A militarized response to the COVID-19 pandemic … has unravelled lingering social inequalities and has further deepened economic misery in the country,” reads the statement.

“The proliferation of extrajudicial killings, including the killing of thousands of people under a so-called ‘war on drugs’, is reprehensible. We are concerned that a general climate of impunity has been synergized with the Philippine president’s unabashed incitement to violence and regular calls for state forces to punish legitimate dissent by the citizenry.”

The statement is also a call for international solidarity and a commitment to action.

“Continuing violations of human rights under the COVID-19 pandemic … accentuate the urgent need for intensified accompaniment and solidarity from Church formations and people of goodwill within and outside the Philippines,” the statement reads.

“In continuation of our historic commitment as faith-based bodies within the wider ecumenical community worldwide to peace, justice and the integrity of creation, we hereby join to keep watch and bear witness to the hopes and struggles of the Filipino people.”

“We call for an end to these killings. We stand with the Filipino citizenry in denouncing state impunity and the wanton display of violence and brutality by state forces.”

Read full statement.

Our partner, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), is among the many civil society organisations routinely targeted for their human rights and social justice work.

In July this year UCCP’s Rev. Dan San Andres Sr, known as a human rights defender, was arrested a week after the passing of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act.

UCCP mission workers in Davao who have provided sanctuary to displaced indigenous peoples since 1994 had their building raided and closed earlier this year. They are now facing a series of outrageous charges instigated by the government anti-insurgency agency, the National Task Force to End Localized Communist Armed Conflict.

In August last year, 51-yr-old UCCP Pastor Ernesto Javier Estrella was gunned down by men on motorcycles in Antipas, Cotabato Province without an apparent motive. Investigations focused on whether he was assassinated for alleged ties with “left-leaning groups.”

Please pray for and end to the violence and persecution, our church partners and all those working for peace and justice in the Philippines.

Don and Sylvia Wright, from Hervey Bay in Queensland, have been running Everything in Common gift stalls for UnitingWorld at Christmas for a few years now.

It’s a simple concept: buy a card for a loved one that represents a ‘gift’ to help someone overcome poverty: a goat, clean water, school books…

The Wrights send gift cards every year to their children who live overseas, and they love having the chance to put into practice the call to love their global neighbours through practical help and generosity. But they also get a kick out of learning from others.

“Everything in Common focuses on the needs of our partners in non-Western cultures, and we’ve learnt so much from hearing about them and how they’re meeting the challenges facing their communities,” the Wrights say.

“But we also love the chance to chat with others in our congregation and hear about their experiences travelling or supporting communities outside of Australia. We’ve developed some really strong friendships through running the stalls!”

UnitingWorld supplies everything you need to run an Everything in Common gift stall, like cards and promotional posters. It’s easy and the funds you’ll raise have a big impact. Over the last five years, people like the Wrights have helped us inject more than $2 million into projects that provide clean water, education, small business start-ups and much more.

“Consider getting involved in running a stall as you’re able, or plan to help promote the gifts in other ways if congregations are still unable to meet,” say the Wrights. “You can be part of talking with others about the needs of the wider world and experience just how effective accountable giving can be.”

Click here to register a stall as an Everything in Common Coordinator

Alternatively, you can call  us on 1800 998 122 or email info@unitingworld.org.au to get your gift stall up and running from October through to Christmas.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

UnitingWorld has relocated our office just a short walk down the street to Pilgrim House, next to Pitt Street Uniting Church. We’re loving the new environment, even though most of us still aren’t back full time in the office due to COVID-19 restrictions.

We made the move to cut overheads and we’re sharing the space with the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia. We’ll still get all your mail and calls, and when things are back to normal and you’re in Sydney sometime, do drop by to say hi at Level 3, 262 Pitt Street, Sydney.

The mural on the side of Pilgrim house (by artists Monk, Humphries and Taylor, 1984) was commissioned by Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon and Pitt St Uniting Church on the theme ‘Peace Justice and Unity.’

With international borders still closed, and far fewer tourists visiting places like Bali, we spoke to our partners in Indonesia to find out what life is like in the grip of the pandemic.

“People here are more worried about having no food and no jobs than about the pandemic,” says our Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator, Dr Debora Murthy.

“While that’s understandable, cases in Indonesia are still growing – there are more than 3,000 cases in Bali alone, with almost 100,000 across Indonesia. The threat is very real and we’re doing everything we can to share information about stopping the spread, especially among people who rely on traditional markets, where community transmission is highest.”

Our partners the Protestant Christian Church in Bali and their development agency MBM have been working hard to respond to food insecurity as well as safeguard against disease.

Here is what your gifts have been achieving in their capable hands:

  • Food assistance for 8,062 vulnerable women, children and especially those living with HIV/AIDS
  • COVID-19 prevention education for 2,237 families via brochures and social media
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants helped 31 communities supplement their dwindling food supplies
  • Packages of masks, soap and vitamins to protect against disease for 806 families
  • Hand washing videos sent directly to
  • 61 children in targeted communities
  • Quarantine support and care for 20 health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital
  • Sewing training for 12 women to make fabric masks; 3,890 purchased by MBM
  • to distribute
  • Training for ten Bali church leaders so they can become COVID-19 volunteers in their communities
  • Marketing support for six villages so they don’t have to physically travel to produce an income.

THANK YOU

to everyone who has helped men, women and children stay safe and avoid hunger in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and across the Pacific.  You’re amazing!

2020 is a year none of us could have predicted. Two thirds of the way through, Rev John Yor is clinging to his vision of a better future despite an unfolding nightmare that threatens everything he has worked for.

“I always wanted to serve my country, South Sudan, perhaps as an accountant or government official,” he says. “But God called me to the church, and I know this is where I’m meant to be.”

South Sudan is in the grip of the worst humanitarian crisis in its history. Seven million people are at risk of starvation as drought, lockdowns from COVID-19 and increased violence choke food supplies. In the midst of despair about political leadership, the Church is consistently at the forefront of peace negotiations and providing practical care for the nation, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

Rev John, now General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan with oversight of peacebuilding and humanitarian projects, has long had a vision for leadership.

It comes, though, at an incredibly high personal price. Married to Liza, he’s the father of six children aged between 13-28, one of them adopted when her parents were both killed.

But the family haven’t lived together for years – it’s simply too dangerous for Liza and the children to stay in Juba. Right now, John is living without running water or electricity in his home, and on the day we speak he has only two slices of bread saved for his dinner.

He hopes the water tanker will replenish his supply in the next day or so, but conditions have been incredibly hard for weeks, and he is recovering from a bout of malaria.

How does he persist when life is so difficult?

For Rev John, it’s a matter of faith, hope and love.

“In my heart I hold the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes: For everything there is a season,  and a time for everything under heaven.

A time to mourn, a time to laugh…a time for  war and a time for peace,” he says. “I don’t know when peace will come to South Sudan, but I love my people and I will be here when it does.”

Through your faithful giving, you’ve helped us support John and the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan team as they train leaders for peace and to address the trauma of conflict. Now, our partners have turned to responding to the immediate threat of hunger and disease. They’re distributing soap, face masks, food packs and critical information about staying safe as they wait for lockdowns to be lifted so they can return to their leadership training. They need our support, too, for their own survival. It’s their vision and steadfast commitment to a better future for South Sudan that will ultimately lead to change.

Thank you so much.
To all who’ve heard John’s story and been faithful in prayer and giving to keep this critical work strong, thank you.
If you would like to add your support, please donate at: www.unitingworld.org.au/southsudancrisis

Families in Muzarabani and Gokwe Districts in rural Zimbabwe were looking forward to being financially independent this year, but when COVID-19 lockdowns hit, their livelihoods selling produce at local markets evaporated like rain on the dusty road.

Run by the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe through the Methodist Development & Relief Agency (MeDRA) and supported by the Australian Government, the project they are part of supports small livelihoods projects such as raising chickens, pigs and goats to a generate both food and a sustainable income.

At the age of 64, Conceptar is no ordinary grandmother. Since 2009, she has cared for her orphaned grandchildren. There are now six children to house, feed, educate and clothe, but since joining the project in 2014, Conceptar says it has been a source of hope for her and her family.

Income from the sale of chickens (particularly) was providing food and education to Conceptar’s household and many others, but when Zimbabwe went into lockdown due to COVID-19 everything changed.

“Everything seemed to be evaporating in my life as it became very difficult to sell produce from the project,” said Conceptar.

“The disease has brought a sad face to the project as markets got closed.”

As large markets supplying local restaurants shut, the sale of produce became impossible. Conceptar’s family could no longer afford to buy food. They had to survive on one meal a day.

But hope was not lost when Conceptar learnt that MeDRA was already on their way to distribute food and support to her family and others in the village.

“I want to thank MeDRA for coming to my rescue as I got a food hamper which will go [a] long way to safeguard the food situation of my family,” said Conceptar.

She said her grandchildren rejoiced at the thought of being able to enjoy a cup of hot tea again thanks to MeDRA.

UnitingWorld had been supporting MeDRA to handover leadership of this project to communities by July this year. Due to COVID-19, this will be delayed to the end of June 2021, in order to ensure that families are supported through this difficult time of COVID-19 and the economic challenges this exacerbates and are able to maintain their livelihoods activities. After June 2021, we will continue to work with MeDRA and the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe by supporting the training of church leaders and youth leaders in addressing gender based violence, child protection, disability inclusion and human trafficking in their communities.

Thank you for supporting this work through your donations to our tax-time appeal. Your support and solidarity mean so much, especially in this global crisis. Thank you.

This project is also supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). Thanks to ANCP, we are making a huge difference together; lifting families out of poverty and helping people improve their lives.

Pacific church leaders and theologians have been guiding people of faith through the COVID-19 crisis. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the region, Pacific Island nations were quick to guard against the disease with safety lockdowns. The limited health infrastructure across much of the Pacific meant its populations were particularly vulnerable.

Pacific churches too were proactive in urging people to follow official health and safety advice during lockdowns, as well as giving theological guidance to help people of faith (the vast majority in the Pacific) understand and respond to the crisis. A proliferation of misinformation and dangerous theological framings has made their messages even more important.

A series of pastoral letters put out by the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) as well as several letters and social media posts circulated by prominent Pacific Christian leaders created an opportunity to consolidate the themes into a set of key theological messages.

The key messages were then turned into a series of seven printable posters and social media assets that could help amplify important pastoral guidance during the crisis.

Reverend Dorothy Jimmy of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) has been sharing the messages in her church and her words have reached people nationwide. One of her Sunday sermons was broadcast on national television and she used the opportunity to share the messages as well as reflections on gender-based violence and the need to promote dignity and protection in the home during COVID-19.

She also led follow-up daily devotions that were broadcast over a week, each morning and evening highlighting a message from the resources, Biblical Theological Guidance during COVID-19 and Messages on Dignity and Protection in the Home during COVID-19 (14 in total).

“People told me, ‘we saw you on TV! It was really good to hear a message about what God’s word says about what we are currently going through,’” said Rev Dorothy.

“The TV producer said he had never heard that sort of practical theology coming out [of the church].”

“A lot of people are looking to the Church right now in regard to what is happening.”

Martha Yamsiu Kaluatman, the Gender Focal Point of PCV said many people were hearing the ideas shared by Rev Dorothy for the first time.

“Many people I spoke to said they loved hearing the message on that issue [COVID-19] and on being resilient,” said Martha.

“It’s a new message to them.”

As part of the Gender Equality Theology project in Vanuatu, Martha, Rev Dorothy and the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union (PWMU) Gender Team ran an awareness workshop and used the theological messages with 36 women leaders in North and South Efate Presbyteries on 24 and 30 June.

The feedback from the women leaders was positive and helped highlight the need for clear and positive theological messaging during crises like COVID-19.

“Most of us have been confessing – because of our misunderstanding of COVID-19 as a punishment from God and we blame other people as well,” said a participant.

“The message challenged me because I was upset with the people of China and anyone from China.”

Many of the leaders committed to sharing what they learned at the workshop with others in their communities.

“I have to go and help others that have negative thoughts. I have learned that COVID-19 is not a punishment from God.”

“We must not blame others for COVID-19, and I must be kind to them because everything has its seasons.”

UnitingWorld Project Manager Aletia Dundas says the power of the messages relies on how they are picked up and adapted by churches in their local contexts.

“The key messages were consolidated in this way to be contextualised, translated and used by churches to inform people about what is going on and how to respond faithfully to the crisis,” said Ms Dundas.

While a lot of bad theology has emerged during the COVID-19 crisis, many of the harmful messages have come to the Pacific from outside and are being countered by Pacific theologians.

“Pacific leaders and theologians are challenging harmful theology with strong positive theological messaging in support of government and health messaging, and against stigmatisation and blame. These messages identify preventative measures and identifying it as an act of faith.”

“The posters aim to amplify their messages,” said Ms Dundas.

Churches in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have already adopted and translated the messages, and churches in Papua New Guinea used the initial PCC pastoral letters to create their own series of posters.

You can download the English and Bislama (Vanuatu) versions of the resources here.

Another series of posters and shareable key messages are being developed from the Messages on Dignity and Protection in the Home during COVID-19 resource. Stay tuned!

 


 

This project is a collaboration of UnitingWorld, CAN DO and the Pacific Conference of Churches, in close collaboration with UnitingWorld’s partners in the Disaster READY project (the United Church Solomon Islands, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Methodist Church in Fiji).

Funding was provided by the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN DO), a consortium of faith-based agencies that was formed to better coordinate and strengthen our global humanitarian, disaster risk reduction and resilience-building work.

Funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership is supporting the translation and adaptation of messages in some countries.

Read about the innovative ways our Pacific partners have been responding to COVID-19 crisis

Early this week we received news of the death of Reverend Sir Samson Lowa, former Moderator of our partner, the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG).

Rev Lowa will be remembered as a great Pacific leader and peacemaker who saved a church, championed ecumenical partnerships and influenced all those around him with humility and servant leadership. Leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia past and present have been paying tribute to a remarkable man and leader this week.

Former National Director of Uniting International Mission (now UnitingWorld) and close friend, Reverend Bill Fischer said of him:

“Rev. Samson Lowa was a most outstanding spiritual leader. He was of small stature, was gentle and humble, and radiated a deep faith and a genuine and pure heart. He reflected the love and peace of Christ and touched the hearts of all those he met.”

When Rev Lowa was elected Moderator in 1998, UCPNG was reeling from leadership disputes and facing insolvency. Banks were threatening to sell church properties to recoup debts. Rev Lowa met with the banks to negotiate a repayment plan so that churches could stay open, even offering to go to prison for the unpaid debts.

After negotiating a solution, he dealt with the leadership and transparency issues in the church, shifting the moral culture and steering UCPNG into the well-governed church that it is today.

Former National Director of UnitingWorld Reverend Dr Kerry Enright remembers Rev Lowa’s leadership as a turning point for the entire church that can be credited to the “power of his humble and transparent goodness.”

“… that goodness flowed through a large and complex church, hundreds of languages, many islands, dispersed people. When he retired, he left a church that had hope and a sense of unity,” said Rev Dr Enright.

Rev Lowa was influential in establishing the Church Partnership Program (CPP), an ongoing ecumenical collaboration of PNG churches to strengthen the institutional capacity of churches to deliver crucial health and education services, as well as activities in gender equality, social inclusion, peace and disaster risk reduction.

Current National Director of UnitingWorld Dr Sureka Goringe said his legacy in Papua New Guinea and Australia taught us what is possible when we choose to connect and have real relationships across boundaries. Both parties can be enriched forever.

“His recent work in brokering peace between communities in Bougainville in the run up to the referendum was nothing short of miraculous and inspiring – a testament to Rev Lowa’s courageous faith, and commitment to building bridges and healing relationships,” said Dr Goringe.

Immediate past National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd also remembers the way he brought people together to solve problems.

Rev Samson Lowa was a great leader and a great friend. Samson was loved and respected by everyone he met. He always made time to meet and listen to people and was able to bring people together in fellowship and shared purpose, often in very difficult situations,” said Mr Floyd.

During his time in leadership, Rev Lowa was a strong advocate for gender equality and the role of women in the church. When asked about his role in establishing the CPP, he was always keen to credit women’s fellowship groups on the success of church-based community development in PNG and for convincing the Australian Government to follow their lead.

“The women’s ministry is the most powerful ministry in the United Church of Papua New Guinea,” he said in 2012.

Throughout his life, Rev Lowa made strong connections with people and churches throughout Australia and the Pacific.

In Australia, he formed close friendships with Aboriginal leaders Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, former Moderator of Northern Synod, and civil rights leader Rev Charles Harris, who established the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). Rev Lowa supported Harris with the formation of UAICC and regularly attended Uniting Church Triennial Assemblies to connect with First and Second Peoples of the UCA.

Rev Dr Gondarra wanted to pay tribute to Rev Lowa this week in Tok Pisin language, as a sign of the deep respect and connection they shared:

Mi bin bungim Talatala Samson Lowa long nambawan taim, taim emi kam wok wantem Uniting Church NSW Synod long hia long Australia.

Talatala Samson wantem Rollie Bush na Pastor Charles… blong Uniting Church Townsville ibin wok bung wantem, long kamapim gopas wok na mekim kamap driman na visin blong faundasin bilong Aboriginal na Islander Congress aninit long lukaut blong Uniting Church Australia.

Lo makim UAICC, mi tok tenk yu long Papa God long sevis bilong Rev Lowa. Em trupla lida, brata insait long Krais, na man husat ibin sanap pas klostu wantem mipla.  Mipla tok tenkyu long yu.

Rev Lowa was widely known and respected across the Pacific region.

Reverend James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches called him an “ecumenical giant,” whose passing calls each of us to reflect on our own contribution to God’s people and creation. 

“We give  thanks to God for the life and ministry of servant leadership of Rev. Lowa and his contribution to the ecumenical movement. The passing of this humble ecumenical giant calls us to reflect on what our contribution, what our legacy will be as we serve God’s people and creation in the Pacific during these challenging times,” said Rev Bhagwan.

In 2010, Rev Sir Lowa was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his long service to education and the community as Moderator of the United Church in Papua New Guinea.

Uniting Church in Australia Assembly President Dr Deidre Palmer has asked UCA members to keep Rev Lowa’s family and colleagues in the UCPNG in their prayers.

“We give thanks to God for the life of Rev Sir Samson Lowa – and God’s great blessing of his faithful service alongside Uniting Church members in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the whole Pacific region,” said Dr Palmer.  

Rest in Peace Reverend Sir Samson Lowa:  15 August 1949 – 24 June 2020


More Uniting Church members pay tribute to a remarkable man and leader

Samson Lowa was a remarkable international church leader, particularly in the Pacific region. His quiet humility, his total integrity, his complete determination and, most of all, his passion for proclaiming the gospel in word and action were together an inspiration to his many friends, myself included   During the twelve years that I was privileged to work with him, as Chairperson of Uniting International Mission and as President of the Assembly, the blessings which he bestowed on us as a Church were enormous, in addition to all that he meant throughout the Pacific.

-Rev. Professor James Haire AC, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

It was Sam’s gentleness, humility and grace that was so marked. He did not seek out high office. He ministered and worked with integrity. He trusted others and had a way of rebuilding trust in the way he quietly and without fuss brought his intellect to bear to work patiently through matters that seemed impossible to solve. He was a living example of the fruit of the Spirit. It was a blessing to know him.

-Reverend Dr Dean Drayton, United Theological College

I looked up to the late Rev. Sir Samson Lowa as a spiritual mentor in my early youth formation years, and later as my congregational minister. I will always remember him as a humble servant who served everyone equally. He believed in forgiveness and reconciliation which was very much part of his life and ministry testimony. May he rest in eternal peace in the presence of His Saviour and Lord.

-Amos Leana, Nungalinya College

Rev. Samson Lowa was a very special person who reflected the love and peace of Christ and touched the hearts of those he met.  One of the greatest privileges and blessings in my life was to work closely with Samson for six years and to form a deep spiritual friendship that endured.

-Reverend Bill Fischer, Former Director of Uniting International Mission

Samson was indeed a very special man and I always had deep admiration for his faith, wisdom and gentle leadership. The don’t come any better than he did.

-Bruce Mullan, former Director of Church Connections, UnitingWorld

He was indeed a very special person, and gave the church wonderful leadership, as well as his peace-making work in the Bougainville conflict.

-Reverend Neville Threlfall

“One of the Pacific church fathers. He was a charismatic leader in the PCC (Pacific Conference of Churches) family, a man of great mana. The church will miss the humble Samson Lowa.

-Reverend Dr Matagi Vilitama, UCA Being a Multicultural Church Advocate

 

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UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe gives an update on COVID-19 and appeals for support.

Right now, your gift has a bigger impact because it will be combined with Australian Aid funding (find out how).

Please donate before June 30.

DONATE NOW

(click here to download video to show in church services)


UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

Header photo via SBS news.