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Author: UnitingWorld

Today is World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

In 2018 there were about 50,000 human trafficking victims detected and reported by 148 countries. 50 per cent of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 per cent were exploited for forced labour. Women make up 46% and girls 19% of all victims of trafficking. Globally, one in every three victims detected is a child.

In Zimbabwe, traffickers exploit predominantly women in domestic servitude, forced labor and sex trafficking in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. These cases are known to increase during times of economic or other crises, such as the current situation where many Zimbabweans’ livelihoods are impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. Due to COVID-19 it is also reported that child trafficking and child labor likely increased, particularly in agriculture, domestic service, informal trading, begging, and artisanal mining. Children ages 9 to 14 work as nannies, housemaids, and gardeners in urban areas and mining communities; some employers force the children to work by withholding wages, denying them access to school, and subjecting them to gender-based violence.

The Zimbabwean Government launched its new 2019-2021 anti-trafficking national action plan, however the government did not allocate sufficient funding for the plan’s implementation so there is still a shortfall to adequately address this issue.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals include goals and targets on trafficking in persons. These goals call for an end to trafficking and violence against children; as well as the need for measures against human trafficking, and they strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

In 2021-22, the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) and the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) will continue to try to address human trafficking in Zimbabwe as part of the Safety and Inclusion (Leadership) Project supported by UnitingWorld. Over the next year MeDRA and the MCZ plan to achieve the following:

  • Church wide inclusion, safeguarding and gender officer appointed
  • 50 church leaders and 273 ministers trained on Safeguarding, Disability Inclusion, Human Trafficking, including topics and policies
  • New policies and training manual on Safeguarding, Disability Inclusion and Human Trafficking translated to local languages and printed.
  • 422 church representatives receive training manual on Safeguarding, Disability Inclusion and Human Trafficking
  • IEC materials and bulk messaging on Safeguarding, Disability Inclusion, Human Trafficking, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management distributed among church leaders, ministers and communities (including videos of church leaders promoting the message to be circulated via Facebook or Whatsapp)
  • Continued collaboration between the MCZ and other Wesleyan Church Anti Trafficking Taskforce members

 

The World Day against Trafficking in Persons has been held on 30 July since 2013. Find out more.

 

Photos:

  1. Header: Boys from a rural community in Gokwe, Zimbabwe taking a look at one of MeDRA’s posters about human trafficking. Photo credit: MeDRA
  2. In-text: Another poster produced by MeDRA to help raise awareness of human trafficking in rural communities. Photo credit: MeDRA

Are you angry during the pandemic? How do you make peace with anger?

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon is Moderator of GMIT, our partner Church in West Timor, Indonesia. Throughout the pandemic, she has shown leadership in public health and coordinated the emergency relief program after the devastation of Cylone Seroja.  I encourage you to read Rev Dr Kolimon’s full reflection below, a truly insightful exploration of God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. I believe the ‘theology of the body’ she articulates is deeply inspirational for Uniting Church members, particularly those living in regions under lockdown.

-Rev Dr Ji Zhang, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Theologian-in-Residence

At the end of June 2021, my husband began to feel unwell: colds, coughs, weak body, loss of taste. At that time Kupang was windy and the weather was unstable: sometimes hot, sometimes cold. So my husband thought it must have been a cold caused by tiredness from his schedule of long meetings.

I had previously reminded him: “Work should not be too late, too long or too often. It’s a pandemic. Masks should be replaced frequently. If you go home, change your clothes immediately.”

By the end of that week my daughter rang when I was in the office to say she also felt unwell, and I hurriedly finished my meeting and rushed home.

While my husband was still reluctant to test for Covid-19, believing it just to be a cold, I insisted that we were swabbed and we soon found out that our entire family was positive.  Our nephew, Efi, tested negative – Praise God! As long as we were sick he was able to take care of us.

Making peace with sadness and anger

When I found out the result, I felt angry. Why had we not been more careful? Our kids have been learning from home for over a year, but as parents we were always at work, even though as a Synod we help educate others about how to be safe. Often we have adhered to health protocols. But there are times when we are off-guard, such as unmasking to take pictures and eating together in meetings. Everyone should be more vigilant.

It took me a few days to come to terms with the anger and sadness.

We both know we are lucky to have been vaccinated, because while there is still risk of infection, the impact is not as severe. The four of us did not have problems with breathing, something we’re very grateful for.

We also learned once again that the impact of Covid-19 is more pronounced for older people. My 17-year-old daughter lost her sense of smell and had difficulty eating, but it wasn’t as bad as for my husband and I, who had body pain for days. Alberd, 9 years old, had fever and vomiting, a loss of sense of taste for several days and a lack of appetite. Alberd’s spirits stayed high though and he was a great comfort to us.

The Light of God’s Love

On the third day after being declared positive, our situation was quite severe. Our whole bodies hurt, we couldn’t drink or eat; we had fever, nausea, scalp pain. As a Mama, I had difficulty taking care of the family or paying attention to church affairs. I was worried about many post-Cyclone Seroja agendas in GMIT that needed to be taken care of and plans with ecumenical partners and congregations on various islands.

I almost cried in bed. My God, why am I having this experience?

I thought about what might happen if I couldn’t get through this Covid – my mind was everywhere as I imagined how things would be with GMIT. Within our five Daily Synod Assemblies, three people were also infected at the same time as me; all have now improved.

When it all felt very heavy, I told my daughter who was also having difficulty eating:

“Our Covid situation is like walking into a dark alley without knowing if we will ever get out of that dark alley safely. Although it is very dark, one day we will see light at the end of the hallway, as long as we believe that there is light at the end of that dark passageway. Come on, keep eating.”

She replied: “Mama’s dark hallway analogy is horrifying but true.””

We experienced the light of God’s love in many ways: people came to give care and support; some sent Bible verses and messages; my sisters at SoE sent the medicines we needed; others sent herbal remedies; Oepoi Health Center always contacted us to ask about our situation; the Governor of NTT called and sent Chinese medicine; Tanta Yo from the Synod Office guest house cooked for us for a week. There was a friend who sent Timor Island’s best honey; there was a friend who transferred money and said don’t get dizzy with the thought of medical expenses. Fruits and vegetables flowed from all directions.

We really experienced in these dark times the light and warmth of love – even while we struggled with nausea, fever and night sleep disorders, every day we experienced God loving us. Thank you to all who shared the light with us when the night was so intense and we lived as though in a great storm.

What sin?

A question asked by a group of GBI pastors arose: “Are we affected by Covid-19 because we have betrayed the Lord Jesus like Judas Iscariot?”

This way of thinking is very closely related to the understanding of the relationship of disease and curses in our culture. For example, among West Timorese there is a naketi concept. A person can be afflicted by adversity such as illness because there are certain sins or mistakes.  Sin is seen as so powerful that it can jump across generations. Children and even grandchildren a few generations later can get sick because of the sins of their ancestors. To be healed, it is necessary to confess sin.

I myself struggled with the same question as I lay in bed: “What sin have I and my family committed?”

I reflected that perhaps we did not do enough to wear the masks correctly and keep a distance. I also prayed that if something was wrong, the Holy Ghost would rebuke us so that we realized it, opening our hearts to understand His will through the pain we experienced.

But I could not accept the idea that we were so sinful that we were punished with Covid.

I wrote to a fellow pastor who had shared his concern:

“Reverend, test all voices … I remain a believer in all seasons of life, and God’s faithful love is eternal. He allows us, His servant ministers, to experience this like any other person, that we may also experience the deification of the world today and find that even in the valley of darkness, God has not forsaken His creation.”

Shepherd Infected with Covid-19

In 2015 I was elected chairperson of the Synod. I remember one of the intercessory prayers when I was elected was that I would not be sick for four years while I led the church. I wanted to always look good, healthy, and happy, and refused to allow myself to be sick. I promised to live a healthy life with a good diet, rest, exercise, and management of my mental health.

But early in 2019, due to exhaustion, I suddenly got sick quite seriously.

I told my husband one morning: “Yustus, I can’t lift my legs. Help me.”

Friends who came to visit me advised me: “Mery, it doesn’t matter if you’re sick. The body needs rest too.”

In the second period of my shepherding ministry now, I have come to terms with my body more, to embrace fatigue, rest, and pain.

When I was infected with Covid, I learnt to better understand the deepest fears, anxieties, and worries of those who are sick. I was infected in the second wave in Indonesia, when every day there was news that 20,000 to 30,000 Indonesians were infected and more than a thousand people died because of Covid.

Every morning from the bedroom when we woke up, we heard birdsong from our beautiful courtyard, but also sirens roaring in a hurry to deliver the bodies to the cemetery. A shepherd who suffers herself is allowed understand mankind’s deepest fears in front of menacing diseases, and learn to say the most honest prayers to God during threat of sickness and death. But if she is sensitive, she can also see and follow God’s unceasing care. Birds singing, brothers caring, comrades supporting. Life isn’t just about crying and anxiety. In life there is also friendship, love, and genuine care.

As theologians, we often preach too quickly about certain circumstances. We want to directly write and connect Covid with bible verses so that we are able to lecture others. The experience of having Covid helped me not to rush to jump to certain theological conclusions.

Instead, in suffering:

Listen to your body language. Feel the heart. Listen to your own feelings and anxieties. Listen to your deepest hopes and longing. Talk to God honestly and listen to what God is saying. Start theology from there. Connect the experiences of suffering, anxiety, hope, and longing with the struggles of the faithful in biblical times. Learn the deepest struggles of today’s people, and see what can be learned as the gospel message for mankind’s struggles today.

Body Theology

A female pastor friend who served in one of the church denominations in Kupang City, wrote to me thus: “Mama, I am still struggling with the issue of concentration. Although it has been 2 months since my COVID illness, assignments from the campus are abandoned. Although I still can write, it is at a creeping speed… According to some friends who are over 50 years old, COVID weakens the life spirit, and we become apathetic.”

I wondered whether a lot of people have experienced something like that? This is interesting to study and reflect upon theologically.

Our family does not yet know what the full impact of Covid will be: are our lungs going to be okay? What about our stomachs, our hearts, and our brains? How does Covid impact people long term?

This disease helps us to be more sensitive to the body as God’s noble and fragile work. Our bodies are glorious because they were created by God Himself in His image and likeness, and because man has fallen into sin. The realization of God’s redemption encourages us to hold our bodies accountable because the body is the fruit of God’s glorious work. The invaded body must be loved and cared for as a form of involvement in Christ’s work of redemption and restoration. The invaded body should not be forced to work beyond its means.

The virus may go after a certain time, but its traces will remain to teach mankind valuable life lessons to care for God’s created body and honor His given life.  One of the theological agendas as a survivor of Covid is the journey towards self, to seriously care for and appreciate the body, soul, and spirit.

Being infected with Covid helped me to reflect more on body theology. The human body and life are theological sites. The body is where we meet God. The body comes from the ground and God has touched it to bring it to life: moving, walking, jumping, full of joy. There is also a time when the body is sick and sad. Because the body was created by God, we can meet God there, in all experiences of the body: sad, happy, sick, healthy. The body reveals something about the work of the glorious God. But the body is also limited. There’s a time when the body no longer exists. As long as the body is still there, I exist. When the body stops working, I am no longer in the world. Body theology helps us to honor and care for the body with gratitude to God who created it, until it is time for the body to return to the ground.

 

The Language of Faith in Times of Crisis

There is something interesting in my experience of spirituality in this time of crisis. I was raised as a child speaking two languages: Indonesian and Meto-Timorese. In childhood when we started attending school in the interior, our teachers used two languages for children who could not speak Indonesian. Everyday we learnt more of the regional language. For the sake of study, I also learned English and Dutch so that now I speak four languages: Indonesian, Meto, English, and Dutch.

In my deepest times of fear and anxiety, I prayed in Timorese. When I prayed in that mother tongue, I was able to express my deepest feelings. Sometimes I feel angry at myself for not being able to find a word in the language of the area for what I want to express. Now I am more fluent in Indonesian than the local language. But I really felt the depth of the experience with God in my mother tongue.

In that language I told God about my worries, about my family, the impact of this disease on my ministry, and my anxiety over all human civilization. Sometimes when praying during times of crisis using Indonesian or other languages, I wonder if maybe what I express is superficial. But when I pray in the language of the region, there are very deep things that are revealed to the Lord and to myself. The prayer became very personal between God and me.

I think this may be related to the experience of faith that shaped me. I grew up knowing God in a believing community in West Timor. My father, who was from Alor Island, married my mother, a West Timorese woman, and they worked in Timor until the end of their lives. I grew up as a child learning to know God, the Word, and his works in a strong community nurturing the culture and language of the region in that environment. I am reminded of the strong faith of my mother and grandmother formed by Timorese culture, the late Elder Banunaek of Oetoli in the Western Oinlasi Church who prayed for us when we were sick, or celebrated with us in the depths of the language of poetry. It was all absorbed into my heart. When I struggle with the deepest things, it’s this language that expresses all longing, hope, and anxiety.

Embracing Uncertainty, Learning to Know Boundaries

I no longer have a definite list of activities and a series of trips arranged in order and detail. My suitcases remain untouched, and now all of humanity finds itself experiencing uncertainty. There’s no plan that’s currently workable. People again study the Bible counsel: “For my design is not your plan” (Isaiah 55:8a).

Since the Enlightenment era, people have felt they can do anything. Mankind has thought with his brain that he knows all things and conquer all things in the universe: “I think, then I exist.” Human reason is considered very powerful.

But the Covid pandemic at the beginning of the third decade of this century is teaching us that humans and their abilities are limited. Even a virus so small and invisible to the eye can make an entire human civilization chaotic. Man is not omnipotent. Science and technology are important and very helpful. But human intelligence and technology must not make man act arbitrarily over the life of God’s creation.

I think Covid also teaches us humans to take a break from our ambitions and busyness. We’re stuck in an age where everything we do is rushed. Waking up early, our agenda is long and our plans are layered: after this we will continue with something else. Even before we finish one thing, the other is waiting. We force our bodies, souls, and spirits to keep running without adequate rest periods.

Covid interrupts our busy life. Covid invites us to pause: to take time for the body, for the soul and mentally, for the family, for the Lord, to rest. This disease gives us the opportunity to truly take shelter, submit to God, and submit our life plans to His sovereignty.

Ecological Repentance

For almost two years the earth has been left helpless. Perhaps it is rebuking us harshly and giving us a hard lesson?

As Thomas L. Friedman said in an opinion piece in the New York Times,May 30, 2020: “These past few weeks we have learned… our earth is fragile… Our pandemic today is no longer just a biological pandemic, but also a geopolitical, financial, and environmental pandemic.”

Without a radical change in our consciousness and attitude toward Mother Earth, we will experience even greater consequences than what we are feeling today.

The economic system of capitalism makes people compete for profit and accumulate capital. For financial gain, nature is mercilessly plundered. The rich get richer, the poor and nature is exploited. The uncontrollable virus is now alerting us to a disturbed balance of nature.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a wake up call moment for all human beings. All of us —governments, communities, businesspeople, politicians, anyone—should interpret it as an opportunity to come back to peace with the earth. We are in need of mass repentance for ecological justice. We must stop carrying out development that is solely oriented towards financial gain. Instead we need to commit together to a development oriented towards the sustainability of life.

Claiming Divine Power

Where is God when the whole world struggles with suffering? Does God care about the tears and suffering of the sick or the family’s hope for their brother’s recovery? Where is God when we fight to maintain the lives of our families who are infected by Covid-19? For the healed there is praise to the Lord, but what about those who die? Is God with those who died because of Covid-19? Are the dead unloved by God?

This pandemic invites the church into the midst of the struggle of human suffering. In this great pain, we are challenged to put our ears and hearts on, hear and feel the screams and moans of pain, and the lamentations of life. This pandemic is calling us to see the fragility and dryness of human life.

It is in this context that this year’s GMIT Synod Assembly developed our ministry theme for 2021 from Ezekiel 37:14. Ezekiel was called to be a prophet at exactly the most precarious moment in the history of the Israelic covenant: the destruction of Israel by Babylonia. In the vision in chapter 37, Ezekiel is taken into a valley full of bones. Like Ezekiel, we are not led to avoid disaster, but rather to stand up and acknowledge the existence of it. The Covid-19 pandemic is real, not a conspiracy of certain parties to seek self-and group advantage.

Moreover God gave Ezekiel the task of prophesying to the bones to live again. He was told to prophesy tothe ruakh/spirit of life to enter the bones in the valley. The Spirit is called from the four corners of the earth. Learning from Ezekiel, the church during this pandemic is tasked with voicing God’s intent for the world in disaster.

In human suffering, God does not leave us. The Spirit of Life is with His creation, the Spirit of God gives life and moves the bones that are already very dry (and there is no more life). Just as the work of the Holy Spirit blew when man was created (Gen. 2:7), God continues to work to give life to man. To His frightened and hiding disciples, Jesus was present and breathed His Spirit upon them, restoring them from worry, panic, and fear (Jn. 20:22).  He calls us to repentance, learns from the sufferings of life for the restoration of relations with God, with fellow human beings, and with all creation. He heals us from the worries and anxieties of life.

Where is God in this pandemic? God is in human suffering.

He is in solidarity with those who are terrified in isolation rooms. He hugs the families who have lost their loved ones. God is pleased to use those who care for others as His co-workers for the ministry of salvation.

The message of the book of Ezekiel to the churches this year is that just as God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet in the wasteland, so we must continue to prepare to be ministers of God in this difficult time. On the cross of Jesus, God Himself acted to restore man. He entered into the valley of death as His son gave his life. But no suffering is eternal. No disaster lasts forever. Death has been defeated. Jesus has risen from the dead. God reigns, God cares, God is with us. Although the way of the cross feels very difficult, we must endure to stand by Him, true in faith, hope, and love.

Covid is not just a story about human fragility. Covid also tells about the divine power of God that is conferred so that we hold the promise of hope that He is with us. Even for those who die with Covid, their body is again united with the ground, lying in the everlasting light of God, in the promise of the inclusion of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. ***

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon, Moderator, Evangelical Christian Church of Timor
Kupang, July 2021

P.S. Thanks to my husband and children as the first readers of this paper and for making corrections. A number of friends have read and given some important feedback. I am responsible for the content of this paper.

 

A prayer of the people of West Timor and Indonesia

By Rev Dr Apwee Ting, UCA Assembly National Consultant

Lord

I kneel before you

carrying an immeasurable burden

my body is very weak

my heart is bleeding

from Covid-19

 

I am no longer embracing the bravery

fragility is what I know

I’m not chasing eternity anymore

day by day is in my sight

 

Laughter and crying

joyfulness and suffering

inseparable

 

Lord

come in my dream

presence in my suffering

be real in my loneliness

 

God

is not there

is here

in the midst of pandemic

giving Indonesia

hope and healing

 

I am no longer afraid of

paralysis

vulnerability

death

because

God is walking with me

Restoration is with me

 

 

Doaku buat Indonesia

Tuhan

pada Mu kubersimpuh

membawa beban tak terkira

tubuh terkulai

batin terkapar

oleh Covid-19

 

Kini kusadar

bukan lagi kegagahan kurengkuh

kerapuhanlah yang kudekap

bukan lagi kekekalan kukejar

keseharianlah yang kutatap

 

Tawa dan tangis

senang dan susah

tak terpisahkan

 

Tuhan

hadir dalam mimpi ku

datang dalam derita ku

nyata dalam kesendirianku

 

Tuhan

tidak lagi disana

Tuhan disini

ditengah pandemi

memberi Indonesia

harapan dan kesembuhan

 

Kelumpuhan

kerantanan

kematian

tidak lagi menakutkan

karena

Tuhan berjalan bersama ku

pemulihan ada pada ku

 

 

“There is no shame in being a victim of sexual violence; the shame must lie with those who perpetrate such heinous acts.”

Christian leaders marked the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict (19 June) with a united message to churches in South Sudan. 

In a statement released last week, the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) urged all churches across the country to include messages about the elimination of sexual violence in conflict in services being held over the weekend.

The prevalence of conflict-related sexual violence is a hidden crisis in South Sudan.

The UN Mission in South Sudan documented 193 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2020, affecting 142 women, 46 girls and five men. They estimate that for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented due to the fear and cultural stigma associated with it.

“The Church commends survivors – both men and women – for their strength in speaking up against sexual violence defying a culture of stigma and fears of retaliation,” read the statement. “There is no shame in being a victim of sexual violence; the shame must lie with those who perpetrate such heinous acts.”

“Acts such as rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage are crimes under South Sudanese laws and are inconsistent with teachings and principles of Christian faiths”.

“Everyone must uphold the sacredness of human life, the inherent dignity of every human being as well as their physical and mental integrity as reflected in the teachings and values of the Christian faith.”

Read the full statement here.

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) is a member of the South Sudan Council of Churches. PCOSS Moderator Rev James Choul co-signed the statement. Both PCOSS and SSCC support the World Council of Churches #ThursdaysinBlack campaign to end rape and violence against women.

We had a fantastic night last night chatting by Zoom with our partners from DeafLink in Sri Lanka (a ministry of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka).

Reverend Gnanarajah shared with us his personal call to ministry alongside people with disabilities – his son was born deaf and this prompted him to consider the potential of people with disability in his broader community. He persuaded his church to employ him leading a team who create education, training and awareness for people with disability. Gnanarajah loves the work, regarding it as a real challenge and a call to serve among those who have enormous potential but very few opportunities.

Gnanarajah’s team took us inside a classroom on the East coast of Sri Lanka where some of the teaching staff and students shared with us the challenges and joys of working together. During lockdown, the staff have created workbooks and online resources for their students, and these materials are being shared by other schools with the support of the Government.

At the conclusion of the call, we asked Gnanarajah how we could support his team in prayer and our supporters online also asked the DeafLink team to pray for us here in Australia.

Please pray:

  1. For families who have more than one child at home with a disability. It’s very difficult for them during lockdowns to educate their children while also keeping food on the table.
  2. For the staff of DeafLink and the teachers who are training in inclusive education. Opportunities for children with disability to learn and earn are always very limited
  3. For the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka as people to travel to serve others in remote areas – taking food, health education resources and encouragement. COVID-19 has decimated the tourist economy and many are without work.

We asked our partners to pray for us:

  1. That Australian people might grow in compassion toward refugees and asylum seekers, especially those from Sri Lanka, and that our government might have a change of heart toward people like the Muragappen family.
  2. That Australian congregations would grow in generosity and awareness of the need of our partners and the value of standing in solidarity through prayer and giving
  3. That as individuals we might experience something of the conviction and call displayed by so many of our partners who serve in incredibly difficult places
  4. For all asylum seekers and people living far from home in Australia, including the South Sudanese community represented on the call by a number of young people and pastors in QLD.

Keen to donate to help keep this project, and the work of our partners across Asia, Africa and the Pacific, strong? Please give here:

http://www.unitingworld.org.au/joinhands

 

Darshi was born without hearing in an area of Sri Lanka’s west coast which was devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. The population are mostly Tamil, and they’ve worked hard to recover and build a better life for their kids. But people with disabilities are up to five times more likely to live in poverty. They represent the most vulnerable group in the world.

Darshi’s parents were understandably worried about her future.

The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, through Deaf Link, are committed to overcoming extreme poverty by advocating for structural changes in their communities and equipping people with disability to take control of their own lives.

They don’t believe in charity. They believe in long-lasting change, at all levels and by all members of society. Your gifts, combined with investment from the Australian Government, are helping make it happen.

Deaf Link invited Darshi to take part in a disability inclusion class – rare in many parts of Sri Lanka. All the children in the class use international sign language to communicate with one another and here Darshi discovered not just the power of a community, but a love of dance and talent for art.

When we met her last year, she told us she hopes to be a teacher in a class similar to her own, where she wants to give other children with disability the chance to succeed.

You can give Darshi and others like her a hand so they can go on to change their worlds. Right now, your donation can have up to six times the impact beating poverty and building hope.*

Your tax-deductible donation will help provide urgent resources for our partners in Sri Lanka, India, Papua New Guinea and more as they work against the pull of poverty, which is the strongest it’s been in decades due to COVID-19. You can read here about exactly how it will go up to six times as far to build hope and beat poverty.


*How your gift can go up to six times as far

UnitingWorld is a valued partner of the Australian Government, receiving funding each year to carry out poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate change projects overseas.

Every donation you make to this appeal will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to reach more people. We have committedto contribute $1 for every $5 we receive from the government, which means your gift can go up to six times as far helping us extend the reach of our programs.

 

Here’s how!

First, some good news – the Australian Government really likes us because we’re accountable and creative with how we use their money, and we get great results! 🙂 They make grants available to us, but we need to co-invest in order to do the project work.  We’ve committed to contribute $1 for every $5 of what the Government makes available to us. Your contribution means we can match the government funding successfully, gain access to the full amount on offer and change more lives!

Okay so the more we give, the more you get?

Not exactly. Each year the Government makes Australian aid funding available to NGO’s like us based on their budgets. How much of that we can apply for and win depends on a whole range of factors. One of them is contributing funds from our own donors to match the grants. Another is demonstrating how much public supporter funding we’ve been able to attract over the past few years.

So the bucket isn’t bottomless, but your help means we can take advantage of everything on offer and potentially increase our share.

Your donation helps in a couple of other really important ways:

  1. It shows the Government that you trust us and believe in our work, which in turn increases their faith in us. This means they’re more likely to offer us a larger slice of the funding pie in the following year – and that’s a win for all of us!
  2. When you donate, you send a message loud and clear to our leaders that you’re prepared not to just give lip service to the idea that we should be good global citizens – you’ll put your money behind your ideals. With Governments watching closely to see which issues their people care about, this is one of the most powerful signals you can possibly send.

But wait – does this mean I should save up all my donations throughout the year and just give to this campaign?

If you can possibly manage it, it’s great to give to a range of our Campaigns. Here’s why:

Some of our partners aren’t large or sophisticated enough to handle the reporting and administrative standards for Australian Government grants – think about South Sudan where our partners are struggling to feed themselves, and electricity/internet is completely unreliable.

We rely on people like you to fund these projects and help us equip our partners to build the capacity they need so that they can be sustainable – longer term.

So what’s the best way to make my donation go furthest for good with UnitingWorld?

The choice is yours! There are benefits to each way of giving, including the incentive of a tax deduction, helping show your support of international aid to the Australian Government, responding compassionately in an emergency, or funding work that has few other sources of income.

Another excellent way to increase your impact is by becoming a regular giver.

  • Regular income provides security for our partners and helps them plan effectively
  • We don’t need to spend quite as much on promoting our work and encouraging people to give
  • We can use your gift when and where it’s needed most.

Global Neighbours are given annual updates about the impact of their work, and can choose exactly which other appeals and communications material they receive. We are incredibly grateful for this community of faithful supporters.

If you’re keen to check it out, visit us here

Do you ever feel like your attempts to change the world fall on deaf ears? It’s a pretty common experience.

Here are 5 quick ideas to help engage others for good.

1. Emotion rules.

We like to think we’re motivated by facts and logic, but we’re not. We’re biologically hard wired from way back to feel first, act next and think last. (Sabre tooth tiger FEAR! THREAT! RUN!) Only later does our rational brain engage – by which time, feelings are out in front.

What that means:  What are people likely already feeling about the thing you want to change?

We’re all far more willing to consider new ideas when we feel happy and encouraged – how can you help create that environment?

Share good news about the issues you care about and have the kind of presence that people warm to.

Tell your own story about why an issue really matters to you. If there are negative emotions involved in that – rage, sorrow – that’s okay too. Just be mindful about who you’re talking to, how they’re feeling and what you want to achieve. (More on that below)

2. Relationships matter.

We are far more likely to change our minds, give money or take action when information is delivered by people we know and like – other members of our ‘tribe.’ A lone monkey is a dead monkey- belonging to a group is critical to our sense wellbeing. No one changes ‘groups’ unless they feel safe and welcome in the new space, and although we’re more connected globally than ever, it’s mostly with people who think the way we do. We put each other in camps and those outside our camp have little chance of influencing our thinking and acting.

What that means: while you don’t need to stick to preaching to the converted, work most within your genuine sphere of influence – who likes and knows you?

Where are your common spaces, and which edges can you help shift a little toward the outcome you’re looking for?

If you have a shared faith, a shared love for your family, or other common interests, that’s fertile ground. Gently put down some seed, sunlight and water and you’ll have a shot at growing something people are ready to take on board. New, but not too radical!

You’re going to need to invest a lot more time into people with whom you have few similarities if you want to genuinely create change. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but be mindful of what you’re up against and where you can best spend your efforts. Ask yourself: what’s the best strategic way to engage? And be really careful not to sneer or attack those with different views – people don’t gravitate toward groups that belittle them.

3. Know your strengths.

The social change team is made up of a whole range of players – quiet influencers, protestors/activists, advocates, public communicators. Each has its pros and cons.

  • Quiet influencers sometimes feel they’re not making much difference.
  • Protestors/activists can come across over-emotional and ranty.
  • Advocates who are willing to compromise in order to inch toward an outcome cop flack from those who think they’re flaky or unemotional.
  • Public communicators risk only singing to the same choir.

That’s why we need each other, and we need to know in what way we find it easiest to create change.

What this means: What kind of changemaker are you?

Invest in developing that part of yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do things the same way as others.

We all need each other.

4. What about bad news and negative feelings?

It’s true that bad news is shared more quickly and widely than other news. That’s why our news cycle feeds on drama and despair – there’s no money without eyes on pages and screens. Terrible things do need to be addressed. But we need to be really clear about what we’re aiming for when we raise these issues.

What this means: Make sure you have an outlet for feelings like rage or sorrow among people you know and trust. Be careful about how and when you take that public.

While it’s fair to vent about the appalling treatment of women or indigenous people, what’s your goal? Personal processing or creating change?

They’re both valid, but they’re different. Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve.

5. Say less, do more

To quote Mark Twain: “Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.” While you may not think you’re taking action, someone has suggested that all you need to determine what a person cares about is access to their bank statements and the call/message list on their phone.

What this means: We have more power than we realise in terms of taking action.

Find the nearest point where the issue impacts you and get hands on.

Write to someone. Give a donation. Start a study group. Pray. Support local women, use less electricity, visit asylum seekers in the community. People tend to follow the example of others more closely than the rhetoric.

Want to know more about the process of persuasion and change?

Read up here

Thinking of helping us share the news about our campaign to beat poverty and build hope?

Below is our campaign video and this is the link to download and share it to your own networks via email or a text to people you think will be interested. You could also share on Facebook and tag some friends who you know will be supportive.

Adapt your caption to suit your own voice, but you could use something like:

“Love this video! A really inspiring look at how UnitingWorld are helping people take control of their lives, build hope and end poverty.

At the moment donations to UnitingWorld will have up to six times the impact due to their partnership with the Australian government, which seems like an incredibly effective way to share our resources. I’m going to donate because (why would you give to this?)  Click the link here if you want to know more.”

 

India’s COVID-19 surge has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

Our Uniting Church partners, the Church of North India (CNI), are not immune. Battling to keep people fed as a second lockdown wreaks havoc, and spreading critical health information to help beat the spread of the disease, they’re on the frontline of the response in their communities.

“The ‘Corona ‘Tsunami’, if one could say that, has left all of us paralysed,” Bishop Khimla of the Diocese of Durgapur told UnitingWorld.  “There is immense suffering as the medical and social infrastructure struggles to cope with the pandemic. The Church has also lost many ministers, both Pastors and Bishops.”

Project Officer Sanjay Khaling was recently hospitalised after contrating COVID-19, while several staff of the Durgapur Education and Social Empowerment project have contracted COVID-19 along with family and friends.

Despite the dangers, the church continues to serve the community as best they’re able. Bishop Samantaroy of the Amritsar Diocese said the church is working on immediate interventions including free distribution of cooked food, dry rations and hygiene products like masks, sanitiser and soap.

Schools have been closed across the area, so girls attending the hostel project in Amritsar have gone home to their villages for at least a month and possibly two. At the Amritsar Social Empowerment and Education project, study centers will continue in each village and the team are doing what they can to support people remotely.

“There has been a drastic rise in cases every day here in Punjab,” Project Coordinator OP Prakash said this week.  “In some [rural] villages people have tested positive but the situation seems under control.”

While this team has experience from last year’s lengthy lockdown, the pandemic is reaching new heights in other areas.

The Eastern Himalayas Education project has had to close the school and move all activities online. Teachers are navigating the difficult task of teaching online while resourcing children who have little or no access to internet or devices.

“We are assured that UnitingWorld continues to be with us in spirit and prayers and believe that this too shall pass,” Bishop Khimla said yesterday. “We very much appreciate your prayers.”

UnitingWorld is supporting our partners to divert project funds to their COVID-19 responses where needed. Donations will be very gratefully received to support their work.

Click here to donate online.

India recorded 323,144 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, amid a surge that has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) have reached out to our partners in the Church of North India (CNI) based in West Bengal and Punjab. UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy to offer prayers and solidarity during the crisis (read full letter).

Our partners are responding to the outbreak at the community level through existing projects, diverting resources to help prevent the spread of disease and aiding vulnerable people impacted by the economic fallout. You can help. Click here to donate online.

Our partners have sent some updates below.

West Bengal

West Bengal this week registered its highest single-day spike of 15,889 cases pushing the tally to 743,950 on Tuesday. The death toll rose to 10,941. The number of active cases currently stands at 88,800.

At the Eastern Himalayas Leadership project we support, project officer Sanjay recently contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalised but is now feeling better.

The Eastern Himalayas Education project has had to close the school and move all activities online. Teachers are working from home, navigating the difficult task of teaching online while also resourcing children who do not have little or no access to internet or devices. They have been communicating via WhatsApp and leaving printed worksheets in safe places for students to collect.

Several staff members of the Durgapur Education and Social Empowerment project have contracted COVID-19 along with family and friends. The project is continuing as normal with added precautions, personal protective equipment and limited interaction.

Punjab

The number of new COVID-19 cases has passed 7,000 per day in Punjab and a daily curfew from 6pm to 5am has been introduced until 12 May. The state has recorded 339,000 total cases and 8,400 deaths.

Schools have been closed across the area, so girls attending the hostel project in Amritsar have gone home to their villages for at least a month and possibly two.

At the Amritsar Social Empowerment and Education project,  schools have closed again so study centers will continue in each village and the team are doing what they can to support people remotely. UnitingWorld Project Manager Dan Maddingham has been in contact with Project Coordinator Om Prakash (OP) this week.

“There has been a drastic rise in cases every day here in Punjab… in some [rural] villages people have tested positive but the situation seems under control,” said OP.

“The Church is doing well but all religious places are remaining closed until further notice and there is a complete curfew and lockdown on weekends.”

Yesterday the Australian Government announced an aid package for India.

Please stand with the people of India and our partners as they lead and support their communities through this this crisis. Join us in prayer (UCA Assembly National Consultant Rev Dr Apwee Ting has written a prayer for India in English and Indonesian Click here to read) and donate as you are able.

UnitingWorld is continuing to support our partners to divert project funds to the COVID-19 response. Additional donations will be gratefully received to support their work.

 

“Loving God and loving our neighbour are woven together as we open our lives to the transforming power of the Risen Christ.”

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has shared a sermon for Celebration Sunday, an event to conclude UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity.

You can watch it here:

Download the video.

Download the full transcript.

Find out more about Seven Days of Solidarity