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Author: UnitingWorld

The Women in Ministry project supports women in the Pacific to study theology and seek ordination, equipping them for leadership in the Church and community.

UnitingWorld’s Mardi Lumsden and Tanya Lee Fenwick have prepared an update about the scholars currently supported.

“Our determined and resilient scholars have hit the ground running in Semester One. This is the first time all our students have been undertaking post-graduate study. It is a testament to their determination and the support of their churches. We also have some wonderful news to share about past students’ success. In this update, we have included video links with greetings from Rev Geraldine and 2021 graduate Asinate, as well as current student profiles. We encourage you to print these profiles and display them to remind you or your congregation of the women you are supporting. Your support, both financial and prayerful, is so important to the students, their churches and the team at UnitingWorld.”

Click here read the full update.

Download the student profiles (great prompts to learn about and pray for the scholars)

Thanks to everyone who celebrated our global neighbours with us during Lent.

Here’s what a few people had to say:

“The Seven Days booklet is one of the best and well-put together resources I’ve come across in 30 years of ministry. The layout, content and information are all spot on and really useful for church members to engage with.” Reverend Scott Litchfield, Bridgewater Uniting Church.

“The ‘Action for the Day’ items are excellent; achievable and interesting. In fact, we have actioned the Day 5 activity – when 50 ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers in Penguin were isolated due to COVID-19 in their accommodation, we approached all the churches in Penguin and they gave generously. This enabled us to buy the workers treats: biscuits, chocolates, groceries and bags of rice. We then asked our ni-Vanuatu friends to join us and sing at our celebration at the end of the Seven Days of Solidarity.” Jeanne Koetsier, Penguin Uniting Church, Tasmania.

If you’ve not already had a chance to check it out, why not join us celebrating where God is alive and at work in the world? We promise you’ll be encouraged by the people you meet and their stories. You can do it any time in the year, as a church community or by yourself.

Visit www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au for stories, video, a sermon, prayers and a stunning original song written and performed by Roxanne McLeod and talented UCA musicians (check it out below).

We’ve been blown away by your response to help our neighbours in Tonga after the devastating volcano and tsunami that hit in January. Our partners the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) immediately rolled out the Tekina ‘I Moana initiative, the disaster management and recovery arm of the church. Your support helped our partners to visit eight villages in the hardest-hit areas across Tongatapu and the Ha’apai islands to provide essentials like food, clothes, and shelter, as well as disaster chaplains to offer counselling and spiritual encouragement to those displaced by the tsunami.

Surveys were conducted during the visits to evaluate the loss and damage, although it was recognised that for many people it was too soon to even contemplate their future needs. Our partners say it meant a lot to the communities that the church visited them so soon after the disaster.

Disaster preparation helping long-term recovery

Back in 2018, UnitingWorld supported FWCT to build and stock a large storage facility for building materials (pictured) to be able to begin repairs to damaged buildings quickly after disasters rather than having to wait for supplies to be shipped in from outside. It was used for Cyclone Harold and is now being used for reconstruction work on the most affected homes.

 

Your support means UnitingWorld can help re-stock this facility and ensure significant reconstruction of destroyed homes and public buildings.

Going forward, your gifts will enable the FWCT to provide urgently needed supplies of small boats, tents, temporary toilets, school bags, basic tools, petrol, generators, water tanks and fishing gear to island communities whose homes were destroyed. Thank you so much!

Please continue to pray for the response efforts. A COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions on movement have hampered visits to the affected areas, needs assessments and the overall recovery.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Soaring inflation has caused devastating shortages of food, medicine and fuel, as well as power cuts across the country. Months of street protests have followed.

The Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned this week, and a nation-wide curfew has been put in place to try to curb the escalating protests.

Our partners the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka (MCSL) have been outspoken about the failings of the government and recently pledged to do everything in their means to alleviate suffering.

In another statement released this week, MCSL describes the situation as one of “immense suffering and hardship” leading to a feeling of “hopelessness among all our people.”

They urge the government to end the party politicking and seek greater unity to bring an end to the crisis.

“We appeal to all citizens of our country to be united, rooted in principles of non-violence and to extend care and love to our fellow beings as they go through immense hardships. Let us work together to bring our beloved country out of the current economic downfall,” read the statement.

“We as a Church Commit ourselves to do all within our means to alleviate the sufferings of the people and to create a new political culture for which we will pray and ceaselessly work for.”

Click here to read the full statement (released 9 May 2022)

We stand with them in prayer and solidarity.

UnitingWorld staff have reached out to our partners MCSL and Deaf Link offering support. We stand ready to respond.

Deaf Link Consultant Rev Samuel Gnanarajah says he is keeping in touch with the project field staff and is planning to visit people with disabilities supported through the project as soon as possible. He also asks us to pray for his nation.

Uniting Church in Australia President Reverend Sharon Hollis has previously encouraged UCA members to pray for Sri Lanka.

“We’re deeply concerned by what is happening in Sri Lanka and by what we’re hearing from our church partners and Sri Lankan-Australian members of the UCA,” said Rev Hollis.

“The situation is dire. We must pray in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka suffering through this crisis, as well as Sri Lankan Australians who are concerned for their country, families and friends.”

On Monday 9 May, the Philippines will hold national and local elections. Our partner the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) has called for prayer amid political violence, disinformation and fears of vote-rigging.

Already on 27 February, 60-year-old UCCP elder and local mayor Filipina Grace America was shot four times by a gunman while getting into her car after church. She survived the assassination attempt and was transferred to a hospital in Manila.

Filipina was running for re-election at the time of the shooting, and had been leading her local community in opposing the construction of the Kaliwa Dam. The mega-dam project sits on an earthquake fault and will also destroy the ancestral land of the Dumagat tribes. Filipina had received threats due to her activism about the dam.

Our partner UCCP has reported that some political parties and candidates in the Philippines have engaged in campaigns of disinformation and propaganda against their political rivals in the lead up to the election.

UCCP is working with local youth organisations in the Philippines to promote good governance. They are encouraging voters to advocate for peaceful and honest elections, and have released informational graphics to combat fake news and disinformation.

They are also mobilising people to monitor the ballots and election-related human rights abuses to protect against vote-rigging.

The Uniting Church in Australia has provided some funding for these activities.

Please use and share the below prayer in solidarity with our partners and neighbours in the Philippines.

Prayer for the Philippines elections

[Leader:] Be with us, O Lord our God, as we pray with the peoples of the Philippines, including those overseas, in this time of elections marked by deep division, uncertainty and pain.

We pray for all public servants and electoral authorities in the Philippines, especially those who remain upright and motivated by a genuine sense of duty and respect for good governance.  

We pray for those who peacefully challenge human rights violations and disinformation. Give them strength and courage to stand their ground for truth and justice. Protect their lives from those who seek to harm them when they hold firm to Your righteousness.

May the crises brought about by political differences everywhere bring about conversion and a change of heart in all.   

May You teach all people to rise above personal and political loyalties, redirecting our efforts towards the common good and celebrating the gift of diversity in life.

May we be guided by your Spirit to respond with mercy and compassion for those in need, the persecuted and the most vulnerable members of our societies.

For we know that what we do for others in need, we do for You.

[All:] In the spirit of solidarity, we pray for the Filipino people as they face their forthcoming national and local elections on 9 May. We pray that the elections may be peaceful, honest, and clean. We further pray that those elected will serve the common good.

 

Thank you to Dr Mark Zirnsak and the Justice and International Mission cluster of the Victoria/Tasmania Synod of the UCA for providing this information and prayer. 

The Uniting Church in Australia remains deeply concerned about the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

In a letter to international partners, the West Papua Council of Churches has detailed ongoing violence and marginalisation experienced by indigenous Papuans, and fears that a planned division of new regional provinces will exacerbate the problems.

Uniting Church partner, the Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), is a member of the West Papua Council of Churches, and GKI-TP Moderator Andrikus Mofu signed the statement with three other heads of churches.

“We have received reports of torture, hit-and-run killings and enforced disappearances experienced by people including God’s servants in Ndugama, Intan Jaya [and the] Star Mountains carried out by the Army and Police personnel. Several facilities belonging to church members and belonging to the church have been taken by the army and police troops. We continue to witness and mourn the suffering of our congregations in the interior of Papua,” reads the statement.

“As a result of this conflict, around 60,000 civilians have fled their homes to other locations, including to neighbouring Papua New Guinea.”

The church leaders fear that a plan by The Ministry of Home Affairs to create six new provinces in place of the current two is a way to aggressively assert greater military control and exploit natural resources.

“Year after year the Papuan people continue to be increasingly excluded and marginalized on their own land… The division of regencies, cities and provinces in Papua has become a powerful weapon for the government in the carrying out of the politics of control and occupation in Papua.”

In the statement, the church leaders appeal for an end to the increasing militarization and for the government to make good on their agreement to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the Papuan provinces. They also reiterate their call for dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua) to end the protracted conflict.

The statement was released just weeks after three United Nations-appointed human rights experts called for urgent humanitarian access to the region and urged the Indonesian Government to conduct full and independent investigations into alleged human rights abuses by security forces.

 

Pray for the People of West Papua

Uniting Church in Australia President Reverend Sharon Hollis has encouraged UCA members to pray for the people of West Papua and for a just and peaceful end to the conflict.

“With all that is going on in Australia and the world, we cannot forget the devastating conflict among neighbours right at our doorstep,” said Rev Sharon Hollis.

“We remain deeply alarmed about the human rights and humanitarian crisis described by our partners in West Papua and I will be writing to the Foreign Minister and Shadow Foreign Minister about our concerns.”

“I encourage members of the UCA to pray for peace and justice in West Papua, that human rights be upheld, and the desires of indigenous Papuans be heard and realised,” she said.

 

The Uniting Church in Australia has a partnership with the Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), managed by UnitingWorld. We work together on a livelihoods project to reduce poverty and improve health and nutrition.

The UCA is a member of the International Coalition for Papua (ICP), a coalition of faith-based and civil society organisations that are concerned about human rights violations in West Papua and seek greater transparency and peaceful solutions to conflict.

More

Church leaders call for UN human rights investigation in West Papua (ABC, 16 April 2022 )

Chairperson of the Women’s Department of Evangelical Church of Indonesia, Rode Wanimbo spoke to ABC’s Meredith Lake recently on the situation in West Papua, decolonising the Bible, and the powerful role of women in community development and peacemaking. Listen here.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Soaring inflation has caused devastating shortages of food, medicine and fuel across the country. Energy is being rationed by the government, causing prolonged blackouts.

The blackouts and shortages set off huge public demonstrations last month, which started as a series of candlelight vigils but have intensified in recent days after the government deployed troops to quell unrest.

Dr Sureka Goringe has been in touch this week with Bishop Ebenezer Joseph, President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka (MCSL) to express our concern and solidarity.

While the world is rightly rallying around Ukraine in their darkest hour, Dr Goringe says we cannot ignore emergencies like Sri Lanka and the worsening food crisis expected to hit the global south hardest.

“We’re deeply concerned about what is happening in Sri Lanka. Our partners are describing the situation as ‘chaos’ – with no power for refrigerators or fuel for transport, people either can’t afford food, or can’t store it,” said Dr Goringe.

“We particularly think of our project with Deaf Link on disability inclusion, serving some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Please join us in praying for the work of our partners, the people of Sri Lanka and their family and friends here in Australia. We stand with you.”

Uniting Church in Australia President Reverend Sharon Hollis has also encouraged UCA members to pray for Sri Lanka.

“We’re deeply concerned by what is happening in Sri Lanka and by what we’re hearing from our church partners and Sri Lankan-Australian members of the UCA,” said Rev Hollis.

“The situation is dire. We must pray in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka suffering through this crisis, as well as Sri Lankan Australians who are concerned for their country, families and friends.”

The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka speaks out

Our partner church MCSL has been part of the peaceful demonstrations and has called on the government to prioritise the wellbeing of the people.

“The country is gradually sliding into chaos, as the genuine concerns of people remain unattended,” said MCSL President Bishop Ebenezer Joseph in a statement shared to UnitingWorld and other partners.

“We call upon the government to take adequate steps to immediately supply the basic essentials needed by the people and ensure that what is available is equally distributed to all in a transparent manner.”

Rev. Joseph also called on demonstrators to act with discernment and nonviolence while exercising their right to protest, and pledged MCSL to do everything they can to help alleviate suffering.

“We pledge as a Church, that we will do all within our means to alleviate the sufferings of the people regardless of creed, colour or ethnicity and calls upon it’s faithful members to respond by sharing our resources sacrificially with those who are under privileged, give voice to those affected, adopt a simple lifestyle and engage in prayer for the early resolution of the crisis,” read the statement.

“We believe in God of transformation that instils hope that even the worst social scenario can be changed into something beautiful.”

Read the full statement here.

MCSL choir singing a song of hope and unity to the nation.

Dear fellow environmental defenders,

Good day! I hope this message finds you well during these trying times.

 

Amidst the challenges we faced during COVID-19 pandemic, the series of typhoons and

the volcanic eruption in Tonga, we are continuing to face environmentally destructive

projects that contribute to the climate crisis that threatens the lives especially of

vulnerable communities. Mining operations, logging projects and nuclear pollution

persists aggravating existing issues in different parts of the Pacific. In addition, not only

nature is in danger but also its defenders. There have been reports of instances of various

civil political human rights violations that hinder our advocacy of environmental protection.

 

It is in this light that the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) with the

support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Office of the High

Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Pacific Office in cooperation with partner

organizations in the Pacific invites you to the Stand For Our Rights: A capacity building

activity for environmental human rights defenders in the Pacific on 16-18 March 2022.

 

The three-day activity aims to a sharing of experience and knowledge among

environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) in the Pacific, to share introductory

knowledge on international human rights mechanisms, monitoring and documentation of

human rights violations, free, prior and informed consent, and launching environmental

defenders campaigns and to develop recommendations or initial plans for collaborative

initiatives in the region.

 

The first day of the training on March 16 will be an online forum that will discuss the main

environmental issues in the Pacific that is open to the public. On March 17-18 will be the

training proper which will also be online is for registered participants only since there are

only limited slots.

Below are the registration links for interested individuals:

Day 1 Online forum (March 16) – Register here

Day 2 Training Proper (March 17) – Register here

Day 3 Training Proper (March 18) – Register here

Attached is the concept note for further details. For questions, you may reach us via

info@apned.net or apned@protonmail.com

Thank you and we hope for your positive response!

Sincerely,

Lia Mai Torres

Secretariat

Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED)

Lent Event in Australia encourages us to give up something we can live without in solidarity with those who live with less, donating what we save to projects that fight poverty. But for our brothers and sisters living in Sri Lanka, giving up basic items is no simple 40 day challenge.

In the wake of the 2019 Easter bombings, the pandemic and crippling foreign debt, the country is facing an economic crisis that means food, water and electricity is in critically short supply.

“We are experiencing shortages of sugar, flour, milk powder, rice, gas and now fuel leading to unprecedented power cuts,” writes Rev Jospeh. “The poor and the vulnerable are most affected. Many suffer silently. Always remember that our little acts of sacrifice will contribute to relieve the pain and suffering of at least one other.”

What does Lent and Easter look like for Churches in this kind of context?

Rev WP Ebenezer Joseph, President of the Conference, Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, gives us an insight into the focused determination of the people he serves. In a pastoral letter to Churches he calls members to remember who they are and why they exist:  as a caring community bringing solace, relief and hope to others, standing for truth and becoming the voice of the voiceless.

“We need to pray in faith, a faith that will disturb our comfort zones of complicity, a faith that will lead us to plunge into the miseries of our people and enable them to move ahead in hope,” he writes. “We need to take the first step in the assurance that God is ahead of us and God is with us.”

The pastoral letter, reproduced in full below, gives practical tips about avoiding food waste, using paper, water and electricity sparingly and making the most of available land to grow food for families. It challenges people to look at their lifestyles and make changes that reflect the priorities of John Wesley – simple, grounded, generous.

Rev Joseph’s letter is well worth a read for a compelling insight into the way our fellow Christians engage in the season of Lent and Easter in situations that feel far removed from our own.

“There is always a beauty in simplicity and a joy in sharing…” Rev Joseph concludes. “Lent is a season of preparation. As the days lengthen and green leaves begin to peek through the soil, we prepare for the both the darkness of Good Friday and the joyful flowering of Easter.”

You can support the work of Pastors like Rev Joseph in Sri Lanka and beyond by giving to our work. Learn more about the challenges of the global church, and celebrate their successes at Seven Days of Solidarity.

Pastoral Letter – Lent 2022

 

A new worship song has been written for UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity 2022.

The song, titled ‘One in Christ,’ is a powerful expression of hope and unity at a time we’ve never needed it more. 

Written by Roxanne McLeod and performed with Rev Ellie and Andrew Elia, Kelly and Julian Elia, Rev Radhika and Rev Adrian Sukumar-White, Melissa Coleman and Matt Potts, it will be sung by churches across Australia as part of UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity.

Light of the world
Let us be
Beacons of hope, justice and peace
God be at work
Through our lives
People of faith, one in Christ

Hear the full song:

 

Sing it with us during Seven Days of Solidarity!

Seven Days of Solidarity is a week of inspiring stories of Christians at work in some of the world’s most challenging places. When you sign up, we’ll send you a story each day that includes ideas for action and prayer. Get your congregation on board and celebrate over two Sundays with a launch video and above worship video, impact stories, prayers, a sermon and easy ways to support the work in giving.

Click here to sign up!

We’re celebrating Seven Days of Solidarity 27 March to 3 April but you can choose any time that works for you or your church.

The music, lyrics and above video for ‘One in Christ’ are available at the Seven Days of Solidarity resources page here.