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COVID-19 Tag

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

Brooklyn Distephano blogs on life as a student in Ambon during COVID-19. Brooklyn is a 17-year-old Ambonese high school student and UnitingWorld Peace Workshop participant.

The COVID-19 pandemic first spread to Indonesia on 2 March 2020 when a dance instructor and her mother were infected by a Japanese national. By 9 April, the pandemic had spread to all 34 provinces in the country after Gorontalo confirmed its first case, with JakartaEast Java, and West Java being the worst-hit.  Today, there are almost 49,000 cases with 2,500 deaths.

On 19 March 2020 I went to school, and when I arrived there was an announcement saying that there was going to be a teachers’ meeting. After the meeting our teachers went to each class to give assignments to the student because we were going to be learning from home due to Covid-19.

When I first heard that I felt so happy! In my mind I could sleep late, wake up late and go on vacation etc. After our teachers finished giving the assignment, we were allowed to go home. Within the first week all my assignments were finished and I thought, “During this learning from home I’m going to be so happy!”

It didn’t turn out like that.  Everyday, there’s more bad news than good news. Everybody has become sad, and so am I. My life has became very boring because all I can do is wake up, eat, and play on my phone until I got to bed again. Also I can’t meet my friends so that has made the situation even worse.

In the middle of this pandemic, things in Ambon have become very different. Most of the places that are usually crowded have become very quiet. The Government has said to the people that we must always wear a mask if we want to go outside. But still there are a lot of people who do not obey the rules. That’s why there’s so many police and authorities patrolling in Ambon. If they catch people who don’t wear a mask when they go outside, usually they get punished. If a man is caught and he doesn’t have a mask, he will be asked to open his t shirt and use that as his mask. But many people can’t stay home because they have to work – if they don’t work they will have no food. So it is very hard for us here.

I’m afraid that if we don’t obey the Government and wear masks then this pandemic will end with so many casualties. And I also worry for the people who can’t stay at home and be safe. I appreciate so much the people that are fighting Covid-19 at the forefront. Please respect them because while we are able to sit down in our house and talk to our family, they can’t. So let’s give these fighters big respect and appreciation.

Thank you for reading my story of being a student in Ambon during this pandemic. All I want is to go back to school, to see my friends and be part of building a better future for Ambon.

-Brooklyn.

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.

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UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe gives an update on COVID-19 and appeals for support.

Right now, your gift has a bigger impact because it will be combined with Australian Aid funding (find out how).

Please donate before June 30.

DONATE NOW

(click here to download video to show in church services)


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.

Header photo via SBS news.

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.

Disaster and crisis are a part of life for us here at UnitingWorld. Each year, at least one of our partners is swamped by the impact of a cyclone, storm, war or famine. We mobilise, we strategise, we fundraise, we act. We’re good at it.

COVID-19 is different. It has plunged every single one of our partners, in every part of the globe, into crisis all at once. We’re traveling at speed through territory we’ve never traversed before, and there’s little light to guide. We don’t know exactly how the pandemic will play out for each of our partner communities – how many lives lost, what cost to the economy. As unemployment soars and productivity declines here in Australia, we don’t know what resources you, our supporters here in Australia, will muster to continue to support our brothers and sisters internationally. We don’t know how the Australian Government will allocate precious funding under the pressure of a massive deficit and to what extent the foreign aid budget will bear the brunt of the scramble to claw back dollars.

Our partners tell us they’re living by faith. I am too. It’s not the kind of blind belief that asserts everything will be fine—despite all evidence to the contrary—and claims immunity from fallout. It’s about faithfulness, staying true to our call. And it’s about trust, in God’s character and promise. This faith is about relationship, as is so much of our shared life with God, our partners and with each of you as our co-workers. We are bound to each other in covenant, the promise that through the darkest nights and the deepest valleys, Christ is beside us and through us and alive in this world. I can’t tell you how reassuring that knowledge is to me in the midst of the chaos of budgeting, planning, responding in the blackness of ‘not knowing’. Please continue to stand with us in giving, praying and hoping. We were made for times like these, and we are not alone in God’s world.

In hope and determination,

Sureka

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld


COVID-19 update 

While many project activities have been put on hold due to lockdowns, we are redirecting people and money to meet immediate COVID-19 related needs. Our partners are continuing to serve their communities in innovative ways and working hard to retain the development gains you’ve helped make happen.

Thank you so much to all our regular givers and all of you who’ve helped resource our partners to respond to this crisis. Your donations are being put to use protecting lives, preventing hunger and building the long-term resilience of communities in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

Thank you for supporting this critical work.

www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow

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

Last month our partner in Bali MBM provided food assistance to 2,338 people, health packages containing masks, soap and vitamins to 320 families and health education brochures to 708 families. 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants have been prepared to help improve the long-term food security and nutrition of people who lost work and must stay at home. Staff have been giving technical assistance to 14 village leaders on how realign their village budget to support families impacted by COVID-19. Ten health workers serving COVID-19 patients in a local hospital have been provided food and accommodation at MBM’s property—now a quarantine facility—to enable to them to isolate from their families and community while working.

Summary:

  • 2,338 people provided with food assistance
  • 320 families supplied with health packages containing masks, soap and vitamins
  • 708 families given health education brochures
  • 1,000 fruit and vegetable plants prepared to help improve long-term food security and nutrition
  • Technical assistance to 14 village leaders realigning village budgets to support families impacted by COVID-19.

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

Frequent and proper hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.

Our partners the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) are working across 17 communities in Milne Bay province to run COVID-19 awareness sessions and installing handwashing stations with soap, instructional posters and steps so children can reach (see left of pic 1).

Supported by the Australian Government Disaster READY initiative, UCPNG and other PNG church partners will be helping support the immediate needs of almost 40,000 people.

The project also includes the training of community mobilisers/volunteers to drive community engagement activities, working in close coordination with local government authorities and community groups.

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

The word is out.

COVID-19 is God’s global hammer against sin – and only those who maintain purity of faith will be spared.

In one place, the ‘evils of homosexuality’ are to blame; in another it’s women in ministry, globalisation or loss of family values. On Facebook, people boast of relying on the ‘protective Blood of the Saviour’ rather than sanitiser; in the US, Kenneth Copeland has attempted to “blow” COVID-19 away with the wind of God, an anti-lockdown protest rallies around the slogan “Jesus is my vaccine”; and in New Zealand a pastor is quoted as calling his congregation to continue to gather because “I’m not about to let a filthy virus scare me out of worship.”

You might shrug off such examples as fringe territory, but the temptation to fall back on the truism of ‘faith alone’ doesn’t only loiter at the edges. And as part of the scrutiny of ideas spawned by COVID-19, we have the chance to ask ourselves anew: how do we live out the heart of authentic faith?

“The simplistic option during a crisis like this one is to turn to religion and prayer as the only solution,” says Rev James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches. “That’s not only problematic, it’s risky and reckless. Yes, Christians are saved through the gospel of God’s grace. However, this salvation does not mean we escape physical corruption, futility, and death.”

That reality has seldom been more evident among the poorest on our planet, where the arm of this disease is longest and its grip most devastating.

Half a billion people – or more – confront the prospect of being tipped back into poverty as the economic fallout from COVID-19 bites hard. Alongside the terror of the virus itself lurks hunger and loss of hope. For decades our international church partners have poured heart and soul into communities fighting poverty across Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. Now they face their greatest challenge in a generation.

Some struggle personally with lockdowns, unreliable electricity or lack of clean water. But each, with the support of Uniting Church communities through UnitingWorld, has immediately turned their efforts toward meeting urgent needs.

Critically, it’s not just health and hunger that weigh on their minds. Worldwide, in a context where 84% of the population identify with a religious group, the pandemic is seeding big questions – where is God? Who is to blame? What of faith? What of fear?

Rev Bhagwan, like others across the Pacific, Asia and Africa, is helping communities hold and heal together. As people wrestle with sovereignty and suffering, our partners are coming out strong to emphasise the interconnectedness of faith, prayer, science and human responsibility in tackling the virus from all angles.

“We’re called to join our hearts in solidarity with each other, to mourn with those who mourn, to share peace with those who are anxious,” says Rev Bhagwan.

“In many of our regions and across the planet, access to clean water and soap, shelter for protection, and other basic services are a real challenge. Our role is to provide hope and manifest the love of God in practical ways.”

In places where the need is overwhelming, our partners are holding faith, resilience and action together – and that’s a beacon. But their example goes even further.

It calls us to hold our own theologies and practices up to scrutiny too. The connectedness of our world has been laid bare by the virus; our need to take seriously the ecological damage that threatens to unleash new strains of disease; our commitment to ‘one global Catholic church’ united in Christ.

Crisis always prompts innovation and reflection. Keeping these questions at the heart of our journey, even as we grapple with local suffering, is proof of the risky, all-encompassing love of God. And that, right there, is what it means to live an authentic faith.

– Cath Taylor


Join the power of people uniting by praying and giving to save lives and share hope during COVID-19.

Right now your donation has six times the impact! Every donation you make to this appeal will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to reach more people. We have committed to contribute $1 for every $5 we receive from the Australian government. Your donation will allow us to extend our programs!

Please help bring hope, health and good theology. Read more at www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow

As a valued partner of the Australian Government, UnitingWorld receives flexible funding under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) each year to implement development and poverty alleviation programs overseas.