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As protests escalate across West Papua in Indonesia this week, the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has called on member churches to pray for justice and peace in the region.

In a statement released yesterday, the PCC condemned “institutional racism against the indigenous people of West (Tanah) Papua,” and reiterated calls for an urgent investigation into ongoing human rights abuses.

The protests were sparked by an incident in the Javanese city of Surabaya on Saturday. Indonesian authorities raided a university dormitory and arrested dozens of Papuan students over allegations that an Indonesian flag had been damaged by one of them.

During a long standoff leading up to the arrests, nationalist groups gathered and called the Papuan students “monkeys” and other racial slurs, demanding authorities “kick the Papuans out.” Many of the racist taunts were captured on video and were seen throughout West Papua, sparking anger and large demonstrations in major cities.

“In the context of the Pacific family, to call our Melanesian sisters and brothers in West Papua ‘Monkeys’ is to call all Pacific Islanders ‘Monkeys,’” said the PCC statement.

“We call on Indonesia to immediately allow access to Papua by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN mandate holders.”

The call comes after PCC General Secretary, Rev. James Bhagwan visited West Papua as part of a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation earlier this year. It is understood to be the first time that such a large and diverse international delegation has visited the territory since its integration into Indonesia in 1969.

During the visit, the WCC delegation received a joint appeal from the leaders of four churches in West Papua calling for “international ecumenical support for a comprehensive political dialogue for the resolution of the situation in Papua.”

In response, the WCC Executive Committee released a statement of concern and solidarity for West Papua, supporting the church leaders’ joint appeal for a comprehensive political dialogue, and calling on the Government of Indonesia to allow access to human rights organisations and journalists.

The statement also invited all WCC member churches “to pray and act in support of the witness of the churches in West Papua – and that of PGI, PCC and CCA – for justice and peace in the region.”

The Uniting Church in Australia is a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

Image: Totem standing on the site of the first church in West Papua ~1855 | Marcus Campbell

On 28 September, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Donggala District in Central Sulawesi, triggering a tsunami that has devastated coastal areas including Palu city.

At least 1,500 people have been confirmed dead and 70,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The death toll climbs daily.

The Indonesian Government and United Nations estimate at least 190,000 people now require urgent humanitarian assistance, and that the lives of more than 1.5 million people have been affected.

Donate now

 

UnitingWorld launches appeal

UnitingWorld launched an appeal this week to support local churches in Sulawesi who are responding to the crisis with emergency shelters, food, water, clothing and fuel.

Our partner organisation, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) has been coordinating the emergency response activities of their member churches in Sulawesi: the Indonesia Protestant Church in Donggala (Gereja Protestan Indonesia di Donggala – GPID) and the Protestant Church in Central Sulawesi (Gereja Kristen Sulawesi Tengah, GKST).

Initial funds raised by the Tsunami Crisis Appeal have now been sent to support relief work coordinated by PGI. More funds are urgently needed.

 

Local churches act quickly

Immediately after the crisis, churches in non-affected areas around Donggala began collecting donations and emergency supplies to take to Palu and coastal areas that were hit. Travel was near impossible for days because roads were destroyed by the earthquake.

The GKST quickly opened an emergency shelter in one of their high school buildings near Palu. Relief efforts are being coordinated by three local ministers. They report that the people being served at the centre have been so traumatised by aftershocks that they prefer to sleep outside the buildings.

Many GKST and GPID buildings have now become emergency centres being used by church leaders and volunteers. They are asking for supplies and medical aid. The PGI is preparing to send a health team from Jakarta to support the emergency centres.

UnitingWorld partner church, the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor (GMIT) also has a presence in Palu through their development organisation, Tanaoba Lais Manekat (TLM), which has been running a large-scale microfinance project there for many years.

Up to 4,000 of their clients have now lost their homes and many gains made by the project have been lost. TLM staff in Palu have nonetheless been at the forefront of the disaster response work in their community.

(Below photos via TLM)

TLM staff and volunteers resting in a makeshift shelter

Road damage has severely restricted relief efforts

70,000 people have been made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami

 

More aid needed

We are continuing to work with our partners on rapid needs assessments and determining how to best support them in the short and long term. They have indicated the initial needs they are aiming to address are food, water, clothes, fuel for transport and cooking; tents for refugees and help with burials.

Your donation will support local churches to help and serve their communities.

Click here to donate now.

 


 

Pray for Sulawesi

Please join us in prayer

For our courageous church partners serving the people of Palu and Donggala;

For the people still missing and those trying to reach them;

For those bringing urgent relief supplies to those suffering;

For those grieving the loss of loved ones;

And for those who’ve lost everything, including their homes.

 


All photos via Gratia Djami Jusuf, Tanaoba Lais Manekat.

In the wake of the devastation of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has called on UCA members to pray for the people of the Philippines and our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

Dr Palmer has written the below prayer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

 


God of mercy and comfort,

We pray for the people of the Philippines, whose lives, homes, food and water supplies and sources of income have been devastated by the impacts of Typhoon Mangkhut.

We pray for comfort for all those who are grieving, for those who have lost families and friends and whose communities have been severely impacted.

We pray for strength and support for all those responding to this disaster.

We pray for our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Thank you for their faithful and compassionate embodiment of your Gospel as they respond to the needs of those affected by the Typhoon.

May they know your sustaining love and our solidarity with them as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Through Christ we pray,

Amen.


 

UCCP has asked for support from their international partners. Your donation will make a huge difference, helping provide essential food and relief supplies to struggling families, many who’ve lost everything in the landslides.

Support our partners as they respond to this crisis.
Donate now

Relief goods ready for distribution to 300 families in Loacan, Philippines. UCCP staff and volunteers are working urgently to get supplies to struggling families. (Photo credit: Mishell Valdez)

Widespread flooding across India’s southern state of Kerala has left up to 400 people dead and close to a million displaced.

Up to 100,000 buildings were destroyed and millions of hectares of crops were washed away in the worst floods to hit the region in more than a decade.

The rains have diminished over the past week, but a huge clean-up operation lies ahead as the floodwaters recede.

Our partners, the Church of South India (CSI) have been assisting people throughout the emergency, distributing relief kits and providing emergency shelter for thousands of people. In the early days of the crisis, the Kerala Diocese of CSI generously opened their schools, churches and parish halls to become flood relief centres.

CSI Moderator, Most Rev. Thomas K. Oommen praised the “fighting spirit” of the people of Kerala and their willingness to help one another through the disaster.

“The active involvement of the people, especially the fisherfolk from the coastal areas of Kerala, [government] rescue operations, and the support of the churches and other religious organisations for the relief work are helping millions of people in this time of grave disaster,” said Rev Oommen.

Amid the crisis, inspiring stories have emerged.

Over the past fortnight, hundreds of fishermen from Kerala and surrounding districts used their boats to rescue thousands of people from the rising floodwaters. They are now being celebrated as national heroes.

Youth have been using social media to share the locations of stranded people and to pass on details of landslides and places where supplies were urgently needed.

UnitingWorld has been in regular contact with our partners in CSI and they have asked for continued prayer.

“On behalf of the Church of South India, we express our deepest sincere thanks for your continued prayers of solidarity, for all those who suffered loss of life and livelihoods in the floods at the State of Kerala and in the district of Kodagu.  Although our words often failed to comfort and console them, we together with all our trusted partners like you, do our best to provide the help for those who are in need,” said Rev Dr Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary of CSI.

“Continue to pray for God’s unfailing compassion upon the flood victims and those who are affected by the land slides.  Your prayers of solidarity will be of great strength and consolation to those who are passing through the most difficult time.”

UnitingWorld has sent funds to support our partners as they respond to these devastating floods.

You can support our important partnership with the Church in India by donating here.

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has called all UCA members to pray for the people of Kerala and our partner church, the Church of South India. Click here to read Deidre’s prayer.

Last week, the President of South Sudan and the leader of the main rebel group signed a new power-sharing peace agreement, after an earlier ceasefire failed last month. Our partners, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) are cautiously optimistic about the newest peace agreement. PCOSS are calling for Christians everywhere to join them in prayers for a sustainable peace.

Believers in refugee camps across South Sudan and neighbouring countries will join faith communities across the world to pray together on Sunday, August 12.

Please join PCOSS and UnitingWorld in praying for:

  • God to intervene in the hearts of leaders so that they may truly embrace the agreement
  • Peace to be sustainable amongst all who are affected, from refugee camps in South Sudan and neighbouring countries, as well as diaspora communities around the world
  • Strength and wisdom to the peacebuilders who work tirelessly towards peace in their communities
  • Healing in the hearts and minds of those who have suffered most from violence and trauma
  • Assistance from the international community that is generous and appropriate to the needs of South Sudan

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) to train ministers and lay leaders and equip them with the tools they will need to teach reconciliation and peacebuilding skills in families and between tribal groups throughout South Sudan. Read more | Meet the peacemakers of South Sudan (video)

 

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)

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.

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)

Thank you to everyone who has so generously given to support our friends in Tonga as they recover from Cyclone Gita. Below is a letter we received from the President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Rev. Finau P. ‘Ahi, expressing his heartfelt gratitude.  You can donate here to support the ongoing recovery efforts.

 

6 March 2018

Stuart McMillan
President of the Uniting Church in Australia

Dear Mr McMillan,

Apologies for the late response to your letter of love and prayers, but have only just had computer access due to power failures. Electricity has been on and off almost every day since cyclone Gita visited Tonga.

On behalf of the Methodist Church in Tonga (a.k.a. Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga), I thank you for the expression of your love, prayers and donation of gifts for the rebuilding of the Church and its people life on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia. Your expressions of love, prayers and partnership with us in this time of bringing life to normal mean so much as you remind us that we do not battle alone. We have partners and supporters like you who are holding the ropes for us and thereby having a direct share in our Church ministry. You are graciously willing to share with us in this practical way and we are already feeling the benefit that your love, prayers and gifts are bringing to our life.

Please continue to pray for us in this time. No doubt we will have many battles ahead in trying to restore Church people emotions and faith that have been lost in this devastating cyclone. We believe as you pray for us we will be able to stand strong in the power of His Might to resist the enemy of doubts and worries and to encourage people to enter into the victory that is ours in Christ. “ Fear not, for I am with you, says the Lord”. My Wife Loukinikini and the family join me in thanking you that you still remember us.

With love and prayers,
Rev. Finau P. ‘Ahio
President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

See original letter here