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Author: UnitingWorld

Here at UnitingWorld, we believe the most effective way to help people overcome poverty for good is sustainable development in partnership with local communities.

Our partner church’s project to end poverty in rural Bali is a great example of the lives that we can change, and how by working together we make a bigger impact to end poverty.

It’s a program that helped thousands of families keep their heads above water during the pandemic and that is now helping people like Komang, his wife, Desak, and their three children escape intergenerational poverty.

Komang comes from a low-caste farming family. Growing up far from the tourist circuit and its employment opportunities, he never had the chance to pursue an education but was fortunate to secure a job as a driver for the provincial government.

When his father died of COVID-19, he had to leave his job to look after his elderly mother at home (pictured). He worked as a day labourer for fishermen nearby and tried building back the family vegetable farm, hoping to make a life of it. He worked hard to provide for his family and hoped to give them opportunities he didn’t have.

But in the quiet village economy, Komang was only just managing to make ends meet. When the economic downturn hit, he started to despair that he wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for his children to go to school or have proper health care.

He couldn’t see it, but a whole network of people was working together and was ready to help him find a path to a more secure, hopeful future.  

Komang heard about the Maha Bhoga Marga Foundation (MBM), the development agency of our partner, the Protestant Church in Bali, from the elders of his village who were hosting a meeting to connect the community with MBM staff.

“We received information from the village that there would be a visit from MBM, who could help with our low income,” said Komang. “So, we attended a meeting together with twelve other families from our community. They listened to our struggles with the economy, job-losses, high cost of living… and explained how they can help.”

Komang told them his biggest challenges were learning how to grow a new business and finding money to start. Our partners said they could help with both.

UnitingWorld supporters helped resource our partners to provide Komang with technical help to launch a chicken-breeding venture and cash to buy the things he needed to get started.

Working hard to make the most of the opportunity, Komang turned 100 chickens into a thriving small business! He can now afford to send his children to school and buy the essentials they need.

The dream that I have always hoped for is that our family can change for the better, to do more prosperous work so that we can have a decent life and without lacking anything.

The role of the MBM staff means a lot to our success. From the beginning until now, they accompanied us in providing help and and group training with others who were given the same support. This way we can each make improvements, sharing the experiences of raising chickens.” 

We talk a lot about the importance of partnership at UnitingWorld, because we really do believe that when we work together — churches, local communities and leaders, people like Komang, and you and me— we unlock the most effective route out of poverty.

And when partnership is at its best, all parts are able to give and to receive and to celebrate the incomparable joy of each life made more abundant.

 


You can make a powerful impact this tax time 

We’re fundraising to resource the critical work of our church partners in the Pacific, Asia and Africa; giving people the tools and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. We hope to raise $500,000 to continue this life-changing work.

Right now, your donation will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to make up to six times the impact ending poverty! 

Find out more and donate at www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty 

 

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

“As Christians, we are called to walk or to voyage in the way of Christ. To tread lightly on the earth and to sail gently on the seas. We are called to act justly, to be compassionate and to live humbly with our God.”

As part of the inaugural UnitingWorld Sunday event, which launched on 7 May, we asked our long-time friend and partner in Fiji, Reverend James Bhagwan, if he would prepare a sermon on what it means for us to be part of the global body of Christ.

As General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), Rev James is passionate about ecumenism and working together to see justice in our world.

From the deck of the traditional voyaging canoe, the Uto ni Yalo, he shared a video message on 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ‘one body, many members’ and what the passage means for people in the Pacific.

“As members of the global family of God, the global household of God, we are reminded that we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers,” he says.

“In this time of climate crisis, as creation is groaning, as our sisters and brothers continue to cry out for justice: economic justice, political justice, social justice, justice for creation…

We are called to act.”

During his sermon he also extended a generous acknowledgement of the missionaries who travelled across the Pacific islands, and the importance of the continuing partnerships we hold at UnitingWorld.

In addition to the sermon, a full liturgy, information booklet and worship playlist has also been created to help churches host a UnitingWorld Sunday service and learn more about what we do in partnership with the global church.

Glenbrook Uniting Church, NSW

“The worship resources made it easy to adapt to our congregation,” said Rev Ellie Elia, minister of Glenbrook Uniting Church in NSW.

“The recorded sermon by Rev James Bhagwan was beautiful and powerfully portrayed how we as a local congregation in the Uniting Church in Australia, are a valued part of the ‘crew’ on Christ’s Pacific canoe, through the work of UnitingWorld.

“It was a gift to celebrate and support our global neighbours,” said Rev Ellie.

“The liturgy that was prepared for us was really well done,” said Dr Sue Fairley at Chermside Kedron Uniting Church in QLD. “It’s so exciting to hear about the work of UnitingWorld and to celebrate that this is part of who the Uniting Church is.”

You can host a UnitingWorld Sunday service whenever it suits your church calendar. It’s a great way to connect with our partners and fundraise for their incredible work. You can see the full range of resources and order them for your church at www.unitingworld.org.au/sunday

Watch Rev James’s full sermon below (8 mins).

Direct download video  | Full video credits on the Vimeo page.

Visit UnitingWorld Sunday resources page

UnitingWorld has welcomed Peter Keegan as Head of Programs, replacing Jane Kennedy in the role (you can read her reflection on her time at UnitingWorld here).

Peter has worked in the international development sector for over 17 years, in both programs and advocacy focused roles. Most recently he has been part of the executive team at Transform Aid International as Director of Advocacy and has also previously worked with World Vision in the UK and Australia, and in the programs team at UnitingWorld (between 2011-14).

Peter is passionate about development that is led by local partners and communities; aware and actively engaging with the structural, systemic and cultural drivers of injustice; and draws on the rich theological resources and imagination of the Christian tradition.

UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe said she was thrilled to have Peter in the role.

“Peter’s familiarity with and deep commitment to our partnerships approach is an excellent foundation for his re-induction to UnitingWorld,” said Dr Goringe.

“The experience and dedication he brings will be so valuable to our team and partners and we look forward to seeing the fruits of his leadership across our programs.”

 

Picture: Peter receives a gift from Bishop Nyoman Agustinus of our partner the Protestant Christian Church in Bali (GKPB) in March 2023.

Rev Dr Steve Bevis is Minister at Burwood Croydon Uniting Church and Chair of the UnitingWorld Board.

Blog Originally published on the Burwood Croydon Uniting Church website here. 

Burwood Park is classic European Australian park at the edge of a now-bustling urban centre. People stream out of shops and businesses to sit on the grass, enjoy the shade of sprawling tree-lined paths, and, of course, dine at a cafe – what experience of being in a park feels complete these days without handy access to coffee or chai?!

The entrance to the park, though, has intrigued me since our arrival. A large sandstone arch welcomes all visitors. Across the top, and on both sides it proclaims: Thanks Be Unto God Who Gave Us The Victory. I wonder what people make of it? Yes, it is a monument to lives lost in 1914-1918. It was and is fitting to honour those for whom total sacrifice came upon their lives, and at too young an age. Yes, it is thanks for peace, but, as we know, it was a false peace: for this ‘us’ to whom victory  was ‘given’ produced not peace, but a climate of fear, instability, exclusion, marginalisation and further mistrust. You know where the story goes. So what does it speak today?

And not just generally, in a secular age. What does it say to ‘us’ when Australia and China are at loggerheads? When 30 Billion plus dollars are spent on nuclear submarines to ‘secure peace’? When Burwood is full of families of Chinese origin? Where a vibrant Chinatown exists? It makes me wonder.

And I also wonder about our Pacific neighbours, caught up in this posturing and positioning, and who are promised that they will be given peace and prosperity by these outside powers. And all the while the seas rise. Every cent spent on nuclear powered military is one less spent on those in poverty, on addressing the root causes of climate change. And what does all this bring in the meantime? Does it build a climate of peace, or a climate of fear?

But there is another aspect to this scene, that perhaps speaks another story if we could read it. For on either side of this monument are palm trees, silently bearing witness to something else: to peace, to life itself, not the pain of death and destruction.

It’s a reminder to me of the way Palm Sunday has become associated with peace and justice. In memory of Jesus who entered the capital and was greeted with palm branches and crowds sensing something special – a person who brought people together, who spoke up for the poor, who healed and transformed, who spoke out against injustice – today, people march for refugees on temporary protection visas, for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, for peace itself.

Jesus did not enter as a conqueror returning from battle. He was not the God who ‘gives us the victory’ through military battle and strategy. No, he was the opposite. His God-given victory was of a different type. And, I think, in some way he gives us another image of what it is to be human. To initiate change through humility, through bearing witness to truth and the shared dreams of all.

To me it is a reminder that I need to participate in actions that create not a climate of fear, but a climate of peace.

We humans can change the climate, the earth’s atmosphere, and our collective emotional and psychological climate.

Today those beautiful palms bear witness to me of the path of peace. Palms are a now-universal symbol of peace; of paradise, of oasis, of rest, calm and restoration. Every time I see those Palm trees in the park I will hear them speaking a deeper truth than or idea that which is proclaimed by the arch.

Let those suburban palms, like those trees scattered across our suburbs, be a reminder of peace, of the needs of all people, including our South Pacific neighbours who are facing a climate of fear because of the actual changes in the climate, and of which they are already bearing the brunt through cyclones and rising seas. And to that end, let those palms stand as a reminder not only of the real needs of neighbours, but of life itself. Picture, if you can, beautiful palms, standing not in a Sydney park, but palms on a Pacific atoll, as the salt waters rise and wash them away. This Sunday, this Palm Sunday, and Palm Sundays for many years to come, need to be a reminder that the beauty, peace and promise of life itself is at stake for so many. Even for some of those very palms. Let’s do our part to together create a climate of true peace, for all.

-Steve Bevis

Imagine living in a rural village of about 250 people. It’s been your home since birth, and each day follows the simple but tough life of subsistence farming. Access to health services, education, and employment opportunities is severely limited, so, like everyone here, you make a living off the land and strive to give your children the opportunities that you didn’t have.

But for four to five months of every year, the dry season and erratic rainfall make it impossible to grow your crops. When the seasonal drought hits and there isn’t enough water for farming, you and every working-aged person along with your families must migrate far away from home to try to find work to survive. The village becomes practically deserted, leaving only the elderly. Think of what this instability does to your children’s education and the development of your community!

This was the case for a village in Sarenga, West Bengal before our partners the Church of North India (CNI) through the Diocese of Durgapur asked how they could help.

The villagers’ request was a simple one: find a way to put in place a sustainable source of crop irrigation that doesn’t dry up when the rain stops and the local streams become empty.

Thanks to the generosity of UnitingWorld supporters, our partners were able to purchase and install two submersible pumps that can channel large volumes of water across long distances. The new sources of irrigation mean that the community can continue farming throughout the year and not have to travel away and work for others to earn a living. Summer in Sarenga this year has the usual erratic rainfall and dryness. But due to this project, we know that there is now an entire village of people who no longer have to uproot their lives for months at a time and who are hard at work contributing to their families and community.

UnitingWorld’s Program Manager Shreshtha Kumar visited the village this year and was blown away by the complete turnaround described by the people.

It’s so heart-warming to see how the village has become a self-sufficient community. The people can now rely on far better food security and the whole life of the village is benefitting.

Our partners are also helping the community to access high-quality education through their study centre and self-help groups, teaching skills to people to help them develop extra sources of income and pathways to career opportunities.

This is how our partners are making incredible change in 26 rural villages across Sarenga and Ranibandh provinces as well as in two urban slums in Durgapur. These communities are extremely poor and marginalised but are on the way to having more sustainable, healthy and hopeful futures thanks to the love and support of our partners.

This project is such an inspiring example of the life-changing work that UnitingWorld and our supporters get to be a part of, and it’s a testament to our belief that just a few small interventions—guided by communities themselves—can lead to radically positive and long-term change for so many people.

As part of Lent Event, we’re fundraising to support this work that is changing lives and transforming communities in India and beyond. Will you help us reach our goal? Your gift will go a very long way to helping so many people and communities lead lives of dignity and hope.

Durgapur Sewing Centre for Adolescent Girls and Married Women

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

 

This week we said a very grateful and fond farewell to Jane Kennedy, who has been serving with us in various roles for a decade. We asked her to share a reflection on her time at UnitingWorld, which you can read below.

She also spoke about her time at UnitingWorld to UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis on her podcast. You can listen to it here.

I started at UnitingWorld in 2013 working with our Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu partners and recently counted 25 and 14 trips respectively over 5 years! I loved getting to know the partners so well during these trips and supporting their work, marveling at their resilience and their joy, seeing places many Australians have never heard of or only aware if they were birdwatchers or jungle trekkers! We ate meals together, I witnessed community life lived as it would have been hundreds of years ago, perhaps took too many risks traveling through conflict areas and into remote villages to better understand the context. I visited 11 provinces of PNG and three islands of Vanuatu, the beauty and the challenge often visible in equal measure. I loved it all.

My next role was as Associate Director of our Asia and Africa projects and I led a team of program managers working closely with our partners across South East Asia and South Asia as well as Zimbabwe and South Sudan. Some of the most incredible travel experiences of my life were in these regions and the warmth and hospitality of our partners and their communities was life giving. Not to mention the incredible food!

For the last 18 months I have been the Head of Programs working with all our partners. Our team of program managers is so committed and connected to the work our global partners are doing across the world and it’s been wonderful to witness the breadth of it. I will miss the warmth and passion of our partner teams and the ways in which they serve without question within their churches and regions, often, in fact usually, in the face of impossibility difficult circumstances.

It’s easy to see ourselves in a wealthy country like Australia as the ones doing the giving, of coming to support those less fortunate. But I’ve learnt that I am the one less fortunate when it comes to the richness of relationships and community our partners have invited me into over the years. They process poverty and disasters and heal in community, they understand their true wealth is in their interdependence with each other and their sense of land and place. They place value on celebratory meals and henna, flower arrangements, locally made fabrics, song and dance. It’s our role to transfer the wealth and shift the power however we can. As our strategic documents say, giving money in this way is not largesse, but justice.

The UnitingWorld team and the Uniting Church is better for being in relationship with our global partners, both in listening when they ask us to hold our own government to account and learning how to face our own hardship. I am better for knowing them and their generosity.

I will miss our Australian team also but am grateful for lifelong friends, some funny and beautiful memories and the opportunity to be a part of something so transformational in the world.

-Jane

 

What’s next?

Jane will be completing her studies in counselling and psychotherapy and plans to focus on trauma-informed programming in the aid sector and freedom from religious trauma. We wish her all the best on her next adventure!

“I want to become a basketball champion when I grow up!” said Lakshmi* when asked about her aspirations for future.

Like Lakshmi, many adolescent girls living in the Durgapur slum community want to pursue careers that defy gender norms and stereotypes. She attends a study centre that is part of the Community Development Program run by our partner, the Diocese of Durgapur. The study centre provides the girls with a safe space to learn, connect, practice extracurricular activities, and share their goals and aspirations for the future with their mentors.

Places like these are so valuable in India, allowing those who are traditionally excluded from opportunities to grow and develop into adulthood. Religious and caste discrimination is one of the leading causes of poverty and social exclusion in India, and this project exists to empower marginalised and economically disadvantaged communities by improving access to quality education, health services, livelihoods and government entitlements.

Looking at the unique needs of adolescents and youth, the project is now looking to expand its scope to include health, education, and career counselling to improve opportunities and prospects for young people.

This happens thanks to our generous supporters! The sale of Everything in Common ‘schoolbooks’ cards enables this project to grow and these girls to pursue their dreams.

Beyond the study centres, we’re supporting the Diocese of Durgapur to offer skills training to marginalised women and farmers so they can build sustainable incomes close to where they live, as well as providing communities with access to and information about a range of government services and schemes.

Thanks to UnitingWorld supporters, our partners are helping communities to become empowered, organised, educated and healthy, involved in local governance and capable of accessing government services and schemes. The project impacted the lives of more than 4,000 people in the last financial year.

*Name changed for privacy

If you want to support the study centres in Durgapur and give the gift of a brighter future for girls like Lakshmi, you can buy the ‘schoolbooks’ e-card or print-at-home card here or make a donation here.

From Dr Sureka Goringe, National Director, UnitingWorld

There’s change in the air. Maybe you feel it. For the longest time, an elephant in the room of Australia’s contributions to end world poverty has been the question: what about the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here at home?

This was a challenge and reminder posed to the whole UnitingWorld team by Professor Anne Pattel-Gray, UCA theologian and Aboriginal leader, who was a special guest presenter at our annual team week in February.

Her words were not bitter or angry, they were deeply introspective, herself having travelled to do mission and community development work among Dalit peoples in India. While there, she was struck by her relative privilege, and realised how difficult it can be when you are well-meaning, but ultimately have little connection to people’s unique experiences of poverty, racism and injustice.

It led her to focus on what Christianity has to say about the value and dignity of all life, and the call on Christians to be a “transforming presence” from inside the dominant system – to turn oppression and domination into  justice.

It’s a calling to work that has no borders or postcodes because it’s about who we are.

Her words made me think of you, and the thousands of people touched by this mission we do in partnership with the global church. In our constantly changing world, we can’t pit local and global issues against each other – we need to address suffering and injustice wherever we can, with whatever skills we can bring.

The young leaders who attended the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit understand this, and their commitment to embedding justice for First Peoples within their vision of our region is truly inspiring.

Our international partners understand it too, always eager to meet, honour and gain the wisdom of the First Peoples who cared for this land for millennia.

We’ve started a conversation within UnitingWorld about how to strengthen links between our partners and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and embed a First Nations perspective into our work.

Change is happening in our government too, with the search for an Ambassador for First Nations People going on as I write.

As the national conversation about Voice, Treaty and Truth goes forward, I hope and pray that whatever happens, we Christians would strive to be that “transforming presence” alongside First Peoples that Professor Pattel‑Gray described.

When I asked her what gives her hope for the change she works for, she gave my whole team this encouragement: “my hope comes from the Creator, who has the power to transform people and communities.”

Amen

Representatives from eight of our partner churches in the Pacific and young people from the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) were part of the inaugural Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit (PAELS), held in Canberra in December 2022.

100 young people from 14 countries were brought together by Micah Australia* and the Pacific Conference of Churches to build relationships and advocate for the issues that matter to them.

Through the generosity of UnitingWorld supporters, we were able to sponsor two young women from our partner church in West Papua to join the delegation. They shared powerful stories from their homeland during the Summit, and also visited a Uniting Church in Canberra that is home to a large West Papuan diaspora.

The first two days of PAELS were led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. The delegates spent the first two days listening, learning, sharing their cultures and experiences and being trained and equipped for political advocacy. The deep conversations and learning from First Peoples continued as the delegates were invited to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, where they received a generous welcome and storytelling from Elders.

Then over two days in Parliament House, delegates met with 84 Members of Parliament. The vision that the PAELS delegation brought to their meetings in Parliament was:

… to see healthy environments, empowered young people, and flourishing communities across the Pacific region. This is a vision that will only be realised in full when communities enjoy self-determination and when no one is left behind.

During the meetings, delegates shared their personal stories and heard from our nation’s leaders about their own experiences and hopes for our region.

UnitingWorld partner networking

PAELS was also a chance for representatives from our partner churches from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and West Papua to meet with UCA and UAICC members.

Below we share what some of the young leaders had to say about PAELS and the future.

Raúl Sugunananthan

Uniting Church in Australia

“Connecting with leaders from across Australia and the Pacific was such a valuable experience because it showed me the vibrancy and diversity of the church beyond my Inner-West Sydney bubble.

Through the amazing young leaders I met, I learnt first-hand that God is moving through the leadership of First Nations communities  from Arnhem Land to Sydney.

God is moving through the Pasifika songs and stories woven throughout their island nations and diaspora communities.

God is moving through the courage and determination of people striving for self-determination across our region.”

Tetavaa Namoto

Tuvalu Christian Church

“It was such a great experience to share some of the issues affecting my home and our islands. We have experienced cyclones, drought, climate change and sea‑level rise. They say we can migrate, but I don’t want to be a refugee. I think that when we lose our land, we would lose our culture too. We pray, pray, pray that climate change won’t happen and won’t affect future generations.

I love meeting other young people [at events like this] because we can share stories and it makes me realise there are more people struggling and also working for change.”

Hayden Charles

Wiradjuri man and Uniting Church in Australia member

“I had the privilege to be in a group with members from Sydney and Kiribati to share our vision of the region with four parliamentarians. Our shared vision will be the focus of the world in a couple of years and that’s why we started these conversations in 2022.

I hope we as leaders in the Pacific will work side-by-side to keep the conversations at the forefront of these parliamentarians and keep working to build sustainable partnerships in our region.

I would like to thank the team at Micah and all the partners that helped bring together this amazing group of young leaders.”

Grace Talei Tuiono

Fijian-Australian Uniting Church in Australia member

“No one has the same story. Every story is unique in their own way, and every voice is important. I want to use my voice to tell people of different abilities that they matter.

And as a young woman, I want to tell the world, ‘You can do it! You have skills and abilities to contribute.’ I learned that perspective from my mother and father, who’ve never just seen my disability – they see God in me.

I am so grateful that God gave me a voice to share here at Parliament and make a difference. Not everybody gets that opportunity. I may fall, I may fail, but God gave me the ability and a choice to take it. And when I take it, I believe God will provide for me along the way.”

* Who is Micah Australia?

Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty. UnitingWorld is a member of Micah Australia.

Where can I find more info about PAELS?

The Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit was an initiative funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Office of the Pacific and coordinated by Micah Australia.

Discussions at PAELS focused on key development priorities identified by research (surveys and conversations) among Pacific delegates prior to the Summit. The findings were summarised in the report The Pacific We See, which was available to delegates and MPs during the event. You can read it for yourself here.

If you are interested in attending PAELS 2023, register your interest by emailing marcusc@unitingworld.org.au

Group photos by Amelia Dorey for Micah Australia. Individual photos by UnitingWorld staff.

Rev. Samuel Gnanarajah
Deaf Link, Methodist Church Sri Lanka (MCSL)

 

All mighty Heavenly Father,

People with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable minorities in Sri Lankan society.

They are less likely to have access to education, health care facilities, economic and social status than those without disabilities.

Our prayer is that the ‘self-help’ groups we’ve formed will become independent and include themselves in wider society confidently.

Our prayer is always for children with special needs, for their education, livelihood and inclusion with other children.

God of life, we are sorry for looking down and treating people with disabilities as objects for charity instead of considering them as fuller humans who need our empathy and understanding.

Our prayer to have a fruitful life together towards an inclusive community in our country.

Lord, Deaf Link is on an incredible journey to embrace the PWD’S and uphold their dignity. Guide us throughout our pilgrimage.

God of the disabled, give us the vision to see that all people have gifts and abilities to share as part of our community of faith.

We pray in the name of the one who always saw the best in people, Jesus Christ, our lord,

Amen.

 

UnitingWorld supports our partner Deaf Link to provide occupational training to women with disabilities and provide access to education for children with disabilities. This enables people with disabilities, through work and study, to be accepted, equal and valued members of society. Find out more

 


 

Pray in solidarity with our partners

As part of Lent Event this year, we asked our church partners from around the world how we can support them in prayer. Their responses allow us to pray in solidarity, but also to learn about their struggles and what they long to see in their communities.

The above prayer was one that was featured in the guide in a shortened version.

Click here to download or order a printed booklet.