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Author: UnitingWorld

Media Release
5 May 2017

UnitingWorld will facilitate it’s fourth Annual Regional Workshop for Women’s Fellowships to be held in Nadi, Fiji from 22 – 26 May, 2017. This year the workshop will focus on gender equality, church transformation, partnership and projects.

The workshop will continue to build on the shared learning and experiences of participating organisations from across the Pacific, with practical assistance for running effective community development projects; understanding and advancing gender equality within churches; and promoting the leading role of women and women’s fellowship organisations in transforming churches and communities.

Having facilitated workshops in previous years, UnitingWorld Pacific Program Manager Bronwyn Fraser has seen the power of women leaders coming together from across the Pacific to share resources and learn from one another’s experiences.

 “Bringing these women together to share knowledge and stories from the field is not only an excellent way of learning from one another, it’s also valuable self-care and solidarity for them – knowing there are many other women out there working to overcome the same challenges,” she said.

There will also be sessions the on theology of gender equality and God-given human dignity for women, reflecting on Rev Dr Cliff Bird’s recent Bible study resource, ‘God’s Vision for Human Relationships Vol. 2’. As in previous years, the workshop will continue to focus on the practical, discussing how to embed gender equality within churches and how women’s fellowship organisations can implement practices of gender equality in their development projects.

 “Participants will be invited to discuss how traditional interpretations of the Bible have defined women and how God’s view of equality shifts these expectations and provides women with the opportunity see their worth as equally created in God’s image and likeness for abundant life,” said Bronwyn Fraser.

This workshop, part-funded by Australian Aid, is part of UnitingWorld’s Partnering Women for Change Program (PW4C), which focuses on the strength of women to identify and address key development challenges in their own countries and communities. UnitingWorld works with churches and ecumenical networks to challenge traditional patriarchal views of the Bible, in favour of a framework that sees the Bible as a foundation for advancing equality, inclusion and dignity of all human beings. The PW4C Program also works closely with women’s fellowship organisations in supporting voice and leadership opportunities for women within churches and community.

The Partnering Women for Change Program is partly supported by funding from Australian Aid.

Dated: 5 May 2017
Contact:
Bronwyn Fraser +61 401 023 756
bronwynf@unitingworld.org.au

Read more:

UnitingWorld: Gender Equality in the Pacific Through Theology (Pacific Women)

A Biblical take on Human Rights – Bridging the Gap for Gender Equality in the Pacific

Case study: Faith and Gender Equality in the Pacific (DFAT)

The following was adapted from a letter sent to encourage a large network of partners who work, pray and advocate alongside the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS). South Sudan is currently the epicenter of an emergency in Africa described by the United Nations as the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII.

April, 2017

I am sensing that many of us who advocate for the people of South Sudan are feeling discouraged. We all desperately seek an immediate end to conflict, to loss of life, and a way to provide humanitarian assistance for the people who suffer unimaginably. Millions displaced; uncounted killed; thousands starving… but they are not just numbers for us. They are family, friends and neighbours.

 

We feel the pain of the people and pray for them, yet nothing seems to improve. Our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears.

Sometimes we feel that we have done everything we can, yet nothing works. The truth is that the political, military and humanitarian situation in South Sudan is hard. People and governments disappoint and discourage us; the government of South Sudan seems to have become evil and the United States seems unwilling to intervene.

Photo credit: ABC, Martin Cuddihy (2016)

There is no value in pretending we don’t feel what we feel. We will never overcome discouragement by ignoring it or letting it paralyse our efforts. We always think that good will triumph, yet right now it seems more like failure.

When opposition seems to triumph, real conviction and genuine dedication are needed to stand against it. In my mind, I hear the clock ticking. Each tick equates to a baby starving, a woman being raped, a child being conscripted into the war, senseless killing of an aid worker… it is an ongoing nightmare. But we can’t just do nothing.

The following words of God were not just for Joshua, and that encourages me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

We must stop looking backwards at efforts that did not work; instead, we must shake off discouragement and keep trying. The price of failure is measured in lives lost and lives wasted. We cannot allow ourselves to falter or fail.

We won’t give up

At the same time, we, who work alongside you and consider you our friends and family in South Sudan, want you to know that we have not given up, and you must not either. We remember you, weep with you, and pray for you daily. We do not know when, but this horror will end. You will have a chance to rebuild your lives and establish a proper government that seeks to assist you rather than hold you back.

We know that people are divided and that even within ethnic groups there is disunity and distrust. But we also know that there is strength and unity in Christ.

South Sudan will be free

Just as there was a time when God called on Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt, there will be a time when God provides freedom, justice, stability and peace for the people of South Sudan.

Time and time again, God tells us, “Do not be afraid.”

You are never alone. God walks ahead of you to guide you, beside you to be your friend, above and below you to support you, and behind you to encourage you. Call out to God for help in these troubled times.

Remember Jesus’ words at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, “I am always with you, to the end of the age.”

Shake off discouragement. Don’t accept failure.

Instead, take heart – God’s success is inevitable.

– Bill Andress
Trinity Presbyterian South Sudan Ministry
South Carolina, USA

At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 wounded after suicide bombers targeted two Coptic churches in northern Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations.

The first blast was inside St George Coptic church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, north of Cairo, killing 27 people and injuring 78.

A second bomb was detonated in front of St Mark´s church in Alexandria on the country’s north coast after a suicide bomber tried to storm the entrance but was stopped by police. 17 were killed in the attack and at least 48 were injured.

As we grieve this tragic loss of life and attack on the Church body, we hold our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer.

Prayer for the Coptic Church in Egypt

On this Holy Week,

As we journey with Jesus to the cross,

We hold our brothers and sisters in Egypt in prayer.

We pray for the congregations in Alexandria and Tanta,

We pray for Coptic Pope Tawadros II,

and the families of the victims.

May our condolences be a support in their sorrow,

May the passion of Christ be their solidarity

as communities in the process of counting of their losses.

If one part of the Body of Christ is suffering, all members are suffering.

We pray for Coptic communities in Australia,

In the face of this brutality, we speak faith-inspired peace.

Where there are hateful deeds, we pray for good will and actions.

In the world of religious diversity,

We pray for Muslims and Christians, and people of all faiths.

Be unified in the common good of humanity.

May their interfaith dialogue be a pathway towards understanding and respect.

We pray for national leaders to work in collaboration for the people

May they recommit to upholding religious rights.

We also pray for ourselves

In this Holy Week, we look to each other.

Where fear distorts people’s judgement,

Let us step forward and lay our burdens onto the Cross.

Where anger intensifies violence,

Let us put the sword away and proclaim compassion to all.

In this Holy Week, we look deeply into the Passion of Jesus.

Where hopelessness rests in the minds of many

Let us listen to the cry of Jesus.

In the emptiness of his forsakenness,

There rests the source of perpetual truth

– His passion is our path of salvation.

-Rev Dr Ji Zhang

Read more:

World Council of Churches condemns terror attacks on churches in Egypt, calls for end to violence

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency after Palm Sunday church bombings kill 44

Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
7 April 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon is celebrating the the second female minister to be ordained in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon. 

Preacher Najla Kassab was ordained on 24 March, 2017 at a ceremony held at the Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Rabieh, Beirut.

Dr George Sabra, President of the Near East School of Theology (NEST), gave a sermon at the ceremony entitled ‘A day created by God’. “The fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Righteousness that has brought us so far… has led us to open all doors to this woman … for we can see her service to the Church and society as a whole,” he said.

Dr Sabra called on Preacher Kassab to persevere and never give up, irrespective of the circumstances.  He told those present that perseverance, no matter what, along with the love of Lord Jesus, represent the qualities of leadership needed to serve the church.  Addressing Kassab directly he said, “I am confident, as well as everyone else, that you possess these two qualities.”

Dr Sabra then presented Preacher Kassab with a Holy Bible, in the name of the Synod.

To conclude the ceremony, Kassab gave her first blessing as a Pastor, which was greeted with warm applause and congratulations by members of the Synod.

This historic event follows the ordination of Preacher Rula Sleiman, almost a month earlier in Tripoli, as the first female Evangelical Minister in Lebanon and the Middle East.

How many times can you say that you were involved in a ‘life-or-death’ situation? A situation where your actions and decisions could make the difference between someone living or dying? Once? Twice? Never? What if I told you that as you read this, that’s exactly where you find yourself…

The word ‘famine’ is used relatively frequently in modern language, but it’s actually not something that happens often. On 20 February, the United Nations declared famine in two counties of South Sudan. It was the first time famine had been declared anywhere in more than six years. Some are saying that the current severity of food insecurity in South Sudan hasn’t been seen since a post-war Europe experienced famine in 1947. But what exactly is food insecurity?

A crash course in food insecurity

There are five official categories of food insecurity: 1) minimal, 2) stressed, 3) crisis, 4) emergency, and 5) catastrophe (i.e. ‘famine’). Currently in South Sudan, there are an estimated 4.9 million people in categories 3, 4 and 5. Of these 4.9 million people, it’s estimated that 100,000 people are in category 5: catastrophe (famine). People in categories 3 and 4 are at risk of severe malnutrition, which causes lasting impacts – entrenching people in poverty and disrupting education for generations.

People in category 5 are dying of starvation. Not tomorrow, not next week… now. And the reality is the majority of the people in category 5 are among the most vulnerable; typically pregnant women, children and lactating mothers.

I was speaking to a friend recently about how dire the situation is, and he asked what he thought might have been a silly question. He wanted to know why, when faced with the imminent starvation of 100,000 of South Sudan’s most vulnerable people, the international community couldn’t just “bring them food.” Not a silly question at all, but definitely not as simple as he thought.

And in the coming months it’s about to get more complicated.

$1 today is worth more than $1 in two months

South Sudan is facing more than one crisis. Set among the backdrop of a failing economy, collapsing infrastructure and the constant threat of conflict, famine response is not an easy task. In addition to all of this, May will see the start of the rainy season. Roads will become impassable, and the only option for delivering food and non-food essential items will be by air freight. Air freight is significantly more expensive than ground freight.

Right now aid workers are in a position to be able to ‘pre-place’ food and non-food items into the hardest hit areas, to be distributed now and as the lean season continues. Not only does immediate action mean that we can reduce the number of those 100,000 people who will die of starvation, but it also limits the number of additional people moving into category 5 during the lean season.

Acting at once means that more money can be spent on essential items as opposed to transport costs. More money on food and non-food necessities means more lives are saved.

That’s where you come in

You’re faced with a life-or-death situation, only it’s not your life at stake. Despite this famine happening to people thousands of miles away – people you’ll probably never meet – you can save a life by taking action today. Tomorrow could be too late for the 100,000 in South Sudan who will go to bed on the brink of starvation.

Lots of my friends and family tell me they plan to donate. I tell them: don’t wait.

– Megan

Megan Calcaterra
International Programs Manager, Asia/Africa

Donate now

One in every five people currently in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.

Yes, you read that right.

Lebanon hosts the largest percentage of refugees in the world given its population, with over one million Syrian refugees registered in a country with just 4.5 million citizens. All these people living in an area less than a quarter of the size of Tasmania.

Over half of the refugees are children, and 48% of them aged 6-14 are out of school.

That’s 250,000 kids.

The influx of new arrivals fleeing the conflict and persecution by Daesh (or “ISIS”) militants has put an enormous strain on church and government services, particularly educational institutions. In response, the government of Lebanon has restricted Syrian children’s access to state schools, making the role of the church schools more important than ever.

UnitingWorld has launched a campaign to support Syrian refugee children get back to school.

Through our networks, UnitingWorld will support churches in Lebanon to provide education for more Syrian children and prevent them falling further behind in their education.

This exciting new campaign has grown out of the Uniting Church in Australia’s desire to help churches in Lebanon support new arrivals from Syria.

Recently, the UnitingWorld communications and fundraising team were privileged to sit with members of Bankstown Uniting Church and newcomers from Syria, to listen to their experiences of fleeing their home country into neighbouring Lebanon, before resettlement in Australia. They all spoke about wanting to do something to help their friends and families still in Syria and Lebanon.

We hope to raise $80,000 to get the project off the ground.

With your help, together we can make a big impact for the children of Syria.

How you can help

  1. Help us reach our goal by making a donation: https://chuffed.org/project/syriakids
  1. Share the page on social media
  1. Fundraise for us!We can create a team page for you on Chuffed so that you can fundraise at your church, community group or with your friends. Set your own group target and help the overall campaign to get Syrian kids back to school.You could also host a fundraising event or a group challenge that people can support you in.So get a team together and get in touch! marcusc@unitingworld.org.au or (02) 8267 4223

Leaders from our church partner in South Sudan have asked for prayer as they host training and discussions for peacebuilding in neighbouring Sudan.

Leadership and Peace Training in South Sudan, 2016

Since the civil war broke out in 2013, tens of thousands of South Sudanese have fled into Sudan to escape the fighting. Many now live in refugee camps in Khartoum, and South Sudanese Christians worship in churches there.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) have sent leaders to conduct peacebuilding workshops in five different refugee camps in Sudan.

They will be addressing issues of trauma and reconciliation among the people, and also concerns of persecution, with the threat of planned demolition of some 28 churches by the Sudanese government.

Several church pastors have also been arrested for publicly challenging the church demolitions. Thankfully, they have now been released.

This work by PCOSS would not be possible without UnitingWorld supporters, who have helped fund peace and reconciliation workshops and peacebuilding activities in South Sudan and Sudan.

The leaders ask for prayer as they carry out their critical work in Sudan this week (ending 30 March).

Please join us in praying for the work of these courageous peacemakers, as well as the international response to the ongoing famine that is threatening millions in South Sudan.

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan is responding to the famine through their development agency PRDA. You can help them get urgent food and water to people in affected areas. Donate Now

16 March, 2016

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) has released a statement urging President Trump to de-escalate the growing tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Tensions have risen due to the deployment of a US-supplied anti-missile defense system ‘THAAD’ (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) in South Korea. In response, North Korea has announced they’re preparing a nuclear weapon, and many are predicting Kim Jong Un’s regime wants to strike first before THAAD is operational.

In a letter to international partners, the NCCK has made a call for peace and asked for prayers.

“[These] weapons are terrifying Koreans with the threat of nuclear war. We want peace for the Korean peninsula,” they said.

“Please pray for peace and justice on the Korean peninsula.”

Join us in answering their call. Please pray for peace, justice and for the people working across Korea to prevent war and nuclear disaster.


Letter to President Trump

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of the National Council of Churches (NCCK), I bring the warmest greetings to you in the name of God of Peace.

The National Council of Churches in Korea wishes to express our concern with the growing tensions on the Korean peninsula. For over sixty years since the signing of the armistice agreement, the people of the Korean peninsula have lived in fear of war breaking out again in an instant. Where President Obama had failed using “strategic patience” you have the chance to either succeed in negotiation or on the other hand to bring disaster upon us.

Especially we worry now as the THAAD missile defence system has arrived in South Korea, and North Korea has fired off four missiles in response. We fear the tensions have risen higher than they have been in decades. We ask you to move now. Turn back these steps toward war, and take up a successful strategy for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

We have heard your administration is considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea as one of your options. We urge you to take this off the table, as it would guarantee an all-out war. In this current situation of upheaval around South Korea’s presidency and impeachment process, ruling party members are clamoring more loudly for South Korea to obtain its own nuclear weapons. All of these actions take us closer to open battle. Turning the Korean peninsula into a battlefield again would ensure our annihilation.

We ask you to seek dialogue with North Korea immediately to decrease tensions. Dialogue is the only way toward de-escalation and convincing the North that their immediate survival is not at stake and does not depend on military defense.

For the sake of our continued existence we call upon you to enter into dialogue and turn Northeast Asia away from what might begin a new world war.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Kim, Young Ju
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Korea

This was posted in solidarity with our partners, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), the Korean Methodist Church (KMC) and the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK).

The National Council of Churches in Korea is the largest ecumenical agency in South Korea. Supported by the major Protestant denominations, it is at the centre of movements for human rights and peace across Korea. Many Korean churches are working faithfully to bring peace, reconciliation, and reunification to the Korean peninsula.

Photo via koreareport2.blogspot.com

Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
March 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon has announced the ordination of the first two women as ministers in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon.

Rev. Rola Sleiman is ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli

As the Evangelical Church celebrates the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation this year, Rev. Joseph Kassab, General Secretary of the Synod, has announced that two women Preachers in the church will be ordained “to serve the Word and Sacraments.”

The two women are Preacher Rola Sleiman, who was ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli on Sunday 26 February 2017, and Preacher Najla Kassab who will be ordained at Rabieh Church in Beirut on 24 March 2017.

The ordination of Rola Sleiman has been hailed as an historic milestone, as she is the first woman to be ordained in a Middle Eastern Church. After her ordination service she told journalists, “Christ’s justice has been finally fulfilled.”

Reverend Joseph Kassab acknowledged that this event was an important step in the life of the Evangelical Church in the Middle East. He gave thanks to the Lord “for opening our hearts and minds while we celebrate the 500 years of the Reformation Movement by fully opening our arms to women in ministry.”

Read more:

Arab World’s First Ordained Female Pastor is Historic

21 Feb, 2017

“What do you have left when all you can see and touch is lost?”

That was the starting point for deep discussions on disaster response at workshops hosted by UnitingWorld at the Pacific Theological College in the Fijian capital Suva from 15-17 February 2017.

Over the course of three days UnitingWorld’s Regional Coordinator of Pacific Programs Rev. Dr Cliff Bird, Associate Director of International Programs Dr Sureka Goringe, Manager of Church Partnerships for the Pacific Rev. Dr Seforosa Carroll and the Uniting Church’s National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson gave presentations to partner church representatives on the vital role of emotional and spiritual support in disasters.

The workshops took place in the lead-up to the anniversary of Cyclone Winston which struck Fiji on 20 February 2016 with winds of more than 200 km/h, causing 44 deaths, damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes, and significantly impacting around 350,000 people.

Since Cyclone Winston UnitingWorld has worked with the Pacific regional partners to strengthen humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction capacity. This has included supporting the establishment of a trauma counselling chaplaincy network in Fiji.

Pacific churches involvement in humanitarian work is important because of the pre-eminent place they occupy in their respective countries and the increasing intensity and frequency of climate change driven natural disasters in the region.

“If God is loving, good and all powerful, why do disasters happen?” Rev. Dr Cliff Bird unpacks some difficult theological questions.

UnitingWorld has been increasingly drawn into assisting these responses, which has led to the agency setting up an Emergency Response & Disaster Risk Reduction Program.

In 2016 UnitingWorld joined seven other Church agencies to form the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN DO) consortium. CAN DO consortium members are committed to ensuring that churches of all denominations are supported to increase community resilience to natural disaster.

UnitingWorld and its partners will continue to work together with the other CAN DO agencies and their respective in-country partner churches in cooperation with national government disaster management offices.

“Regional humanitarian response capacity will be greatly strengthened by churches and faith-based development agencies cooperating with each other,” says UnitingWorld National Director Rob Floyd.

Male and female delegates attended the workshops from the United Church in PNG, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the Methodist Church in Fiji, the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu, the Kiribati Uniting Church and the United Church in Solomon Islands.

“It is critically important that disaster readiness and response planning be informed by the priorities and insights of women and so the gender balance amongst the workshop delegates is intentional,” said Sureka Goringe, UnitingWorld’s Associate Director of International Programs.

Workshop outcomes sought include the establishment of the counselling chaplaincy network, clearer understandings about humanitarian response planning, development of national disaster response and readiness strategies, and how to leverage the support of regional governments to strengthen the effectiveness of this work in the Pacific.

Make a donation to UnitingWorld’s emergency relief fund