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“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.

On a small island out on a lake in West Papua, a group of women are crafting themselves out of poverty by keeping a disappearing local art tradition alive.

The banks of their lake home skirt the far limits of Papua’s most modern city, Jayapura, but people here still travel between the islands using wooden canoes.

Traditional bark paintings (malo) have been produced by women from this area for hundreds of years. They spend weeks together making the canvases out of the beaten bark of fig trees, and then paint designs that express their culture, highlighting the theme of ‘harmony between all living things.’

Ask them how they learned the designs, and they all say, “our ancestors taught us.”

But despite everyone in their cooperative being talented artists and hard workers, they struggle to make a living, and their wider community lives in grinding poverty. The isolation of their island and their lack of business experience means that many of them work two jobs while raising children. Most of their husbands are fishermen, but fears of local overfishing has pushed their work out to sea and into the city where they make meagre earnings.

We wanted to invest in the women’s skills and see their business grow. So, after consulting with them about what they need, our local partners have been running business training and are helping them buy industrial sewing machines to help them expand their business to include bags and clothing with their traditional designs.

Together we’re helping them do what they love, get a fair price for their labour and lift themselves out of poverty.

My colleague Meilany, a local project manager, told me that empowering these women has huge flow-on affects for the community.

“You can’t make positive change for women here without also affecting all of society,” Meilanny says.

“These women work hard so that they can afford to send their children to school; many of them never had the chance themselves.”

“And if you teach a woman practical or artistic skills, or to read and write she will teach her family, her children. That knowledge is passed on.”

West Papua has a staggeringly high number of people living below the poverty line. Upwards of 27% live on less than $2 a day. Our local partners are working to change this at a community level, through strategies that invest in critical aspects of life: food security, health, women’s incomes and the future of children.

They need our support to continue to make projects like these a reality. Invest in these skillful women and projects that are helping people grow a new future in West Papua.

 

Visit www.unitingworld.org.au/papua to make a donation.

In hope and peace,

Marcus Campbell
UnitingWorld

 


Read more

In a place of extraordinary hardship, people still rise

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to churches in Indonesia to express sadness and solidarity after the tragic church bombings in Surabaya, Java on Sunday.

11 people were killed in the explosions and more than 43 were wounded in what has been called the worst terrorist attack in Indonesia in more than a decade.

A congregation of our partner church in Java was one of those targeted, wounding an Elder and several young members.

Rev Dr Ji Zhang has written a prayer for the victims of the Surabaya attacks. We encourage Uniting Church members and UnitingWorld supporters to pray with us in solidarity with churches in Indonesia.

It has also been translated into Bahasa Indonesia and can be downloaded here.

Letter to churches in Indonesia
Letter to our partner church GKI in Java

A prayer for the victims of church bombings in Java

Almighty God, we come to you with our hearts full of thoughts.

But you are our refuge and strength,

the light in the darkness,

and so with confidence we offer our prayers to you.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We stand in solidarity with all good citizens in Java

pray for the churches of Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal traditions,

and we are confronted by the attacks on Christian worshipers.

We bring to you all the deceased,

and our trust that in God’s peace their souls find rest.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for those who grieve the loss of life,

for those who are traumatized during Sunday worship,

for those who are separated from the loved ones and friends;

we ask for your healing presence in their lives

and we commend to your love all the injured.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We give to your care all those

who have been involved in the rescue operation.

Be with local churches and government forces

as they minister to the suffering communities.

Sustain them through this time of stress.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We commend to your care those who are cleaning up,

for those burdened by unimaginable losses

and who have found themselves

like refugees in their own locality.

We ask that the emotional and spiritual support

already offered by local communities and beyond

will encourage and lift their spirits.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for communities that have been devastated

– especially in East Java and West Java.

May your peace bring people together

to rebuild their lives and communities,

and bring them healing from all evil.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We pray for families and friends in Australia

who feel far away from the loved ones in Indonesia,

and those who had been through racial and religious attacks

– still trying to make sense of the past.

Comfort them across the physical and emotional distance.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

We give thanks to God for the blessing in our lives,

especially the gifts of joy we so often take for granted

until they are in danger of being taken away from us

  • the gift of family, friends, a home, our possessions.

Most of all we praise God for the gift of life itself.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

God of light over darkness,

come into our hearts in the moment of now!

Come to transform our sorrow over the lost

into blessings to the living.

Come to reassure us your eternal truth

in the resurrection of Christ Jesus:

Life is always stronger than death.

 

Lord hear us

Lord hear our prayers.

 

(Rev Dr Ji Zhang  张骥, Assembly Theologian in Residence, for our Partner Church GKI and Indonesian Communion of Churches. The prayer is rewritten based on the prayer of 2004 Asian Tsunami by Homebush Uniting Church)