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We received the below correspondence from our partners in Zimbabwe today about the situation in the country and to thank everyone for joining them in prayer on World Prayer Day. The letter is by Junior Vutoyi, who last month became National Director of the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA).  She is the first woman to hold the position.

The letter was read out in the office today during a morning tea for World Prayer Day and International Women’s Day.

 


 

For such as time as this… (Esther 4: 13-14)

It is during this time that the communities that we work with look up to MeDRA for any form of assistance as we work to deliver social justice support to the marginalised. This is a very difficult time for Zimbabwe as we are going through a very difficult season. Only God will see us through!

For women and children, the situation in Zimbabwe at the moment is a very difficult one with the inflation level having reached unprecedented levels. The political and economic situation is deteriorating daily, and this is causing a lot of anxiety within the general populace. With the price of bread at $25 and $190 for 10kg of mealie meal (maize) – life is not easy for the women and children. This is increasing the burden on the women and affecting the future of children. School fees are unaffordable and putting food on the table for the family is a nightmare. The health sector has collapsed, and maternal health has been greatly compromised. Teachers are one of the lowly paid professions and they are putting very little effort on their job. Hope for a long-awaited improvement in the living standards is slowly fading.

The poor women and children both in the rural and urban areas are a sad story. With some communities suffering from a double tragedy from Cyclone Idai, the drought and floods, the situation is bad.

An ideal and aspirational world would be a place when all children can afford to go to school, have access to basic meals, clean safe water and the women have access to maternal health. People should live a dignified life.

As MeDRA, we have a role to play in all this. To give hope to the hopeless. To restore dignity. To fundraise for projects to ensure a “society that enjoys abundant love and God given dignity” through access to safe clean water, gender justice, increased household income, food secure households, shelter and everything and anything else that ensures that people live a dignified life. We have a role in the society “at such as time as this” Esther 4: 13-14 – the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s theme for this year. We really wish we could do more as a church organisation. To help all in need.

We are grateful that you are with us in your thoughts and prayers. With your support, we look forward that one day we will “rise, take up our mats and walk”.

Be blessed today and forever more.

Junior Vutoyi, National Director
Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA)
World Day of Prayer 6 March, 2020

 

Artwork for World Day of Prayer by Nonny Mathe, a Zimbabwean artist. Read more about it here.

 

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.

The World Day of Prayer this year is held on Friday 6 March.

The day is an ecumenical initiative that was started in the 19th century by Christian women in the United States and Canada to bring together women of different races, cultures and traditions for a annual day of prayer for international mission.

It is now a worldwide movement of ‘Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action‘ that promotes closer fellowship, understanding and action for international causes throughout the year.

The movement is initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions but the World Day of Prayer is an invitation to everyone.

This year the host nation is Zimbabwe, a country facing huge challenges:

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people in extreme poverty rose from 29% to 34% an extra million people living on less than $1.90 a day in just the space of a year.

An El Nino-influenced drought and Cyclone Idai reduced agricultural production over several seasons, worsening the situation across many rural areas. The economic contraction has caused a sharp rise in prices of food and basic commodities and one tenth of rural households currently indicated they are going without food for a whole day.

The unemployment rate has been estimated at 90%.

All of this has caused additional issues for the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe:

Human trafficking: Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Child protection vulnerabilities including child marriage, where 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18.
Gender-based violence (including sexual exploitation and abuse) – 35% of women aged 15-49 years have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime
Disability discrimination: people with a disability have lower education and employment opportunities, are often unable to access health services, and are at greater risk of sexual exploitation and abuse

Despite these challenges, the Zimbabwean people are generous and resilient. They remain optimistic and are working to improve their nation. Our partners the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) and its relief and development agency, the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) play a vital role in serving their communities and advocating for the people in national politics.

The World Day of Prayer is a call to pray for an end to the challenges facing Zimbabwe, but also to recognise and celebrate those who are working for peace, reconciliation and social transformation.

Please join us in praying for Zimbabwe and taking time to consider how we can seek closer fellowship and take action to support our neighbours there.  

Read more about our partnership with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

Find World Day of Prayer resources here

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.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has requested partners to pray with them as an important deadline for the peace process approaches.

February 22 marks the deadline for the formation of South Sudan’s ‘Transitional Government of National Unity’, designed to unite president Salva Kiir and head of opposition Riek Machar. It is the latest in a series of deadlines and it is unclear whether it will hold and whether the transitional government put an end to the conflict.

In the meantime, the situation remains dire. South Sudan has some of the world’s worst socio-economic indicators. Fighting has continued in parts of the country and significant humanitarian and human rights issues have not been addressed. Violations including rape and sexual and gender-based violence continue to occur with widespread impunity, and there is near-total lack of support or reproductive health services for survivors. Millions remain internally displaced and about two thirds of the country’s population remains in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the World Food Programme, more than 5.5 million South Sudanese could go hungry by early 2020. Flooding in various parts of the country is currently impacting over 900,000 people.

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has told us that people across the country are traumatised and mothers live anxiously not knowing what the next day will bring for their children. With the ongoing delays in the formation of a transitional government and concerns that issues may not be resolved even then, people are beginning to lose hope.

The General Secretary of PCOSS, Rev. John Yor Nyiker, has requested we pray for them.

Please join PCOSS and UnitingWorld in praying for:

    • Political leaders to be tools for peace and not for destruction
    • Peace to be sustainable for all who are affected, in South Sudan, in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, as well as diaspora communities around the world
    • Recovery and healing for people who have been affected by flooding, famine and violence in many places across the country
    • Peacemakers from PCOSS and other churches and organisations to be able to continue such important work

We ask that you hold PCOSS and all the people of South Sudan in your prayers as the February 22 deadline approaches and thereafter, until there is peace.

By God’s grace may there be peace in South Sudan in the near future.

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has been committed to working for peace in South Sudan since the 1970s. This has not been without significant challenges; during the many years of conflict, church buildings have been destroyed and church leaders have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Other pastors, elders and leaders have lost their lives. Despite this, PCOSS continues to work actively for peace, together with other ecumenical bodies in the world and in the region.

UnitingWorld is supporting some of PCOSS’ peacebuilding efforts, including peace and trauma healing workshops for South Sudanese people of various tribes living in refugee camps in bordering countries, and training of church leaders in peacebuilding skills that can be shared with the wider community.

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.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has made a submission to the new International Development Policy currently under review by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The review was announced in December 2019 and invited members of the public and international development community to give input into the new policy.

UnitingWorld helped develop the UCA submission, and recommended that the International Development Policy:

      • targets the alleviation of poverty and inequality as a primary objective, understanding that this will best serve Australia’s national interests
      • prioritises development that is demonstrably owned and driven by the communities it seeks to impact
      • recognises the unique roles of churches and faith communities in delivering social change and seeks to target them as development partners
      • acknowledges climate change as the most significant cross-cutting issue that impacts security, stability, prosperity and resilience in Australia and beyond.

Read the full UCA submission here

UnitingWorld, as a member agency, also contributed to the submissions of the following coalitions: the Australian Council For International Development (ACFID), Micah Australia and the Church Agencies Network. (Click  links to read the submissions).

Submissions close Friday 14 February 2020.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice.

Peace. Compassion. Security. They’re the building blocks of a world we all long to see, but how do we make it happen? In a world where extremism, intolerance and fear threaten to turn us inward, how do we build peace and beat poverty?

Lent Event 2020 takes us to the Indonesian province of Ambon, where our church partners are working with Christians and Muslims to overcome decades of suspicion and resentment after religious conflict in 1999 took 5,000 lives and left 70,000 people homeless.

Meet the people, watch video stories together, engage in Bible studies, raise funds for projects that show the future of God’s people alive and at work in the world.

We’re really excited to share the inspiring stories of our church partners during Lent again in 2020 and we hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Preview video series for Lent Event 2020 here

Sign up now: www.lentevent.com

We are thrilled to report that through our programs, our partners reached 202,305 men, women and children last year with tangible benefits. Educating women and girls, lifting families out of poverty through small business, access to nutrition, healthcare and education, preventing trafficking all are part of the real impact of our work. Thank you for the critical part you played.

The Annual Report is a great way to see the impact of our shared partnership in mission and your role in making it happen. It features a ‘year at a glance,’ updates from our Board Chair and National Director; stories of impact across each of the thematic areas of our programs; news and financials, and much more!

Click here to download and read

 

As fires burn throughout Australia and flooding takes the lives, homes and livelihoods of people all over Europe, Africa and the Pacific, we’re reminded again of our deep vulnerability. We’re grateful to our Uniting Church ministers and partners in places where people cling to hope by a thread – managing drought, stretched finances and in places like Tuvalu, lack of fresh water and food.

Adamstown Uniting stepped up to acknowledge the global need to support people at the mercy of a changing climate by hosting ‘Songs for Tuvalu,’ a concert that raised over $1,000 for disaster relief and recovery work.

“It was so timely to be able to speak about the importance of UnitingWorld’s climate change and disaster readiness work,” says Roslyn, coordinator of the event at Adamstown. “At $15 a ticket, we’re delighted to have been able to raise $1,000 – and so many people spoke to us afterwards about how worthwhile the work is.”

UnitingWorld’s disaster relief and readiness work helps prepare Pacific communities for the impact of increasing storms, cyclones, dry seasons and other disasters. It includes equipping leaders to carry out assessments to determine people and places at risk; increasing awareness of safe evacuation places and helping people understand the biblical call to take responsibility for their environment.

A series of Bible studies have been developed by Pacific theologians to answer questions about God’s role in suffering and disaster and people’s responsibility as stewards of the earth. You can see a copy of the resources on the UnitingWorld website here.

 

A huge thank you to Adamstown for their fundraising effort and to all who’ve been supporting our climate change and disaster readiness projects. If you know people who are enthusiastic about the work, buy them a gift at www.everythingincommon.com.au!

Jane Kennedy, Associate Director, has recently returned from visiting our partners in South Sudan, where we help facilitate trauma healing and peacebuilding projects.

Jane writes: “Peter Gai is the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Until recently, he was also the Chair of the South Sudan Council of Churches.

This year he took South Sudanese political leaders to meet the Pope, who kissed their feet.

While there he experienced the joy of a cappuccino. He has learnt to eat when there is food and to go hungry when there is not.  He doesn’t eat three times a day. He once knew abundance and lived off the land and rivers in South Sudan for 23 years with no income. He had all he and his family needed. He has six children and 12 grandchildren but doesn’t live with them because of the war. He told me even the wild animals have crossed the border running from the gunshots, but they will come back. There is no electricity where he lives in Juba and no work.

He is about to retire from decades of service that has brought conflicting tribes together and is pleased about his legacy. He has travelled the world finding partners in peacebuilding and he is tired.

The church he leads has a dispersed 1.5 million members across the country, as well as in Sudan and Egypt. They are brokenhearted but many are hopeful, against all odds. Peace will bring South Sudan to life; he believes he will see it prosper again in his old age. He prays and works for peace. He laughs and says there are a lot of women at UnitingWorld, but he likes women as they are merciful – men cause trouble and then don’t fix it.

He says whether we are rich or poor we need friends, and we are friends.”

Jane also visited the office of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi. “They represent 200 million people and speak into policy at the African Union. They lobby governments on issues of peace, gender justice, youth leadership and climate action. They told us about the challenges of non-Africans treating climate change as a hoax while ignoring their experience. They spoke of the urgency around addressing violence against women. Churches here have to be political and loud to bring about change,” said Jane.

With your help, UnitingWorld has assisted the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan to run peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops this year. Thank you!

In September we asked you to help support Pacific women in the fight against inequality and violence. And you responded, donating over $58,000 so far, and sending beautiful words of encouragement for your Pacific sisters!

Throughout the year we’ve been heartened to see more men attending workshops that address equality, hear more stories of changes in family and community life and a gradual take up of biblical messages around the equality of women and girls.

If you want to inspire your congregation with a real-life story of change, watch Pastor Nipi’s testimony from Vanuatu at www.unitingworld.org.au/pacificwomen 

“I never knew what gender balance was or what it meant in relation to the Bible,” Pastor Nipi said. “At first I thought – what is this ‘gender balance’ they are talking about? We never believed men and women could be equal. But as I made my studies and we talked, I realised there is something there for me to learn! It has infected me! I like it!”

Thank you for the $58,000 you’ve given so far for this project. Your gifts will:

  • Pay trainers for workshops for advocates against violence against women
  • Help develop and distribute Bible study material to be used in difficult to reach places in Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

We continue to need funding to provide places for women and men to attend training for anti-violence advocacy in Kiribati and Tuvalu, where our work is just beginning and critically needed. In these communities, women are still unable to practice leadership even if they are trained for the positions, and the issue of domestic violence desperately needs to be addressed. If you’re still planning to give, we’d gratefully receive your gift for this work at www.unitingworld.org/pacificwomen

Here are a few of the messages of support we’ve been delighted to pass on to our friends in the Pacific:

Dear Sisters in the Pacific, I encourage you to remember John 10:10 “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” Please believe and discuss the biblical understanding that men and women are equal. I am sorry that earlier church teaching has disempowered women. I encourage you all to follow your dreams, to claim equality with all people, to take up any opportunities for learning and employment, to know that you are not alone. Women in Australia support and pray for you. 

–Jennifer

Keep going. Stay strong. I admire your bravery

– Aasha (11yrs)

I look forward to receiving news about how my friends in the Pacific Islands are going. I was very excited to read the account of Past Lima Tura and activities in Timor Leste. I like to show the photos to my grandkids. One of my favourite verses is Philippians 4:19. It says “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” 

– Anon

Hello my sisters in Christ, I encourage you to continue to make the gospel of Jesus Christ known, sharing His love and His power to transform lives. There is no male or female in Christ so do not think yourselves inferior in any way, for you were created in His image to give Him glory. Your brother in Christ.

– Gordon

Thank you everyone who sent messages!

*Header Photo: Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer with emerging leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu