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Jaya is a 13-year-old girl from a small village of 300 people in rural Punjab, India.

Her father died when she was four and her mother couldn’t afford to raise her, so she left Jaya with her grandmother. Jaya’s grandmother works as a cook, and over the years it became increasingly difficult for her to look after a growing child by herself.

Jaya began studying in a local government school, but the standard of education was poor and when she returned home there was no one who could help her with homework or give her care and attention. With the absence of proper health and hygiene conditions in the village, she often fell ill.

In 2017 our partner church connected Jaya with the girls’ hostel project we support, which was set up to help vulnerable girls access high quality education, accommodation and care during the school term.

When Jaya arrived, she was poor in health and lagging way behind in her studies. Spending time with other girls in the hostel encouraged her to stick to her studies until they started to improve. Each year, her grades have gone up, and she now loves having the time to be able to play outdoor games, dance, create art and participate in all the group activities at the hostel.

“Jaya is so loving and respectful towards others,” says the project manager Rev Samantaroy. “Her health has also improved due to the monthly medical check-ups and regular health education sessions at the hostel. She now dreams of becoming a policewoman when she grows up.”

Jaya’s story is an example of how, with proper care and nutrition, access to quality education and a loving environment, young girls can explore their true potential and work towards their dreams.

Thank you for supporting this life-changing project run by our partners in India.

 

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.

Imagine two groups – one male, one female – crouched around a sheet of butcher’s paper.

In regional Bali, Indonesia, village members have been asked to note on the image of a large clock what their activities are throughout the day, with men and women commenting on each other’s use of time. The results are fascinating.

“Activities like this help illuminate the differences between men and women, and motivate people to take action,” says Associate Director, Jane Kennedy. “Throughout Indonesia, women are still often regarded as home makers, ‘overly emotional’ and without the capacity to make decisions or offer community leadership. The result is financial dependency, unequal sharing of domestic tasks, untapped potential and the risk of unchecked violence.”

We’ve heard your commitment to women and men as equal partners in God’s world, and your dreams for healthy and hopeful communities.

Through our partner the Protestant Church of Bali, we’ve been using your gifts help fund an approach our partners call “The Model Village”. We co-operate with a range of donors to address gender justice, health, water, sanitation, education and income development concurrently with the input of all members of the community. Your funding is helping elevate more women into positions of leadership on committees that design and apply for community grants; it’s providing communities with knowledge about how to protect children and other vulnerable people; it’s giving access to innovation like selling locally-produced tea, coffee or handicrafts online. The Model Village works!

We want to keep the work strong as Balinese communities struggle with the impact of COVID-19. Heavily reliant on tourism, the economy and health systems are both at risk of being decimated and plunging vulnerable communities further into poverty.

Your gifts are making it possible.

If you have a heart for this work and the wellbeing of our close neighbours, please donate today.

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

Attika has been to hell and back. Many of you know her story: her village was destroyed in conflict between Muslims and Christians in 1999; she lived for years as a refugee before returning to a community shattered by suspicion, resentment and economic ruin.

Last year, Attika (pictured above) painstakingly built a new home with $5 weekly savings from a small business our partners helped her establish. A few months later it was destroyed in a series of earthquakes. She lives today in its shell with her daughter, waiting for the chance to rebuild. Due to begin re-construction with a team of Muslim and Christian builders funded by UnitingWorld, the work is now on hold as Ambon goes into lockdown to deal with the global threat of COVID-19.

It’s hard to predict how many of us would react to such a prolonged season of suffering. And yet here’s where this story has a new and delightful twist: Attika has become our church partner’s newest Emergency Team volunteer. Connecting with the Protestant Church in Maluku through livelihood training among a group of Christian and Muslim women, Attika is now a vital part of the volunteer effort. Together, the team deliver food, clean water and emergency supplies to those hardest hit by last year’s earthquakes on the island and check in on people isolated by COVID-19.

“I could never have believed something like this would happen to my home,” Attika told us. “I am so, so sad to see it. But working with the team at Sagu Salempeng Foundation (our church partner organisation) helps me forget my pain and makes me so happy! I have found something to keep me strong.”

N.T. Wright famously said: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonise earth with the life of heaven.”

Surely Attika’s experience of finding new life in service to others is what he had in mind: absolute dedication to each other in the midst of suffering; the ability to love beyond boundaries; the promise of redemption.

Attika refuses to give in to despair, and nor does she long for release. For her, there’s heaven to be found here and now, among the living. This is the reality of resurrection life.

Thank you to all who’ve been part of Lent Event this year. Your gifts are very much needed to continue this vital project, building peace while giving people the chance to increase their incomes and overcome poverty.

Help us continue this vital work with our international partners.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.



YOUR 2019 LENT EVENT GIFTS IN ACTION!

Our staff have just returned from critical training sessions with IPTL, our partner in Timor-Leste.

They’re delighted to report that more than 17 teachers took part in new training to implement strategies that protect children against violence, including verbal abuse. As a result:

  • Attendance in Sunday School is up among children and their parents
  • Education and awareness among community leaders is increasing
  • Seven focal point workers to keep child protection on the agenda have been newly appointed.

Cycles of poverty and violence are deeply entrenched within Timor-Leste, and you’re playing a critical role in shaping the future for a whole new generation.

Thank you!

In a letter to national and international partners, the Bishop of the Diocese of Amritsar, The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy has outlined the impacts of the national 21-day lockdown in India and how the Church of North India (CNI) is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Dear Friends,

As of the morning of 30 March 2020, over 700,000 people worldwide have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and 34,000 people have died due to the virus. The staggering numbers are rising every minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought illness and death for many, but preventive measures like curfews and lockdowns are posing other humanitarian concerns such as loss of livelihood, hunger and starvation.

“I fear that hunger may kill many like us before Coronavirus,” said a street vendor in Delhi. His fear and desperation are shared by the majority of the country’s poor who have been the most hit due to the current 21-day nationwide lockdown in India. Most people who work as daily wage labourers live hand-to-mouth and are therefore unable to afford buying food and medical supplies in advance. In Punjab, we are already receiving reports of riot-like situations in the villages.

Realising the urgency of the situation, the Diocese of Amritsar has already constituted a COVID-19 Relief Operation to reach out to the poor and needy. We are working closely with the local congregations and our project workers, as well as the district administration, to identify those in dire need. Food material is being mobilised through local grocery stores and distributed at key centres in Amritsar and the surrounding border villages.

The Church cannot see its people die either of Coronavirus or hunger. I urge you to support this relief effort generously through whatever means is available to you.”

Unless we act urgently and support the weaker sections of society, our world will collapse under the siege of this pandemic. Your help in this hour of need can save a family from hunger, starvation and illness.

May God bless you and keep you safe!

The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy
Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar, CNI

 

The Church of North India is running a domestic appeal for funds and in-kind donations of food supplies, and has also asked for international assistance. UnitingWorld has diverted India project funds for this quarter to support their emergency response and will continue to do this into the new financial year on an ongoing basis until the crisis is over.

Key activities for the COVID-19 relief effort:

  • Providing food packages to families connected to CNI’s community development projects, especially for daily wage laborers who are now unable to work.
  • Helping to amplify government messaging on COVID-19, including health and handwashing awareness, prevention measures and information on how and when to get tested.
  • Conducting door-to-door visits (while practicing spatial distancing) to families connected to the project, to ensure they have what they need during lock down.

Please pray for our church partners and support the relief effort as you are able.

Click here to donate.

UnitingWorld partners in India are cooking for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 lockdown

 

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.

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 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.

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!

80 dozen lamingtons walked out the door as part of North Rockhampton Uniting Church’s Market Day recently, central to a fundraising effort that will see $1,000 sent to support women in Kiribati.

The friendship between the two churches has been growing since early 2018, when North Rockhampton committed to helping UnitingWorld provide resources for women dealing with issues of poverty and domestic violence in the Pacific. The church was especially keen to provide money to build raised gardens in Kiribati so that women could grow vegetables untouched by increasingly salty soil. By the end of 2018, street stalls, ‘Bring and Buy’ stalls at women’s meetings and a Market Day had yielded $2021.75 to assist the work in Kiribati.

“Our recent event was wonderful,” co-ordinator Ros told us. “The ladies sold a cuppa and two slices for $5 and made $210. Our craft stall made $299. When we sell the left over lammies, we’ll have more than $1000. Most importantly, the event was happy and fun. We are really pleased.”

We’re right in the middle of a Campaign to boost funding for our women’s work in the Pacific, and we’re inspired by stories like these from our congregations. Thank you! While the work in Kiribati continues, we’re excited to begin rolling out gender equality workshops in Tuvalu, where the ordination of women is yet to be approved.

Thank you to everyone who has already given to our ‘Achieving Equality and
Ending Violence’ appeal

Find out more and make a donation at www.unitingworld.org.au/pacificwomen

Theology can’t prevent disasters, but can help people and communities prepare for them and lessen the impact. That’s why we’ve been supporting our Pacific partners to develop a theology of disaster resilience and share it across their churches and the wider Pacific. Our church partners work among communities who have been taught to believe that natural disasters are an unavoidable punishment for personal or societal wrongdoing.

This understanding of the nature of disaster sometimes means people haven’t thought through the practical steps they can take in their communities to avoid and lessen their impact. These new resources are written by Pacific theologians and designed to be shared as Bible studies as widely as possible with people in their own language. They teach about the nature of disaster and suffering, God’s call to care for creation, our role as stewards, and preparedness and advocacy as acts of discipleship. The Bible studies will work alongside teaching about evacuation plans, risk assessments and the provision of pastoral support.

The Framework paper was the result of a Working Group of twelve Pasifika theologians and practitioners gathering in 2018. Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll was lead writer.

The Bible studies were written by Rev Koloma Makewin (PNG), Rev Geraldine Wiliame (Fiji), Dr Afereti Uili (Samoa) and Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll (Fiji/Australia).

In the face of increasing threats from drought, fire, flood and storms in our region, we’re doing everything we can to equip our partners to respond with determination and hope, starting with foundations of faith.

Read more about the project and access the resources here.

This project is made possible with funding from the Australian Government through the Disaster Ready project of the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN-DO).

*Header pic: Theology of Disaster Resilience Working Group meeting in Fiji, August 2018


How can you support this work?

Give a Christmas gift card to a loved one! The Whole World in Your Hands gift card will support our partners to prepare vulnerable communities and reduce disaster impact.

Buy it now online.

Shop online for other gifts that fight poverty and build hope at www.everythingincommon.com.au

When the Uniting Church in Australia was formed in 1977, we made a statement to the nation that included this commitment:

“We are concerned with the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth’s resources for their use and enjoyment.”

Caring for creation is in our DNA. It’s a long legacy that inspired our decision to join the Global Climate Strike in solidarity with students and young people who are scared but holding onto hope as they advocate for a better future.

More than a thousand of you were right there with us. From Sydney to Perth, Darwin to Hobart, Adelaide to Brisbane, Alice Springs to Melbourne and dozens of towns across Australia; faithful Uniting Church members, UCA-affiliated schools and UnitingWorld supporters were a visible presence of hope to their communities.

In Sydney there were more than 360 people in our group. Starting in the morning with worship and prayer at Pitt St Uniting, we heard a challenging sermon from Tongan-Australian Rev Alimoni Taumoepeau, Minister at Strathfield Homebush Uniting Church. “Why do I join the climate strike? God gave me—and each of us—the responsibility to take care of this world, not to destroy it,” said Rev Alimoni.

“Ultimately, I am here because Jesus calls me to be. In Chapter 4 of Mark’s gospel, after Jesus calms the storm, he asks his disciples, ‘where is your faith?’ Do we believe God is with us? Walking with us? Calling us to love one another as God loves us?”

“Well, already the impacts of climate change are hitting the world’s poorest. This moves me to act in faith.”

Led by the Pasifika-Australians in our group, we headed out of the church to join to the wider community for the largest public demonstrations in our nation since the peace marches to oppose the Iraq War in 2003.

We joined with people expressing solidarity with rural Australians struggling through an unseasonably early fire season and the most severe drought conditions in 120 years; people fighting to save the natural wonder of our Great Barrier Reef; children and youth who want a safe, healthy planet to grow old in (with parents and grandparents who want that too!); and our partners in the Pacific who are already leading change in their communities.

A group of Tongans, Fijians and Niueans sang the Fijian hymn Eda sa qaqa (‘We have overcome’) and Kepueli Vaka, a Tongan-Australian ministry candidate of United Theological College, blew a deep note on a Kele’a (conch shell).

“With tears rolling down my face, I realised that the voices of the voiceless, the people of the South Pacific were present through the ringing vibrations of the Kele’a. It was crying and calling for people to unite for all of God’s creation,” he said afterwards.

We were so encouraged by the turnout and messages of support from people in areas too remote to get to an event but wanted to express their appreciation that the church was involved.

And we were moved by messages of thanks and support from our international partners, many of whom are on the front lines of climate impacts and looking to developed nations to take the lead in reducing global emissions.

At a time when our partners in the Pacific and Southeast Asia have been stepping up their disaster preparation and climate justice work, it’s been a joy to follow their lead and act in solidarity for the whole creation.

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