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2024 Easter Message from the Principal of the Pacific Theological College, Rev Dr Upolu Lumā Vaai

‘Mutual Expansive Love and the Victims of Forsakenness?’

In 2022, I shared an Easter message about the victims of forsakenness and hope draped in remembrance. It was a message in response to the victims of the Covid19 pandemic and in particular those still trapped in continued suffering. Today, it seems the wars, the violence and abuses have intensified the unkindness towards the victims of forsakenness around the world. We thought we have moved on, three years later, many are still stuck in the unbearable period of forsakenness, their minds trapped in graphic images of the wounded and dead bodies. These victims are immersed in an unbearable pause between death and life, unable to really see and experience what resurrection feels like.

This time of the year, Christians around the world recite this familiar cry of Jesus, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46). Today this familiar cry is heard around the world from ordinary Palestinians since the Israel/Palestine war began. Today the blood of thousands of innocent Palestinian children covers the Gaza strip, bodies freshly pulled out of the concrete and metal rubbles heaped up by the continuous bombing by Israeli military forces. On the 13th of this month of March, the updated statistics by the United Nations of Geneva website reported that more than 14,000 of the 32,000 people killed to date by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza were children. This is a whole island population wiped out if it was a Pacific island. Only a few accounted names from ages zero to 17 are listed by Aljazeera website. That’s almost 50% of those killed. And more than 200 of this number didn’t reach their first birthdays. According to Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini of the UN Relief and Works Agency, “12,300 children have died in the enclave in the last four months, compared with 12,193 globally between 2019 and 2022.” Unfortunately, “this war is a war on children…it is a war on their childrenhood and their future.”

These figures do not count more than 73,000 Palestinians injured. Israel also had casualties of 247 soldiers killed with 1,475 injured. These soldiers are also victims of a belligerent system. And then there are those who starve to death. The starvation of children is a hallmark of genocide. A war tactic to obliterate the future of a nation. The failure of the United Nations to bring an end to this unimaginable brutality speaks volumes of a values fluster and the breakdown of a life-centred moral compass to care for what Jesus called, the “least of these.”

One could ask, where is the Christian church in all of this? Last Sunday many Christians celebrated the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. But before that, Jesus cried over the future destruction of Jerusalem by external forces. It seems that any genocide and military destruction is a reason for Jesus’ tears. Some questions to think about: Is it right to worship a God who sanctions a war waged against the innocent? It is right to declare to be true our confessional belief to “love your enemy” while silently nodding in agreement to a war that killed thousands of children? If Christianity came through a history of persecution, is it just to endorse it again?

The recent International Women’s Day ecumenical worship in Suva, Fiji, that focussed on prayers in solidarity with Palestinian women victimized by this Israel/Palestinian war was a classic example. When it was time to pray for victims in particular the Palestinian women, some so-called Christians walked out in disagreement. Perhaps Christians today are more concerned with right and left political and religious extremes that we no longer mourn the severe distortions to life caused by our silence. We no longer feel that war is wrong and state-sanctioned killing is a sin as long as we stay true to our personal truths. Today, those who fight for justice for the victims of this very war are either brushed aside or deemed to be “leading a rebellion” (26:55).

The gospel of Matthew (chapters 26-28) invites us not only to learn Jesus’ siding with the victims of any unjust system, but also to caution us not to repeat to others the same persecutive and violent mistake. In the story, the voice of the forsaken (Jesus) is drowned by the sounds of debates between religious and political leaders, the sounds of violence; the stripping, the mocking, the spitting, including the echoes of being “struck on the head again and again” and “divided up his clothes” (27:28-35) incurred by the powerful and those who work for them.

The same feeling of forsakenness is experienced by our sisters and brothers in West Papua. Just last month in February, a footage of a West Papuan man was widely shared on social media, sitting in a 44-gallon barrel filled with bloodied water being repeatedly cut at the back with a knife, punched, elbowed, hit with sticks and kicked by Indonesian military as he sits without resistance. For decades, West Papuans have “cried out in a loud voice” regarding state-sanctioned killings, human rights abuses, ecological exploitation, and systemic violence by Indonesian military only to be forsaken not only by the UN, but also by many Christians. Forsakenness is deepened when our future, which is meant to be decided by us, is decided by a powerful Pilate or a Caiaphas in a palace somewhere. Hence is the story of West Papuans, Palestinians, and many countries still under colonial control.

Interestingly, the loud cry of Jesus’ forsakenness was not enough to turn heads until Earth (through an earthquake) took over and became the voice of the victim (27:51), capturing the attention of many including the highest-ranking military officer who confessed “he is the son of God” (27:54). A reminder of what Jesus said, “if these people do not speak, these very stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

This Easter, I invite us not just to remember in prayers but also to act in deep solidarity with the many victims of forsakenness of the Israel/Palestinian war and also many others. Commemorating this Easter without remembering the Palestinians (or Jewish victims of war) is just faith without love. Easter begins with an unreserved response to the question, do we remember the victims of forsakenness behind the façade of disregard, or do we only disregard them behind the façade of remembrance? It is an invitation to put our hopes again in the memory of God’s mutual expansive love that liberated us ‘with all that is God’. Through this mutual expansive love, we shift the crucifixion narrative from making our children recipients of an undeserved death, “his blood is on us and on our children” (27:25) into making them recipients of unreserved grace. God’s creation gives us pointers to this mutual expansive love that we are moving to celebrate this Easter. Rivers don’t drink their own water, to cite Pope Frances. The rain doesn’t drink its own drops. Plants don’t harvest their own fruits. Bees don’t eat their own honey. Mountains don’t give credits to their own heights. Oceans don’t consume their own fish. Mutual expansive love is about expanding others in our walk while others walk with us in their expansion.

At the resurrection morning, the women expanded their love to include Jesus, the forsaken victim who died at the hands of an unjust system. They remembered where Jesus was buried. They remembered his face. They remembered to worship him. They remembered the way to run back home from the tomb. They remembered to be joyful in the midst of nervousness. The disciples remembered to assemble again as a family for one last time to meet this forsaken victim in a mountain in Galilee. Thus, the resurrection ushers in a new community based on the audacity to remember. A remembrance that is guided by God’s mutual expansive love. This love should give us courage to break down walls, to bind the wounds of the forsaken, carry crosses for the crucified, to roll stones from tombs, to produce arsenals of hope, and to dream change.

Manuia le Eseta!

Rev. Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai
Principal, Pacific Theological College
26 March 2024

Republished with permission.
Download as a PDF

UnitingWorld partners with the Pacific Theological College for the Women in Ministry project.

Happy International Women’s Day!  

The theme this year is a great one: Invest in women: Accelerate progress! 

Women’s empowerment and education in places where they are excluded or marginalised has long been a pillar of global development, but lesser known are the climate benefits. 

Women make up a large proportion of the agricultural sector and produce up to 80% of the food in developing countries. When climate disasters hit, women and girls bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts and they’re typically already held back by pre-existing socioeconomic disparities.  

Women are also at the forefront of climate action and are key players in sustainable development the world over. By investing in women as early as possible and ensuring their full participation, we can hear their wisdom, follow their lead and make powerful change.  

What about us in the church?  

Our church is blessed to have so many formidable and bold women leading the way in faith and justice, both in Australia and among our partners overseas.  

Here are three women we’ve been investing in! 

Rev Geraldine
Methodist Church in Fiji

Rev Geraldine from Rotuma in Fiji is an Old Testament theologian who is passionate about her community and culture. She is currently completing her PhD in theology, which was enabled through a scholarship funded by UnitingWorld supporters (thank you!)

Rev Geraldine is a strong advocate for theological education and the inclusion and leadership of women for a stronger, more vibrant church.

“We as leaders need to give space for all people to speak. Not just for scholars, but people in the community. They are living the impacts of climate change and the social issues we need to know about to direct the priorities of the church and its theology,” she says.

On climate action, she said, “the world I want to see is one where … humanity respects creation, animals and trees, because there is life in them; and where there is kindness, caring and loving. Because I see God in that world.”


Rev Jeny Mahupale 
Protestant Church of Maluku (GPM) 

Rev Jeny (right) is the Project Coordinator of an initiative launched last year, working across six villages to teach and equip people to build and maintain productive kitchen gardens to grow their own food.  

Thanks to UnitingWorld supporters, GPM could access the resources needed to roll out the project in some pilot locations and is now expanding across the villages. Rev Jeny’s team has even been running popular workshops to show communities how to make their own organic fertilisers!  

Rev Jeny is also passionate about peacebuilding (she has been recognised by the United Nations for her work) and a central part of the project is to outreach to Muslim communities to build peace and greater understanding of God’s love for all creation. 

She and her team recently gave away 1,000 tree and plant seedlings in a single day as an outreach of the church, and to build awareness about the kitchen gardens project. 

“Please, as humans, let’s work together for saving the earth – saving our children’s future. Thank you so much for all your support for UnitingWorld and for us in the east part of Indonesia. One plant you give, one vegetable seed you share, is same as you share your breath for other people and nature. Thank You. big hug from Ambon-Maluku, East Indonesia.” 

Sophia Lakra,
Church of North India – Diocese of Durgapur 

Sophia is a Program Facilitator for the Community Development Program we support in Durgapur, North India, and is passionate about expanding education access for those who are traditionally marginalised because of poverty, gender or caste.  

During the pandemic, she kept her school’s vacation program going safely by organising a virtual summer camp! Engaging the children’s creativity kept the children connected throughout the holidays during an isolating time. 

“I want to see a world where all children can access education, and all the children who come to our programs are hopeful for a better future. One way to do it is by making children and all people aware of how to take care of the environment. We can plant trees, save water, take care of plants, animals, birds…,” she said recently.


Growing up in an ecological crisis. 

 An Australian child born in 2023 will experience four times as many heat waves, three times as many droughts and one and a half times as many bushfires during their lifetime as someone born in 1960. And for those born in more vulnerable parts of the planet, hunger, disease and homelessness are all on the rise due to the impact of changing climate.  

Childhood provides very little respite from these realities. If young people aren’t seeing evidence in their own communities of extreme weather events, there’s plenty of information at their fingertips via social media. 

It’s not surprising then that a recent survey of 10,000 children and young people (aged 16-25 years) in 10 countries, including Australia, found that 59% were  very or extremely worried about climate change, with 84% at least moderately worried 

Action can also be an antidote to anxiety! Acting on climate, in ways large or small, can give hope and courage to others.
Lent Event is a great place to start.

If the young people in your life are worried about climate change, here’s a good article about how to manage eco-anxiety


At the same time, spare a thought for children growing up in our immediate neighbourhood, the Pacific and South East Asia.  

These are children who already know what it’s like to live in communities that flood too often, where fresh food is scarce, and waterborne disease keeps them from school. For some, ‘home’ will be uninhabitable by the time they’re adults – in Tuvalu, for example, young people are resigned to the fact that they have no future on their island homes and plan to relocate to Fiji or other parts of the Pacific as soon as they’re old enough.  

In the face of overwhelming challenges, where is the next generation finding hope? Who has the task of educating, equipping and inspiring them to overcome anxiety with action? 

Rev Nyoman Agustinus, Bishop of the Bali Protestant Church (GKPB), believes the Church can play a unique role. 

“We are called by God to see this earth as our home, care for it, protect and preserve its beauty,” he says. “This means that as early as possible we must provide education for children. If children learn to love the earth from the beginning, this will help them to protect the earth so it will be a healthy and comfortable home for them in the future.” 

Parts of the Church throughout the Pacific and South East Asia have been proactive during the past decade in educating members about the important role they can play in protecting the environment, many with the support of UnitingWorld theologians and resources. They see the critical role that the next generation will play and are committed to inspiring children to face the future with hope. Rev Agustinus says:

“In the Balinese church, we urge all pastors to show their love of nature and teach creation care in everything they do. This means catechism education and providing material for Sunday school teachers. We strongly encourage Pastors, Vicars and Sunday school teachers to provide education that is not limited to learning just in the classroom but can extend to a ‘natural school’.  Children can have direct contact with nature, step on mud, and plant trees with their families – as they grow, these trees will remind them of the role they play in looking after the earth for generations.” 

Part of the approach is helping children see that their individual actions are connected to a wider global reality. What impacts people in Bali – difficulty predicting when to grow and harvest crops, extreme weather events that destroy livelihoods, displaced communities due to flood – impacts people all over the world. 

“We want children here to know that individual acts become collective acts, and this is what will change the world. Let’s all be good role models and with our actions we will set an example: our children need to see this solidarity from other Christians around the globe.”

Watch Rev Agustinus’ message in the short video below.

You can play your part in encouraging our young people to overcome eco-anxiety and take action for the planet, both here in Australia and around the world. 

Learn more at www.lentevent.com.au 


Under a sky bluer than an eye, fisherman Kekai sets his line and waits.

He’s further from the shore than ever before and, with the crippling cost of fuel for his boat, he’s hoping for a catch. Fast. But it’s quiet on the sea; warmer water means the fish are seeking the deep, and trawlers are cleaning out the area more and more frequently.

As Kekai scans the horizon, he contemplates yet another canned dinner – salt in the water table from multiple king tides is poisoning his vegetable garden and no more fresh food will arrive at his tiny Tuvaluan island until next week.

“This is the frontline of changing climate for Pacific islanders,” says Rev Seforosa (Sef) Carroll, Fijian-born Australian theologian and academic.

“Diabetes is on the rise because of the change in diet; malnutrition and waterborne diseases plague the children because it’s so hard to grow anything. Clean water and sanitation are really difficult when the land is constantly flooded by salt water.

And it’s really sad, because these are people who are traditionally independent, used to caring for their land, taking from it what they need to survive, and generally in tune with creation.”

Changing climate has wrought havoc on what should be a delicately woven web of relationships between humans and the natural world. And while there’s much more agreement these days about the reality of climate change – most people are aware that we now face not just an ecological crisis, but a ‘here and now’ climate emergency – implementing solutions is more challenging.

So ‘which God’ can fix climate change, and how?

“People in the Pacific are inherently spiritual, it’s just in their DNA,” Sef says.

“But they have this hangover from colonial encounters with missionaries that gives them a view of God that actually isn’t all that helpful. The God many worship is generally seen as transcendent and uninvolved with humanity, responsible for weather and other big events, but somewhat distant.

“Many believing Islanders are convinced that this God won’t let their lands be destroyed because of the promise to Noah in Genesis after the Great Flood. So they wait patiently for the next miracle, even while their entire sense of identity is eroded as they watch their land disappear. Doubt creeps in: where is God in their suffering?”

This is where theology really bites and cultural views of God matter deeply. The temptation to see increasingly devastating weather events as evidence of God’s punishment for sin can lead to doubling down on morality codes, while at the same time jettisoning any sense of personal responsibility or agency in the face of the emergency. Sef says:

“‘Which God’ we worship – our understanding of God’s identity – really matters.  That kind of purely transcendent God is not the God of Jesus, of Emmanuel, God with us. It’s not the God that says we are caretakers with responsibility and empowerment by God’s Spirit. And helping Pacific people to shift from this kind of inheritance theology to one that says that through Christ, God is suffering with creation and God is suffering with us, is really critical. That theology can help people to be proactive and inspire them to action.”

Faith drives meaning and behaviour in many parts of the Pacific Islands. But shifting long-held understandings takes time, and that’s a commodity we simply don’t have.

“We’re sitting on a ticking bomb here,” Sef says. “And it takes time for people to unlearn and relearn theology, and to gain a new understanding of faith.”

It’s why UnitingWorld’s partnership to train ministers and theological colleges is so critical. Resources like Bible Studies and workshops are opening eyes to who God is and how God is at work in and through God’s people in the world. But the work is slow and painstaking, and it can’t be the only solution.

“Pacific Islanders might be the ones most impacted in our region by changing climate, but it’s on all of us to step up to acknowledge the impacts in our own neighbourhoods and across the globe, and to play our part. Every single one of us needs to ask ‘which God are we worshipping?’ A God who is only concerned with our ‘spiritual lives’ or a God actively involved in collaborating with us in reclaiming creation? I dream of a rigorous theology embraced by Christians around the world, inspiring us to action where we are, with what we have. It’s going to take all of us, doing everything we can.”

Watch Sef’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.

We’re calling on you to do something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.

We’re calling on you to do something practical – make a donation to support projects across the Pacific and elsewhere that open minds to new understandings of God and drive faithful action, empower communities to protect their environment through tree planting initiatives and provide clean water.

We’re calling on you to get political – contact your local representative to chat about their approaches to climate change, educate yourself about policies, and help hold government accountable for their actions.

‘Which God’ will fix climate change? The God of Emmanuel, who is with us in suffering, invites and empowers us for action.

How will it happen? All of us, acting in solidarity and with urgency.

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au


There’s nothing quite like the feeling of coming home – to a physical place, a person or community. In English, the word home perhaps feels a bit restrictive, conjuring up bricks, mortar, a mortgage and soaring interest rates. But for our Pacific neighbours, language has gifted words with stronger wings.

Vanua, for Fijians, means land, home or village. But with multiple subtle variations throughout the Pacific Islands, it captures so much more than that. It gives voice to the connections people have with land, sea and sky, as well as their relationships with one another and their obligations to stewardship. Theologian, Rev Dr Cliff Bird from the United Church of Solomon Islands, explains:

“When we start with the idea of ‘home’ among Pacific Islanders, we instantly have an understanding of relationship and mutual obligation. When we say that creation is ‘home’ not only to people and animals, flora and fauna, but God too, then we are expressing a powerful theological concept that is woven throughout Genesis. And this is a critical part of our framework for teaching people about what it means to act in the midst of this current ecological crisis.”

The period of Lent, Cliff says, is a perfect time of reflection on our relationship to the home we share with our neighbours and God. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the human impact we bring to our home and on the kind of activities that shape the place that nurtures and sustains us.

“When we think about how we treat our individual homes, it can bring focus to the way we treat our collective home – the planet,” Cliff says. “How does what we buy impact on this home we share? What are the commercial and industrial activities that we support, and how do they damage the earth and ocean? How do we dispose of garbage, including the clothes we wear?”

Cliff is heartened by the knowledge that individual acts become community acts and from there, they can become national and global realities.

Watch Cliff’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.  

We’re calling on you to do:

  • something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.  
  • something practical – fundraise or make a gift to support critical climate action in vulnerable communities
  • something political – use your voice to influence your community to demand urgent climate action

We’ve put together this list of things you can do to make ‘home’ more liveable for all of us, for longer.  Check it out and share it with those who are looking for ideas and encouragement.  

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au

(Originally published in UnitingWorld Update Issue 3 2023.)
Read the full newsletter here.

The story you’ve just read of a food crisis affecting some of our nearest neighbours is a warning.

It’s not just food security in Maluku and Timor-Leste that keeps me up at night. Climate change is no longer an anticipated calamity, it is a lived reality right across the world, from wildfires in Canada to floods in New South Wales.

My team, our board and our church partners see climate change as the biggest challenge in the coming years. On the heels of COVID-19 and an uptick in global conflict and sabre-rattling, the hope of ‘life in abundance’ for the poor and marginalised feels more threatened than ever.

Climate change intensifies poverty, food insecurity, conflict, migration, and inequality – disproportionately affecting women, children, and those with disabilities.

It is no longer possible to deal with the cyclones, floods, fires and droughts as if they were one-off events. Extreme events are the backdrop against which all of us must live. And it is no surprise that if you’re poor, or you are already side-lined because of your gender, your disability, or your identity, you will suffer the most.

So how can we respond faithfully in ways that make a real difference?

We’ve already begun. Last year, our partners refreshed their project designs to embed climate action and disaster resilience in each. Where they can, they are planting trees and running recycling hubs; they are stabilising landslide-prone areas; they are teaching families about composting and how to make their own natural fertilisers to improve crop yields; they are mapping evacuation centres and planning emergency responses.

Just like in Maluku and Timor-Leste, it’s about equipping people to be more self-reliant and able to find local solutions to global challenges. It’s supporting people to plan and prepare for the impact of disasters. It’s our partners drawing on their faith to inspire communities to care for creation and advocate to their leaders.

At our end, it means ongoing vigilance on our own carbon footprint, keeping relationships strong with fewer air-miles.

And it’s why I bring the voice of our partners and ask for your solidarity and action. Will you stand with them? Will you do your part – cut back consumption, share resources and raise your voice for better policy?

The task is huge, but we are children of God, the one who promises abundant life and the reconciliation of the world.


Dr Sureka Goringe,
National Director

P.S. A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated during the final months of the financial year. It was a tough year for fundraising so I’m especially grateful for your generosity.

UnitingWorld is proudly part of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA), founded 46 years ago today.

Our anniversary is always a chance to remember the justice commitments we made to this nation and our world as a community following Christ.

Last year I shared some quotes from the Statement to the Nation that was first read at the Inaugural Assembly in 1977, a bold declaration of courage and vision. Since then, I’ve discovered that the UCA Queensland Synod made a video of it, and its brilliant! Check it out below.

I hope it inspires and challenges you as much as it did me.

My prayer is that we people of God will remember our commitments as we walk the journey together, and that God will guide our hands and feet to wherever we can best serve our hurting world.

Yours in hope,


Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress had been made to alleviate poverty.

In the first two decades of the millennium, global poverty rates had been cut by more than half and there was good reason to be optimistic about the future. 

The optimism spurred world nations to come together in 2015 and agree to work towards an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals. Number one on the list: eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030. 

The pandemic plus rising inflation and the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine have set progress back as much as nine years in many low-income countries. 

Despite the United Nations declaring a “Decade of Action” to accelerate progress and get back on track, efforts to end poverty are not yet advancing at the speed or scale required to meet the goal.  

Where do we Christians fit in to this and what can we do?

At the turn of the millennium, Christians were at the forefront of anti-poverty movements like Make Poverty History, Jubilee 2000 and Micah Challenge (now Micah Australia).

In Australia, activism has continued through the years, with Christian groups lobbying successive Australian governments to increase funding commitments to sustainable development across the globe.  

The position of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has been that Australia should commit to the internationally-agreed target of contributing 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) to sustainable development initiatives by 2030. 

After a long period of the deepest cuts to the aid budget in Australia’s history, the Albanese government has restored a modest increase, as well as partial indexation to ensure it grows over coming years.  

There’s hope again!  

But of course, it isn’t just about governments. It’s about all of us.  

We in the UCA, through UnitingWorld, are blessed to be a part of a powerful network of people and organisations working together to make sustainable progress to end poverty in our world. 

The lives and work of our overseas partners constantly show us what is possible even while faced with huge challenges.  

Take our partners in Bali.  

Imagine a tiny group of Christians, living amongst staunch Hindus. They make up less than two percent of the population and live on the cultural margins, with little power or influence. But led by the Gospel to bring good news to the poor, they set themselves to weaving a web of relationships.  

They win the trust of the poorest in their community by listening to them. They bring together village elders and government representatives. They reach out to their international church partners for support. Then, slowly but surely, they become the catalytic center of a movement of social transformation. 

Because of their hard work, people blindsided by COVID-19 have the chance to start again with new livelihoods. Women, young people and people with disability are able to have their say in how their village uses government grants. Families get access to health services and children go to school. And, best of all, the communities become more resilient and more able to deal with setbacks and disasters. 

This is the story of our partner, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali. Through them, we have the great privilege to be a part of their incredible community development work to end poverty in rural villages.  

Every day, our overseas partners are impacting the lives of people and helping communities overcome poverty in real and lasting ways. 

It’s a joy to be able to support them in it.   

The movement to end poverty is formidable, but smaller than the need requires. 

So everyone is invited, and everyone has a role to play. 

Together we can end poverty. 

Photos: After he had to leave his job to look after his elderly mother, Komang was struggling to make ends meet and was losing hope for a better life for his family. Supported by UnitingWorld, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali helped him start a small chicken-breeding business that has given him an entire new future. 

You can help us 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. 

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

Donate today at www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty 

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.

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