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In the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Lombok, UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia mourn alongside our Indonesian partners at the tragic loss of life.

Since the magnitude-6.9 earthquake hit on August 5, the death toll has risen to 347 according to local Indonesian media, and tens of thousands have been left homeless by the damages.

Bali also experienced strong tremors on Sunday night but thankfully no deaths were recorded, and damage was minimal.

UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe has expressed heartfelt sympathy for those who have lost loved ones and commended the work of the Bali Church in helping their neighbours in Lombok during the crisis.

“We’ve been close contact with our partners and we are heartened to hear that their congregations are raising funds to support the recovery work in Lombok,” said Dr Goringe.

“We celebrate our partner’s prompt and compassionate response and offer our prayers for all in Lombok who have been tragically affected. We also pray for all the professionals and volunteers helping the affected communities.”

MBM, the social work foundation of the Protestant Christian Church in Bali is working with other non-government agencies and helping to mobilise volunteers to support the recovery. The Indonesian Communion of Churches is also responding with funds for the rescue and recovery efforts.

Our partners are not currently seeking donations from abroad.

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has invited all congregations to pray for the families of the victims and the recovery efforts.

Please pray alongside our church partners in Indonesia for those who’ve lost loved ones, those who’ve lost homes, and for all the people responding to this disaster.

Prayer

Rev. Dr Apwee Ting of the Uniting Church Assembly Resourcing Unit has written this prayer for Lombok in English and Bahasa Indonesia.

 

Berdoa buat Lombok

 

Ketika bumi menggeliat

membangunkan manusia yang terlelap

oleh mimpi mengejar hidup

 

Ketika isak tangis kepedihan manusia

yang ditinggal oleh yang terkasih

 

Kita tersentak, merenung dan bengong

kekasih hati, mutiara hidup telah hilang

kembali kepada Sang Empunya hidup

 

Kesunyian, kesenyapan dan kesendirian

sekarang menguasai hidup

hidup tidak lagi bermakna seperti kemarin

 

Dengan doa dan solidaritas

kuulurkan cinta dan kasih yang ada

merangkul engkau yang sendirian ditengah reruntuhan

 

Lombok, kusebut namamu

didalam doa ku kepada Sang Pencipta hidup.

 

Lombok, kuulurkan tanganku

bersama berjalan dan berbagi derita

 

Lombok,

Kepada mu ku berdoa kepada Tuhan kita.

 

Amin

Prayer for Lombok

 

When the earth writhed

waking up people

from their dreams of pursuing life

 

When we heard of human pain

who has lost their loved one

 

We gasped, pondered and stunned

sweetheart, the pearl of life has been lost

back to God who created life

 

Silence,

emptiness and solitude

now master life

life is no longer meaningful like yesterday

 

With prayer and solidarity

I extend love and care

embracing you

who are alone in the midst of the ruins

 

Lombok, I said your name

in my prayer to the Creator of life.

 

Lombok, I extended my heart and hands

Let us walk together to share our pain

 

Lombok,

To God we pray together.

 

Amen

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. Our partner church in Bali is the Gereja Kristen Protestan di Bali (Protestant Christian Church in Bali), who we work alongside on projects to empower women and alleviate poverty in rural Bali. Read more | See more (video).

As Zimbabweans go to the polls on Monday, it will be the first election in decades to be free of the influence of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign in November.

While the run-up to the landmark event has not been marked by the violence seen in previous elections, there have been increasing reports of voter intimidation and coercion, including threats of violence.

The UN Human Rights Office has welcomed the “widening of the democratic space” in Zimbabwe since President Mugabe’s removal and has expressed “cautious optimism” for a peaceful election on July 30.

Our church partner, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, has called for peace during the elections and voting rights to be upheld during the process.

Please join us in praying that peace prevails in Zimbabwe throughout this important election.

Please feel free to use the below text in your church or prayer group.

Prayer for Zimbabwe

Heavenly Father, we surrender the upcoming Zimbabwean elections into your mighty hands.

We pray that the gift of the Holy Spirit will guide everyone involved in this landmark election.

Give the Zimbabwean people the wisdom and serenity to choose their future leader,

A God-fearing leader who will respect and uphold human dignity and the laws of the land.

Zimbabwe has gone through many trials and tribulations over the years. Innocent people have lost lives through violence and indiscriminate killings. Lord Jesus, give people a spirit to forgive and reconcile with each other for the healing of the nation.

We pray that every person will respect and honour the outcome of the election. May your Holy Spirit touch every corner of Zimbabwe with love and understanding.

We pray that those who are not elected will humbly accept defeat, and that the winners will celebrate in peace, love and harmony.

We pray for peace amongst all the citizens, contesting parties, politicians and other stakeholders.

O God, we acknowledge you as the unifier for all the people of Zimbabwe.

We pray and trust that the election will be violence-free, and your Holy Spirit will prevail in the end.

Lord Jesus, you once said to your disciples, “I leave you peace, my peace I give you.” May these words echo in the hearts and minds of each Zimbabwean during the election period.

And may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard the hearts of the Zimbabwean people in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

(Prayer written by a Zimbabwean Australian UCA member who wished to remain unnamed)

“This is who we are. A pilgrim people. United by the love that calls us to each other and the world…”

Our new video was shown to the 15th Triennial Assembly meeting of the Uniting Church in Australia last week and we’re excited to share it with you!

Because you’re part of it.

None of this work could happen without your support, prayers and shared vision of a world free of poverty and injustice. Thank you.

The video is a great way to find out what we do, how we do it, and the impact we’re making.

Please watch, download and share in your church community and social networks!

Share video on Facebook

Click here to watch or download on our Vimeo channel.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the human rights conduct of the Philippine government’s so-called ‘war on drugs.’

The letter expresses concern over “gross human rights abuses that continue to take place in the Philippines” in the form of widespread extrajudicial killings carried out during police anti-drug operations since July 2016. The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) supports a joint statement made by 38 member states of the Human Rights Council in June, which urges the Philippine Government to allow an independent UN investigation into the killings.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines estimates there have been more than 13,000 extrajudicial killings linked to the anti-drug campaign. The Philippine National Police say less than 4,000 drug suspects have died in “legitimate police operations” from July 2016 to January 2018.

UnitingWorld is in regular contact with UCA partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who have sent a word of thanks for UCA solidarity in their advocacy efforts.

Please continue to pray for our partners, human rights defenders and an end to the killings in the Philippines.

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

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

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

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

 

Event details for sessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Venue / Location

The Matsudo Room

Box Hill Town Hall

1022 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC

Parking on street, behind library or multilevel carparks nearby

 

Cost

Entry is free – BYO lunch.

Tea and coffee provided.

 

Register for a session

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

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

Or call: 02 8267 4267  |  0412 875 656

 

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

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

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

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

Read their full statement here.

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

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

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

Download here.

Read here:

As we prepare for the 15th Triennial Assembly, I’m reminded of the bold step taken by our overseas church partners three years ago in Perth.

In an unprecedented move, they stepped up and tabled a statement they’d penned in which they offered their resources to the UCA to enhance our mission in the world and committed themselves to each other to share their strengths and challenges to partner in God’s transformation of the world.

The statement changed the way we work. Instead of holding independent relationships with each of our overseas church partners, we’ve increased our facilitator role, encouraging our partners to come together to share resources, expertise and learning opportunities. Over the last three years we’ve hosted eleven regional conferences covering topics like theology of community development, the protection of children and financial planning.

The past three years have also vindicated our strategy to use the language and lens of faith and Christian teaching to tackle the big issues of gender inequality and climate change. Supporting our partners to engage in theological dialogue and address people’s hearts and minds through Biblical teaching has been rewarded by seeing change at the grass roots. Even the Australian Government has acknowledged our approach, re-accrediting us for the next five years and praising our approach on gender, disaster preparation and climate change impact in the Pacific.

I’m delighted to look back over the past three years and note that together we’ve made a tangible difference to over 250,000 people:

  • Clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea
  • Education (particularly for children with disabilities) and professional literacy training for teachers and librarians in India, Tonga, Vanuatu and Sri Lanka
  • Micro-credit loans for small business (many for women) in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Fiji
  • Theological reflection and practical action on gender inequality and climate change impact throughout the Pacific
  • Disaster response work throughout the Pacific as well as famine and refugee responses in South Sudan, among the Rohingya people and within Syria.

We’ve also been strengthening leaders and equipping churches both here in Australia and throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific:

  • We helped almost 400 people to visit and work among our partners, including lay teachers and leaders of the UCA
  • We mobilised over 1,000 people to participate in the People’s Climate March in support of our Pacific Island partners
  • We brought global voices to major UCA events such as UnitingWomen, the Wontok youth conference, the UCA Deacons Conference; and we also hosted workshops and took part in UCA national conferences
  • Over 300 congregations and church groups participated in Lent Event and Everything in Common.

You can read the full report to the National Assembly detailing our last three years work by heading to uniting.church/b15-unitingworld.

Recently, we told a story of the innovative way our partners are building peace and forging hope in Maluku. These are the people who continue to stoke the fire of my conviction that God is alive and well within the world, calling each of us to take our place as members of one body working together for renewal. Thank you so much for the part you’re playing. We look forward to the next three years with you and the many challenges and joys they will bring.

Peace and hope,

Sureka

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I read recently that Australians have never been more generous – some of them, anyway.

Super wealthy, generous individuals are giving like never before. Their projects of choice? Things with measurable outcomes and big legacies. Medical research is a good example. Let’s find a cure for a disease and say: “We did that.”

Tick. Done.

Sadly, overseas aid is less popular. That’s because the issues are wickedly complex and appear to go on forever. Is poverty ever going to end? Will we ever be able to tick a box beside our donation and say, “Done!”?

The answer is both yes and no. I sat with a family high in the remote mountains north of Denpasar last month, watching chickens peck and a wary dog assess me from a doorway. For Kadek and Gede, life has never been better. A few simple, reasonably low-cost initiatives have changed their lives forever: a goat breeding project to provide income; regular visits from a doctor; access to a toilet and teaching about clean water. These things mean Gede worries less about her children going hungry and falling sick. Poverty, in its meanest form, has fled. But Gede’s own health is still fragile – she has a thyroid condition they can’t afford to have treated and she’s so unwell that she hasn’t been able to take part in the women’s groups that might have helped the family make a little more money.

Gede dreams of more for her children, the way that all mothers do. Our work is far from over.

I looked around this proud, gracious family’s garden, artfully tended with love, and I thought about how the human spirit is determined to flourish. How ending poverty isn’t a simple box to be ticked but a lifelong struggle we embark upon alongside people who live the reality of small gains and hard-won triumphs. l felt both gratitude and single-mindedness to persevere.

There are literally millions of families like Kadek and Gede’s. Hardworking and resilient, the day they raise their first piglet to sell so their daughter can stay in school will sound another nail in the coffin of poverty.

You and I, if we choose to, can celebrate alongside them. Because for real families every single day, the projects we support genuinely put an end to measurable suffering.

The scale of global poverty might appear to be astronomical, but working together, our progress has also been huge. Each family adds up. Since the turn of the century, the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved. So too has the maternal death rate, child mortality and deaths from malaria.


 HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Through the combined work of smart, capable people who dream big, plus governments, philanthropists, not-for-profits and people like you. We’re better together. Our goals are achievable. Right now, your gift can have up to six times the impact supporting families like Kadek and Gede’s, across West Timor,  Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and India.

Poverty won’t end with a single tick. But it will end, and we’ll do it together.

Please make your gift at www.unitingworld.org.au/together or call us on 1800 998 122.