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Project Updates

With international borders still closed, and far fewer tourists visiting places like Bali, we spoke to our partners in Indonesia to find out what life is like in the grip of the pandemic.

“People here are more worried about having no food and no jobs than about the pandemic,” says our Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator, Dr Debora Murthy.

“While that’s understandable, cases in Indonesia are still growing – there are more than 3,000 cases in Bali alone, with almost 100,000 across Indonesia. The threat is very real and we’re doing everything we can to share information about stopping the spread, especially among people who rely on traditional markets, where community transmission is highest.”

Our partners the Protestant Christian Church in Bali and their development agency MBM have been working hard to respond to food insecurity as well as safeguard against disease.

Here is what your gifts have been achieving in their capable hands:

  • Food assistance for 8,062 vulnerable women, children and especially those living with HIV/AIDS
  • COVID-19 prevention education for 2,237 families via brochures and social media
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants helped 31 communities supplement their dwindling food supplies
  • Packages of masks, soap and vitamins to protect against disease for 806 families
  • Hand washing videos sent directly to
  • 61 children in targeted communities
  • Quarantine support and care for 20 health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital
  • Sewing training for 12 women to make fabric masks; 3,890 purchased by MBM
  • to distribute
  • Training for ten Bali church leaders so they can become COVID-19 volunteers in their communities
  • Marketing support for six villages so they don’t have to physically travel to produce an income.

THANK YOU

to everyone who has helped men, women and children stay safe and avoid hunger in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and across the Pacific.  You’re amazing!

“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only come through understanding.”
-Albert Einstein.

One of my favourite moments as a kid was blowing out my birthday candles. It wasn’t just the seductive sight of tiny flames snuffed out in an instant – very early on, I’d heard that if you made a wish while you blew, it would come true. Every year I asked for the same thing, more or less: world peace. For people everywhere. Just peace. (Once or twice I may have also requested a guinea pig, which came to fruition).

Still hoping for peace.

In a world where we often feel powerless, here are four practical steps to move beyond wishful thinking.

1. Learn

Understanding is at the heart of peace – peace in the heart, peace in the home, peace in the nation. But where does understanding come from? It’s the intersection of listening, experience and knowledge – all of which has never been more accessible. We’re flooded with opportunity – an internet that opens the worlds of others to our gaze; self development in the form of talks, groups, courses; news that’s instant and graphic and not always reliable. As the lines between fact and fiction blur, it’s tempting to opt out altogether in the quest for genuine understanding – of others, ourselves and the world. Hang in there. Keep learning. Keep seeking. This is where peace begins.

2. Pray

 “While I follow closely all  your stories and updates, I want you all to know that I am particularly and prayerfully aware right now of Rev John Yor,” a beautiful donor wrote to us recently.  “Just ‘knowing about’ these people and communities touches me deeply – I find myself praying for Rev Yor throughout the day as I go about the activities with the people who are part of my day.”

The Apostle Paul suggested to the Church at Thessalonica that they should pray without ceasing. Is it practical? Is it possible? Many of our supporters say yes, extending their knowledge of people and places into their daily prayer routines.

  • Scroll down here for our prayer points for the people of South Sudan, who are desperately in need of peace
  • Set an alarm that reminds you to pray during the day; take time to write a short prayer and send it to us to pass on to our partners peacebuilding on the front lines at info@unitingworld.org.au

3. Give

John Wesley flipped the idea of giving on his head when, as a young minister, he set a budget for his annual needs and regarded any extra as belonging to God and others. In the first year he earned 32 pounds, lived on 28 and gave the rest away. As his income increased, doubled and then tripled, he continued to live on 28 pounds. Wesley began a school, a sewing co-op, a free health clinic and a lending agency for the poor: he preached that using financial resources for others was a central part of faith. In a world where poverty and gross inequality drives a huge amount of conflict, what’s your approach to giving? How are you passing on your approach to others, and are you planning to leave a legacy?

4. Speak & act

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
-Matthew 5:9

While most of us like to think of ourselves as peacemakers, often what we’re really doing is avoiding or delaying conflict. Genuine peacemakers are pro-active, not re-active. They have a strategy – they observe, they listen, and they act to help restore shalom – the wholeness of God – wherever they can. What are your personal peacemaking skills like? How much do you understand about the process and how committed to it are you in your everyday relationships?

  • Read up on resources like this one: How to be a peacemaker
  • Write a letter to your local MP about your commitment to building wholeness for everyone, not simply for the affluent here in Australia. Ask what financial resources are being put into developing relationships with our neighbours and what Australia’s vision is as a peace building nation in our region.

Can faith really heal a nation?

If you tried to make a plate of bean stew in South Sudan right now, you’d spend up to 201% of your daily wage simply on ingredients. The same meal here would absorb less than 1% of a typical income.

South Sudan’s food crisis is just one swirl in the vortex of a perfect storm. Drought, locusts and flooding have decimated crops. COVID-19 lockdowns have slammed borders shut and are choking off food, fuel and water supplies. An economic crisis has sent the cost of living through the roof. And simmering away beneath it all, conflict has driven 1.4 million people into makeshift refugee camps and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

And it’s not a new problem. Sometimes, when we share news on Facebook of South Sudan and other places in conflict, we attract comments that are scathing about the ‘dysfunction of African countries.’ While there’s often not much insight behind the sentiments, they tap a frustration with the devastating long term disorder that seems to characterise life in places like South Sudan.

Why? Why is famine and war and corruption so deeply entrenched? Why does foreign aid seem to leak through such places like a sieve?

The answers aren’t simple, but you don’t have to look that far to find them.

It’s history: the impact of decades of colonial rule stunting the development of good leadership and allowing corruption to prosper.

It’s poverty, crippling everything from education, healthcare and hope.

It’s living in some of the most volatile places in the world in terms of climate and natural disaster.

And it’s the heart breaking normalisation of violence among people who are desperate for land and stock for food.

If these are the problems, what are the solutions? Those living in South Sudan itself say the most critical underlying need is for peace: stability in government and society from which to build a better future. But peace requires a movement – a deeply committed, organised base from among local people themselves. And in the context of such long term deprivation, where is the leadership for such a movement to be found?

A recent study by the US Institute of Peace found that faith-based people and organisations in South Sudan are the most important peace actors in the country*. Since independence in 2011, and indeed well before, it’s the churches who’ve stood at the forefront of peace negotiations and trauma healing. It’s people of faith who’ve risked their lives to travel to places where rape is a routine weapon of war against women and girls. It’s people of faith who are restoring unity, one by one, amongst people tired and suspicious of government efforts.

Many people, of course, find that hard to believe. Isn’t religion divisive? Doesn’t it tend toward the submissive, preferring to rely on the heart of God rather than the hands of people?

Sure, sometimes. As in most developing regions, religion is central to life in South Sudan, and the way theology is applied differs from place to place.

But right at the heart of religion is the unshakeable belief that transformation is possible, that love wins over death. And that’s a powerful force. Ask any of the faith leaders why they stay, and it’s a rock solid sense of call. “God hasn’t left us orphans,” they say. “God is at work in the world, healing and renewing. And we are part of it.”

It’s a shared conviction. Religion in South Sudan isn’t the major flash point of conflict – it’s cultural differences between tribal groups that go back centuries. While Christianity is the majority faith (around 60% of the population), since 2011 there’s been relative harmony between Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional African religions. From city cathedrals to mosques and village chapels, the leadership of faith communities have the confidence of the people and are united in their desire for peace. But is it enough? Why isn’t change happening faster?

The South Sudan Council of Churches, the country’s largest unifying faith-based body, is working on it. With more than six million members from seven denominations, they’ve developed a strategic plan which represents South Sudan’s most comprehensive road map out of conflict – nothing quite like it exists even within government. Based on four pillars – advocacy, neutral forums for negotiation, reconciliation and organisational strengthening – the Council of Churches’ Action Plan for Peace was officially adopted in 2015. But what does it look like in practise?

Rolling out a peace action plan

The Uniting Church in Australia, through UnitingWorld, has some insight into the process. In 2012, it developed a partnership with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), a pivotal member of the Council with networks that reach well beyond the cities into regional areas and places ravaged by conflict, including refugee camps outside the country. Simply put, the Action Plan for Peace is the sending of ministers to teach, preach, counsel and care – treacherous journeys to communities where hunger and despair are woven into the fabric of life. It’s developing leadership skills and training theological students in Juba. It’s women marching for peace, month after month, in the capital, Juba. And it’s working alongside government to advocate for change in a context where deliberate neglect of certain groups – sometimes to the point of starvation- is seen a legitimate tactic in quelling dissent.

Christian women marching for peace in South Sudan, 2017

It’s clear that the wisdom and spiritual care of church leaders really matters: 82% of Peace Institute Survey respondents, when asked where they would turn for help aside from immediate family, mentioned their religious leaders. Research found that 39% of people regarded their community and religious leaders as their main source of information – combined with the fact that only 8% of people have internet and 20% have mobile phones, the equipping of leaders with accurate, harmonising and life giving messages is critical. These messages often come direct from the pulpit – 54% said the most useful contribution of the faith community towards peace is through sermons and prayers*, and UnitingWorld’s partners are certainly hands-on in terms of changing hearts and minds at the local level. But it’s not their only tactic.

25% of survey respondents said that more important than spiritual care was the organisation by faith groups of peace conferences and workshops. These are the teaching moments – often in hard to reach, conflict ridden places – that bring together the leaders of warring tribes to negotiate, listen, learn conflict resolution skills and support trauma healing.

A UnitingWorld-funded conference took place earlier this year in Cairo, Egypt. It was a tough assignment, drawing on refugees from different tribal groups who’ve traditionally resisted reconciliation. A second workshop in Juba, attended by church leaders, led to the resolution of a conflict between groups in one community. Three trained ministers intervened after negotiations about leadership became heated; they were able to bring the groups together and the leadership appointment went ahead without violence.

It’s these local leaders who’ll go back to their tribal groups, one by one, to share the skills that underpin peace. Without them, the movement can’t gain momentum. Very little will change.

What makes the critical difference?

The churches’ ability to capitalise on this reach and influence depends very much on developing their own capacity. Within the Nile Theological College, students are learning not just theological ideas but practical skills like peace building and fundamental human rights values that have gone undeveloped for decades. National Assemblies of various denominations strive to bring together their members to seek spiritual guidance and encourage one another. And leaders are being invited to advise government and demonstrate their negotiation skills in forums as significant as the 2018 Peace Negotiations in Addis Ababa, Egypt.

Right now, all eyes are on the need to safeguard South Sudan from the likely ravages of COVID-19, providing food, water and medicine to stave off hunger – and the need is huge. But in addition, the churches haven’t wavered from the big picture. They’re fiercely committed to investing in the peace process and the nurture of leaders who’ll shepherd their nation toward long term stability.

It’s incredibly difficult work. In Juba, members of the PCOSS leadership are hungry, without reliable food supplies, electricity, water or internet. Their own day to day existence is absolutely precarious, even as they care for others.

That’s why over the coming year, UnitingWorld is even more committed to supporting our partners. We’re funding two more peace workshops, the training of theological students through the Nile College, upgrades of vital transport to allow travel to remote area and investment into helping the Presbyterian Church bring together people for its General Assembly. All of this is in addition to humanitarian work in response to the pandemic. It’s long term, painstaking work and it often lacks the immediate punch of livelihood investment, or water and sanitation projects. But it’s also exactly consistent with the way transformation happens – incrementally, in small steps. Most significantly? The church is investing in individuals who drive change.

If faith really can heal a nation, this is how it happens.

UnitingWorld is looking for people with a heart for nurturing Christian leadership to bring lasting change in South Sudan and other places around the world. You can contribute by praying and sending messages of solidarity to partners in South Sudan, or help meet some of the long term costs of the project. If this project is your call, please be in touch with our Partnerships Team on 1800 998 122 or email us on info@unitingworld.org.au.
You can donate here

Families in Muzarabani and Gokwe Districts in rural Zimbabwe were looking forward to being financially independent this year, but when COVID-19 lockdowns hit, their livelihoods selling produce at local markets evaporated like rain on the dusty road.

Run by the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe through the Methodist Development & Relief Agency (MeDRA) and supported by the Australian Government, the project they are part of supports small livelihoods projects such as raising chickens, pigs and goats to a generate both food and a sustainable income.

At the age of 64, Conceptar is no ordinary grandmother. Since 2009, she has cared for her orphaned grandchildren. There are now six children to house, feed, educate and clothe, but since joining the project in 2014, Conceptar says it has been a source of hope for her and her family.

Income from the sale of chickens (particularly) was providing food and education to Conceptar’s household and many others, but when Zimbabwe went into lockdown due to COVID-19 everything changed.

“Everything seemed to be evaporating in my life as it became very difficult to sell produce from the project,” said Conceptar.

“The disease has brought a sad face to the project as markets got closed.”

As large markets supplying local restaurants shut, the sale of produce became impossible. Conceptar’s family could no longer afford to buy food. They had to survive on one meal a day.

But hope was not lost when Conceptar learnt that MeDRA was already on their way to distribute food and support to her family and others in the village.

“I want to thank MeDRA for coming to my rescue as I got a food hamper which will go [a] long way to safeguard the food situation of my family,” said Conceptar.

She said her grandchildren rejoiced at the thought of being able to enjoy a cup of hot tea again thanks to MeDRA.

UnitingWorld had been supporting MeDRA to handover leadership of this project to communities by July this year. Due to COVID-19, this will be delayed to the end of June 2021, in order to ensure that families are supported through this difficult time of COVID-19 and the economic challenges this exacerbates and are able to maintain their livelihoods activities. After June 2021, we will continue to work with MeDRA and the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe by supporting the training of church leaders and youth leaders in addressing gender based violence, child protection, disability inclusion and human trafficking in their communities.

Thank you for supporting this work through your donations to our tax-time appeal. Your support and solidarity mean so much, especially in this global crisis. Thank you.

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

Pacific church leaders and theologians have been guiding people of faith through the COVID-19 crisis. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the region, Pacific Island nations were quick to guard against the disease with safety lockdowns. The limited health infrastructure across much of the Pacific meant its populations were particularly vulnerable.

Pacific churches too were proactive in urging people to follow official health and safety advice during lockdowns, as well as giving theological guidance to help people of faith (the vast majority in the Pacific) understand and respond to the crisis. A proliferation of misinformation and dangerous theological framings has made their messages even more important.

A series of pastoral letters put out by the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) as well as several letters and social media posts circulated by prominent Pacific Christian leaders created an opportunity to consolidate the themes into a set of key theological messages.

The key messages were then turned into a series of seven printable posters and social media assets that could help amplify important pastoral guidance during the crisis.

Reverend Dorothy Jimmy of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) has been sharing the messages in her church and her words have reached people nationwide. One of her Sunday sermons was broadcast on national television and she used the opportunity to share the messages as well as reflections on gender-based violence and the need to promote dignity and protection in the home during COVID-19.

She also led follow-up daily devotions that were broadcast over a week, each morning and evening highlighting a message from the resources, Biblical Theological Guidance during COVID-19 and Messages on Dignity and Protection in the Home during COVID-19 (14 in total).

“People told me, ‘we saw you on TV! It was really good to hear a message about what God’s word says about what we are currently going through,’” said Rev Dorothy.

“The TV producer said he had never heard that sort of practical theology coming out [of the church].”

“A lot of people are looking to the Church right now in regard to what is happening.”

Martha Yamsiu Kaluatman, the Gender Focal Point of PCV said many people were hearing the ideas shared by Rev Dorothy for the first time.

“Many people I spoke to said they loved hearing the message on that issue [COVID-19] and on being resilient,” said Martha.

“It’s a new message to them.”

As part of the Gender Equality Theology project in Vanuatu, Martha, Rev Dorothy and the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union (PWMU) Gender Team ran an awareness workshop and used the theological messages with 36 women leaders in North and South Efate Presbyteries on 24 and 30 June.

The feedback from the women leaders was positive and helped highlight the need for clear and positive theological messaging during crises like COVID-19.

“Most of us have been confessing – because of our misunderstanding of COVID-19 as a punishment from God and we blame other people as well,” said a participant.

“The message challenged me because I was upset with the people of China and anyone from China.”

Many of the leaders committed to sharing what they learned at the workshop with others in their communities.

“I have to go and help others that have negative thoughts. I have learned that COVID-19 is not a punishment from God.”

“We must not blame others for COVID-19, and I must be kind to them because everything has its seasons.”

UnitingWorld Project Manager Aletia Dundas says the power of the messages relies on how they are picked up and adapted by churches in their local contexts.

“The key messages were consolidated in this way to be contextualised, translated and used by churches to inform people about what is going on and how to respond faithfully to the crisis,” said Ms Dundas.

While a lot of bad theology has emerged during the COVID-19 crisis, many of the harmful messages have come to the Pacific from outside and are being countered by Pacific theologians.

“Pacific leaders and theologians are challenging harmful theology with strong positive theological messaging in support of government and health messaging, and against stigmatisation and blame. These messages identify preventative measures and identifying it as an act of faith.”

“The posters aim to amplify their messages,” said Ms Dundas.

Churches in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have already adopted and translated the messages, and churches in Papua New Guinea used the initial PCC pastoral letters to create their own series of posters.

You can download the English and Bislama (Vanuatu) versions of the resources here.

Another series of posters and shareable key messages are being developed from the Messages on Dignity and Protection in the Home during COVID-19 resource. Stay tuned!

 


 

This project is a collaboration of UnitingWorld, CAN DO and the Pacific Conference of Churches, in close collaboration with UnitingWorld’s partners in the Disaster READY project (the United Church Solomon Islands, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Methodist Church in Fiji).

Funding was provided by the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN DO), a consortium of faith-based agencies that was formed to better coordinate and strengthen our global humanitarian, disaster risk reduction and resilience-building work.

Funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership is supporting the translation and adaptation of messages in some countries.

Read about the innovative ways our Pacific partners have been responding to COVID-19 crisis

Our partners in Bali have been finding innovative ways for children to stay safe, connected and spreading important information about COVID-19.

As part of safety lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia, the Bali provincial government recommended all school children study at home.

With children isolated in their houses, our partners MBM held a drawing contest to keep students connected and help promote social distancing, handwashing and awareness about COVID-19. Entrants were primary and junior high school-age children who lived in communities connected to our partner church GKPB and community development projects run by MBM.

61 children enthusiastically entered the competition and came up with some great creations!

Kadek, a junior high school student won first place in the competition. The theme of his cartoon is keeping a safe distance and using a mask to prevent transmission of the virus.

Kadek with his cartoon

Kadek lives in a village in the Bangli region and he and his family are assisted by an MBM community development project. He said he was inspired to enter the competition after sitting in on one of MBM’s education sessions on COVID-19 that his parents attended.

His cartoon is now being published by MBM and GKPB as part of educational resources to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

MBM Project Coordinator Irene Arnawa said the project encouraged children to think about health and safety, as well as creative ways to spread the message to others.

“We hope that by doing these kinds of activities, children will be able to realise the importance of following health advice to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19,” said Ms Arnawa.

Great work Kadek and all the other entrants!

Some of the finalists – so many great entries

MBM’s COVID-19 crisis response in Bali:

  • 1,838 families provided with educational brochures about COVID-19 prevention.
  • 320 families assisted by existing projects have received a COVID-19 health package (containing masks, soap and vitamins) to reduce their vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.
  • 5,929 people given food assistance.
  • 61 children in target communities have been sent videos about how to wash their hands properly.
  • Six villages have been aided with marketing their products to enable to them to continue to receive an income without needing to travel to city markets.
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants prepared to help improve long-term food security and nutrition for people who have lost work or must isolate themselves.
  • 12 women trained to make fabric masks; 3,110 were then bought by MBM to distribute.
  • 21 village leaders helped with technical assistance on how to realign their village budget to support families impacted by COVID-19. They are using a website to access health information and have created an independent isolation room for the arrival of migrant workers needing to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Ten church leaders in Bali trained in safeguarding so they can become COVID-19 volunteers in their communities.
  • 20 health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital have received food and accommodation from MBM’s quarantine facility to enable to them to isolate from their families and community while working.

Our partners will continue to serve their communities throughout this crisis and beyond. Donate now to support their critical work: www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow


UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. Our partner in Bali is the Christian Protestant Church in Bali (GKPB) and their development agency Maha Bhoga Marga (MBM). Click here to support their work.

A reflection by Brooklyn Distephano, 17-year-old Ambonese student and UnitingWorld Peace Workshop participant.


In 1999 Ambon suddenly became a war zone. A conflict between religions caused over five thousand people to lose their lives and half a million to lose their homes. Many children and teenagers became child soldiers and risked their lives for something that destroyed them. The conflict ended in 2002 after the signing of the Malino Agreement.

Right now, Ambon is more peaceful, and tolerance between religions is becoming so good here. There are a few lessons about peace from Ambon for the world.

The first is the past conflict. It made the people of Ambon know that conflict will only bring chaos, death, and that nobody can win. They wanted to change for the future.

The second is the people in Ambon. The people who suffered because of conflict of course didn’t want the next generation to have the same suffering as them, so they teach their kids about peace and love. In fact the conflict ended not only because of the signing of Malino Agreement but also because the people who were tired of living with conflict and fear made a movement to end the conflict.

The third is this movement joining with world organizations like UnitingWorld to make workshops about peace for kids, teenagers and all people. The workshops are really important for the people of Ambon because they can end the trauma that some people still have and give learning for the new generation.

I take part in the workshops and I am very thankful. It’s not just important for the people in Ambon, but to all the people in the world who can see how Ambon turned from being a warzone to a city of music. Even from the dark past and conflict, Ambon is finding its way back to the light and hopefully to the brighter future. When we all learn from this, the world can have peace.

Now it is just up to us – each living human being. Are we going to turn this world to a warzone or to a better place? This is every person’s choice. So what’s your decision?

Brooklyn Distephano

Lent Event 2020

A huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting Brooklyn, other young leaders, women’s groups and small business start-ups through gifts to this year’s Lent Event. There’s still time to learn more about the projects, watch our video series and donate at www.lentevent.com

As South Sudan emerges from seven years of brutal civil war, COVID-19 is creating new threats to peace. Our partners have asked us to pray in solidarity and keep holding onto hope.

Earlier this year, the struggle for peace in South Sudan took a significant step forward. In February, President Salva Kiir Mayardit swore in Dr Riek Machar as Vice President and both declared the end to their rivalry; a power struggle that resulted in a seven-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.

After many failed starts at peace and a great deal of international pressure, the agreement of leaders to form a ‘Transitional Government of National Unity’ was a cause for celebration.

Power vacuums causing new waves of violence

Unfortunately, the new government has failed to appoint state governors to provide much-needed local leadership and this has already resulted in renewed violence. An estimated 800 people have been killed in intercommunal clashes since February.

Just last month, hundreds of people were killed in outbreaks of  violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei state. Hundreds of women and children have also been abducted and are still in captivity.

PCOSS Vice General Secretary Rev Orozu Daky shared these words with us recently:

“My heart is bleeding with what is happening between Lou Nuer and Murle…I know for sure through prayers of many believers around the world, there will be peace between them. However, God has time frame to that to happen. We need peace among the two sister tribes.

Pray together without ceasing. Amen”

South Sudanese faith communities in Australia have also called on the Church for prayer and solidarity. Responding to the recent violence, Pastor Moses Leth of the South Sudanese Nuer Faith Community in Queensland wrote to members of the Uniting Church in Australia:

At this point, we do not know what else to ask of you besides your will to plea to God with us. As always, we seek for your prayer and solidarity. 

Click here to read Pastor Moses’ full letter.

New stressors on cycles of violence in South Sudan

As well as the of lack of political leadership at the state level, ongoing food insecurity and COVID-19 are also fueling intercommunal violence.

In South Sudan, 6.5 million people, or 55% of the population, are expected to face severe food insecurity between May and July 2020, owing to the dire economic situation and events like last year’s floods and locust invasions that destroyed crops, killed livestock and contaminated water supplies of whole communities.

While food insecurity increases the risk of violence over land and resources, violence in turn works in a vicious cycle to increase food insecurity. Conflict prevents people from moving in search of food, it restricts humanitarian access to deliver emergency food and supplies and disrupts trade routes and access to markets.

COVID-19 is also expected to put further pressure on the cycle of violence. Social distancing requirements have meant peacebuilding and mediation efforts have stalled and people’s ability to go to work and buy food have been severely restricted.  In addition, a sharp fall in government oil revenues has meant  funds for peace processes have been cut.

What can be done? Is there any hope?

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has been committed to working for peace in South Sudan since the 1970s. This has included running peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops for South Sudanese people of various tribes living in refugee camps in bordering countries, training church leaders in peacebuilding skills that can be shared with the wider community, as well as collaborating in ecumenical peace efforts as part of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC).

Now, PCOSS is working as part of the SSCC to mediate between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities to seek a peaceful resolution. At a time when there is an absence of local leadership and UN peacebuilding missions and NGOs are facing difficulties in implementing peace programs, the work of the Church is especially vital for reconciliation and peace.

PCOSS Moderator Rt Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow said:

“The church cannot sit back and watch while the nation is bleeding.  Now am asking your prayers in this process of mediation we started trying to bring together the two communities to the table to talk about possible reconciliation.”

“The church, no matter how fragile is the leadership of this country, will try her level best to say “STOP” fighting and let people resolve this recycling revenge amicably through peaceful negotiations…Let’s hope for success, keep going on in our thoughts and prayers.”

PCOSS Moderator Rt Rev Peter Gai

During COVID-19, PCOSS is providing vulnerable communities with awareness about COVID-19, food and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) items and delivering psychosocial support. They are also continuing their critical peacebuilding activities.  You can help. Click here to support our partners to respond to COVID-19 and save lives in South Sudan.

Please join us in prayer:

  • For PCOSS and SSCC, and that their peace mediation efforts are successful
  • For lasting peace between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities and others across South Sudan
  • For the safe return of abducted women and children
  • For the recovery and healing of people physically injured or experiencing trauma; and
  • For our partners PCOSS as they respond to COVID-19.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports our partners 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 

My name is Anna and I am 58 years old.  I live in Gokwe South. I’m a proud member of a group started by the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe Relief and Development (MeDRA) in 2017.

Our group is called kunzwa nekuita which means ‘hearing and doing’. As well as education about health and hygiene, we began an internal lending and savings project to help boost our household income. We started our poultry breeding project with 50 chickens and sell an average of 6 chickens to neighbours at an average monthly income of 800ZLW (A$3.17)

We inject this money back into our group so we can expand our activities. We encourage our communities to maintain clean homes free from litter and practise personal hygiene by washing with soap and water. We’ve also taught our community to erect tippy taps at their homes, dig rubbish tips and use blair toilets.

Recently MeDRA staff visited us to provide COVID-19 awareness to our group and gave us education and communication materials for an in-depth knowledge of the disease. We weren’t sure about the hand washing, social distancing, symptoms of COVID-19 or the referral path for a person suspected of a COVID-19 infection, but we now have flyers and posters so we can prevent the spread of the disease.

As a group we really feel there is a need to reach out to men as they have challenges in practicing measures given by our government on COVID-19 prevention. Many men also believe hygiene is only a women’s issue and do not take awareness campaigns seriously.

I would like to thank MeDRA for supporting us with this education so we can spread the word and keep our community safe from COVID-19. I also feel there is a great need for sanitisers, masks and more training to prevent the myths about the disease from spreading.

If we remain united and practice the regulations, we are very hopeful we can fight COVID-19 in our community.

UnitingWorld’s partner, the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe Relief and Development Agency (MEDRA) is working to raise awareness and stop the spread of COVID-19. While many regular activities are currently on hold due to lockdowns, the team have re-focussed all their energy toward providing vulnerable communities with education and awareness on COVID-19, as well as supplying food and sanitation items like soap and hand washing stations.

You can help by donating today to our COVID-19 appeal. Please give to help save lives and protect livelihoods.

*As a valued partner of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, we are eligible for funding that means tax-time donations can go up to six times as far in the field saving lives. We’ve committed to raise $1 for every $5 for which we’re eligible, and that’s where your donation has its power.

Every dollar will be used for immediate COVID-19 responses providing food and sanitation packs, health information and hand washing facilities, as well as fighting to keep poverty at bay long term through sustainable development projects.

Please give at www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow or call us on 1800 998122

UnitingWorld is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

The Church of North India Diocese of Durgapur have pivoted their ongoing community development work to supporting vulnerable households identified through the project.

Throughout May, 2,000 households in urban slums and rural communities were provided with food packs containing rice, pulses, potato, salt and oil, as well as hygiene supplies that included masks and soap. Our partners are also working on printing materials that promote government-authorised messages on COVID-19. In Amritsar, 4,000 masks have been made and provided to the community and service sectors (many people are working in very populated markets). 562 vulnerable families in have also been provided with emergency food packs that include soap for regular handwashing.

Summary:

  • 2,000 households provided with food and hygiene packs including masks and soap
  • 4,000 masks made and provided to the community and service sectors in Amritsar
  • 562 vulnerable families provided with emergency food and hygiene packs.

Thank you for your support!

Our partners will continue to serve their communities throughout this crisis and beyond.
Donate now to support their work: www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow