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20 years ago in March 2004, church leaders from across the Pacific gathered in Tarawa, Kiribati, to lead a vital consultation on climate change. Out of the consultation, they released the powerful Otin Taai* Declaration, committing their churches to urgent action and calling on Christians throughout the world to act in solidarity.  

To mark 20 years since the consultation, the Pacific Conference of Churches hosted the Otin Taai +20 Conference, a gathering of members and partners to take stock of the impacts of climate change, the lack of an appropriate collective global response to the climate emergency, and to discern how best to work together on the issue into the future.  

UnitingWorld Head of Programs Peter Keegan attended the event on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia along with Rev. Alimoni Taumoepeau from the Synod of the Uniting Church in NSW and ACT. Peter shared, ”

“As we knelt to pray on muddy sands beside seawaters that just a generation ago had been fertile and productive land, the reality was starkly evident before us. What was a prophetic warning in the Otin Taai Declaration twenty years ago is today a reality. And it is a reality that is impacting all of the peoples and creatures of the earth.” 

Otin Taai +20 was another powerful time of sharing about the impacts of climate change on people, communities and biodiversity across the region.  From the 2024 gathering, PCC members and partners released the Tuākoi ‘lei** Declaration. 

“God has called creation out of the chaos of ocean covered earth, yet the actions of fossil fueled greed, selfishness and apathy, manifested as extractive industries and economic globalization are driving us back to chaos as we experience the ocean rising to reclaim the earth, our common home. 

We call the world to embody neighbourly love, compassion and hope, which are needed more than ever to turn the tide for climate and ecological justice.” 

Read the 2004 Otin Taai Declaration here.

Read the 2024 Tuākoi ‘lei Declaration here.

*Otin Taai is the iKiribati phrase for “sunrise”.  
**Translated from the Tuvaluan phrase for “good neighbour” or “loving neighbour”.

UnitingWorld has prepared a report to the Uniting Church in Australia’s 17th National Assembly, taking place from 11-16 July 2024 in Parramatta, NSW. The report gives an overview of our work and impact over the last three years, and an introduction to our future strategic direction.

UnitingWorld is at a moment in time where historical ways of working are under serious threat, and new opportunities are simultaneously opening up.

However, UnitingWorld is ultimately an instrument of the Uniting Church, existing to embody and implement the church’s missional intent. How the future unfolds will depend as much on whether the people of the UCA are able to catch the winds of the Spirit into a new age of revival or continue to decline.

We believe that our overseas church partners have much to offer the UCA in prophetic truth that will help us. UnitingWorld will strive at all times to bring this voice back into our church, to inspire, encourage and challenge the UCA, in the hope that it will make a difference.

You can read the full report here.

Sophia Lakra discovered a passion to help others early in life.  

Growing up among the poor in West Bengal, she saw the incredible potential of young people as well as the barriers preventing so many from realising their dreams. 

Children became either trapped in a cycle of poverty, or they found a way to escape.  

The difference, as Sophia saw it, was education.  

She wanted to help keep disadvantaged children in school. So she studied hard and at age 21, Sophia became a teacher. 

“I wanted to do something worthwhile in my life,” she says. “I love working with children and I always wanted to make a difference in their lives.” 

“Education has the ability to transform individuals and communities, giving children wisdom, skills and values that enable them to make important decisions and solve problems.” 

Sophia’s passion led her to further studies in social work, and to join the Community Development Program run by the Church of North India, Diocese of Durgapur.  

She is now a Program Facilitator, overseeing study centres that are impacting hundreds of children each year with much-needed education support for disadvantaged children. 

“The major barriers holding these children back are more than just living below the poverty line, it’s the low self-esteem, fear and self-doubt that comes from their families living that way,” she says. 

“Through education, we help children to become confident in who they are … to know what is right from wrong … to have the courage to raise their voice and speak against injustice.” 

“Their knowledge helps to fight social evils like poverty, gender inequality and the caste system. They have a healthier life.”  

Since joining the Community Development Program, she’s now watched generations of children born in slums walk into study centres as toddlers and leave as adolescents, vastly better equipped to find productive work or pursue further study. 

“Mentoring these young souls is such a beautiful experience,” she says. 

“Through education and life skills training, I believe I am preparing these children for life. I care for these children, guide and love them the way I would like my own daughter to be cared for.” 

“It can be stressful at times, but my passion rewards me when I see a smile on these children’s faces.” 

Sophia told me that many of the children stay in close touch and even come back to volunteer in the project to help others. I asked why she thought that was and for her it’s simple:  

“Education changes people… People change the world.” 

Amen.  

Our partners like Sophia are working hard alongside thousands more people on community-wide, sustainable initiatives to end poverty.  

Many of our supporters have already given generously to help us reach this year’s target of $500,000 so that we can fully fund our projects across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.  

With only a few days left in the financial year, please consider a donation to support our work to end poverty and create justice alongside people like Sophia.  

www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, driving missional collaboration with the global church for a world free from poverty and injustice. UnitingWorld works in partnerships with communities and churches to foster equality and address issues of injustice. In the last year alone, we have impacted the lives of over 400,000 people.

The Board of UnitingWorld has responsibility for the governance of UnitingWorld.

The Board is skill-based and we are seeking suitably qualified individuals with skills and connections in the philanthropic sector, professional fundraising, law, finance and project management.

We are committed to high standards of governance, including ongoing training and professional development. The Board operates under a Board Member Covenant with a commitment to partnership, mutual respect, inclusion, integrity, sustainability, innovation, and the fullness of life.

UnitingWorld is committed to building a diverse board and fosters an inclusive culture. All qualified applicants will receive consideration based on merit, competence, performance, and business needs.

We are seeking two individuals who:

  1. Have demonstrated skills and impact in one or more of the following areas: philanthropy; fundraising; finance; law; or project management.
  2. Have experience in community leadership, board or committee governance.
  3. The ability to contribute to UnitingWorld’s growth through leveraging their existing networks and helping to develop new ones

Click here for a full Position Description.

Submit your application via through the Ethical Jobs website here.

Contact Rev Dr Steve Bevis, Chairperson of the UnitingWorld Board, if you have any questions – email to ea@unitingworld.org.au using the subject line: Board Members (Voluntary) enquiry.

Please apply promptly. Applications will be considered as they are received and recruiting will cease when two successful applicants are found.

Photo:  Kindupan Kambii from Facebook

A serious landslide occurred in Enga Province in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on 24 May 2024.

It is estimated that over 670 people may have died when 150+ houses were buried under soil, rubble and rocks after heavy rain.

Emergency response is underway, although the area is still unstable and dangerous. The long-term impact on the community is expected to be devastating. (Read coverage on ABC News here and here.)

Want to help?

UnitingWorld is working through our membership in the Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations (CAN DO) to support joint relief and recovery efforts.

The main activities are focused on timely and effective delivery of relief to the affected populations. This means providing food, non-food items and shelter support (tarpaulins, tents, etc.).

Donate now!

Make an online donation here or call 1800 998 122 (9am – 5pm)

 

Pray for our PNG neighbours

Rev Dr Apwee Ting, UnitingWorld International Partnerships Manager, has shared a prayer for Papua New Guinea ??

God who journeys with us,
We come before You with hearts full of compassion and concern for the people of Papua New Guinea. We lift up to You the communities that have been affected by the recent landslides, especially those in the remote village in Enga Province.

Loving God,
we ask for Your divine protection and provision for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods. Surround them with Your love and give them strength to endure the hardships they face. Bring comfort to those who are grieving and peace to those who are anxious and afraid.

We pray for the churches in Papua New Guinea, that they may be a light of hope and a source of comfort in these trying times. Bless their efforts and those of the national and local governments, medical staff, and all the volunteers who are tirelessly working to provide aid and relief. Grant them wisdom, patience, and resilience as they serve their communities.

Lord of healing,
in the face of destruction and loss, may Your presence be profoundly felt. Let Your love flow through every helping hand and every act of kindness. Help the people of Papua New Guinea to rebuild their lives and their communities with courage and faith.

We trust in Your unfailing love and mercy, believing that You can bring beauty from ashes and hope from despair.

May Your light shine brightly in Papua New Guinea, now and always.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.
Amen

We’ve launched our End of Financial Year Appeal and it’s all about the lasting change we can make in our world when we work together!

Laboni’s story is a great example of how powerful that change can be.

Laboni (pictured above with her mother) grew up in a typical rural village in West Bengal, India, where education is out of reach for many because families are too poor to invest in it.

Stuck in a cycle of poverty like this, going to school never seems as vita as the tasks of daily survival. Children grow up to help in the household or in the fields as soon as they are able; girls are married off young.

Our church partner, the Church of North India – Diocese of Durgapur, saw the situation and believed that things could – and should – be different.

They supported Laboni’s education, and she became the first in her family to ever finish school. Today she’s pursuing her dreams: working on a university degree and hoping to return to her community as a teacher to
inspire other girls to follow in her footsteps.

The impacts will be felt for generations to come.

Thanks to UnitingWorld supporters and our partnership with the Australian Government, our church partners also helped transform Laboni’s whole village and beyond, providing hundreds of families with income-generation
support, training in agriculture and animal husbandry, and family health interventions.

Their community development program has now reached 25 villages and more than 2,000 children like Laboni have now accessed high-quality education support and career skills training that have set them up for a completely different future.

Can you help us create justice for generations? 

We hope to raise $500,000 before June 30 to be able to be able to fund our projects and impact more than 200,000 people in the coming year.

Your tax-deductible gift will make a real difference through the work of our church partners, giving people the tools and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty – for generations to come.

Not only that, your tax-deductible gift will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to go up to six times further!*

Please give generously and together we can create justice for generations.

Donate now

*UnitingWorld is a valued partner of the Australian Government, receiving funding each year to carry out poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate change projects overseas. Every donation you make to this appeal will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to reach more people. We have committed to contribute $1 for every $5 we can access from the government. Your donation will allow us to extend our programs! Read more on our website here.

46-year-old Bernadeta has long been a gardener.  

Around her home in rural Timor-Leste, she’s tried her hand at growing more than just staples. 

“I was growing vegetables such as bitter-gourd, string-beans, eggplants, water-spinach, green vegetables, lettuce and spinach,” she says. 

But it wasn’t until UnitingWorld’s partner FUSONA* offered her some assistance and invited her to help lead a gardening group that her garden became the primary source of income for her family. 

“When FUSONA’s staff came to introduce the kitchen garden program to me and my neighbours, I was excited and happy to join because they offered different seeds for us to grow and we don’t need to spend money to buy them,” said Bernadeta. 

So she joined the first training and agreed to lead a gardening group while she expanded her own kitchen garden. 

“The first time we joined as group, I learned new things and we had to decide how we would work together, assist each other and build trust,” she said.  

“At first it was a bit confusing for me as group leader to embrace all members with different ideas, characters, behaviours and mindsets, but we made decisions about how we could work for a better result for group.”  

They decided each person would work on the shared land according to what they were confident in and what they could manage.  

“It was important to acknowledge that each member would produce according to their strength and we formed a working rhythm that was understood among the group,” said Bernadeta. 

“When it comes to harvest time, we harvest and bring to the market to sell. And sometimes people are coming to our gardens and buy fresh vegetables here.” 

The group has decided they need to move to a bigger area of land in order to produce more vegetables to meet the market demand, and are working to figure out a sustainable water source for it.  

“As a group we are so pleased and thankful to FUSONA for supporting us with seeds to produce more in our gardens, said Bernadeta.  

“I love my kitchen garden and hope that FUSONA can continue to support our group with sourcing equipment as we get bigger!” 

We look forward to keeping you updated about Bernadeta’s group and the wider project.  

Thank you for helping make it happen!

Thank you to everyone who donated to support our food crisis appeal or gave gifts of seeds and kitchen gardens from our Everything in Common Gift Catalogue. You’re helping people like Bernadeta to build food security and generate an income for whole families.

*FUSONA is the development agency of the Protestant Church in Timor-Leste (IPTL), a partner of UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia.

This story comes from Fiona Morgan at Revesby Uniting Church.

 

This is Barry.

He lives in Sydney, loves his job with Uniting. Kayaking down the Georges River brings him joy.

This is Raj.

He lives on the west coast of Sri Lanka, loves his job as a motor bike mechanic. Dancing brings him joy.

Raj, who has Down Syndrome, needed some extra help at school and when he was completing his apprenticeship as a motorbike mechanic. The support he received from UnitingWorld partners in Sri Lanka mean that Raj is now able to do what he loves – in his work and his leisure time.

At Revesby Uniting Church, we place great value on welcoming and celebrating everyone. This Lent, our community chose to raise funds for UnitingWorld’s partners in Sri Lanka, who run community-based rehabilitation programs that support people including Raj.

Our thinking… why not use the things that bring us joy to raise funds that will allow others, in Sri Lanka, to do what brings them joy? Paddle for Participation was created!

During Lent, Barry kayaked 20km up the Georges River to raise funds for UnitingWorld, cheered on all the way by our community.

People gave so generously, raising $4000 over the 40 days of Lent. And because we highly value connection, conversation and hospitality at Revesby Uniting, our community celebrated the Paddle for Participation with a picnic together on beautiful Bidjigal land.

Photo credit: Ian Bertram

   

You can set up your own fundraiser for UnitingWorld.

Find out how here!

In 2024, we are continuing to support five of the brilliant scholars we supported last year: Asinate, Amalaini and Toobora at Pacific Theological College (PTC), and Mela and Luisa at Davuilevu Theological College (DTC). Both colleges are in Fiji. The scholars are now halfway through Semester 1 of 2024 and are all due to finish their studies at the end of this year. We are also continuing to keep in close contact with Rev Geraldine while she finalises her PhD.

All students are continuing to achieve great academic results.

In big news for PTC, the College is currently transitioning to become a university to be known as Pacific Communities University (PCU)! This transition includes two new schools of the university, infrastructure development and a communities-based model of education.

Thank you to the supporters of our Women in Ministry project. Your support, both financial and prayerful, is so appreciated by the students, their families, their churches and the team at UnitingWorld.

Blessings,

Mia Berry                                                                 Mardi Lumsden
International Programs Manager                  Donor Relations Manager

Student Updates

Rev Geraldine is continuing to finalise her PhD thesis. To support her studies she is working part-time at the Institute for Mission and Research at PTC, writing up some of their new coursework which she is really enjoying. She is working closely with her supervisors to submit her PhD by June, and then hopes to take up a teaching position at Davuilevu Theological College.

Rev Geraldine

Congratulations are in order for Toobora, Amalaini and Asinate, who all graduated with their Postgraduate Diploma of Theology at the end of 2023; the halfway point to graduating with their Master of Theology (MTh) at the end of this year!

Asinate and Amalaini both noted that one of their standout learnings from last semester was studying different interpretations of the books of Daniel and Revelation. They really enjoyed diving deeper into these parts of the Scripture and shifting their perspectives. Asinate said: “I realised through taking this course last semester that [Revelation] has more to do with the past and what the people of those contexts went through, rather than the future. The book of Revelation is not as scary as we were raised to believe.”

Outside of their studies, Asinate is enjoying being part of the Student Body Association and Amalaini is leading Bible studies for a local youth group most Sundays.

Toobora is currently at home in Kiribati due to delays with processing her and her son’s visas to return to Fiji after the Christmas holidays. She is persevering with her thesis writing from abroad and is in touch with her supervisors, but is wishing to return to the PTC campus as soon as possible.

Amalaini

Asinate

Toobora

Mela has been enjoying putting her learning into practice through her placement church assignment last semester. Mela explains: “These placement churches were meant for us to practically apply what we learned in the classroom, such as ways to serve people, house-to-house visitations, and approaches to talking to a man or woman who is willing to repent.”

Mela found this experience incredibly valuable.

“I have gained skills in approaching different age groups both in theory and in practice,” she said. “I plan to practically use these approaches to meet the spiritual needs of people of all genders, statuses, and races, and to help women with their spiritual needs.”

Mela

Luisa also had some eye-opening experiences in her Institutional Chaplaincy course last semester. As part of the course, she visited different institutions including the CWM Hospital, Naboro Prison, two high schools, Lelean Memorial School, and John Wesley College.

She reflected on her experiences saying, “I can say here that every course I took in my second semester of 2023 was an eye-opener to me. It helps me to know every little thing about the unique spiritual needs of people in the setting where the chaplain serves.”

Luisa

UnitingWorld visit to Suva

UnitingWorld held a Pacific Partner Learning Forum in mid-March in Suva, which saw around 35 people from across our Pacific partner churches meet in Fiji for five days of fellowship, sharing learnings, and shaping future priorities for their regional collaboration. The forum was held onsite at PTC, which allowed us to attend daily chapel and spend time with several staff members at PTC and, of course, the wonderful scholars!

Mia from UnitingWorld shared a meal with Amalaini, Asinate and Geraldine (pictured above) and had a tour of the PTC campus, which was wonderful. Unfortunately, Toobora was in Kiribati at the time.

Past Women in Ministry scholar, Pastor Leinamau from Vanuatu, attended part of the UnitingWorld forum. She is currently completing her PhD at PTC. It was great to reconnect with her and to have her valuable inputs into our conversations on Gender Equality and Child Protection within Pacific churches. UnitingWorld previously supported Pastor Leinamau to study a Master of Theology in 2018-19.

Mia with WiM scholars at PTC
Pastor Leinamau

International Program Manager – Climate and Disaster Resilience

Full-time, Sydney-based or remote

As our International Programs Manager and focal point for climate and disaster resilience, you will provide leadership within our program team around these thematic areas – supporting both colleagues and local partner organisations to strengthen capacity and deliver impactful programs.

You will also be the key relationship holder for UnitingWorld’s engagement in a number of strategic climate and/or disaster related consortia (including CAN DO and ACT Alliance) and manage the project and partnership cycle for related projects. As part of managing these partnerships, you will be responsible for the compliance and reporting requirements that come with grant funded projects. You will need to develop a strong understanding of partner’s context, strategic priorities and long-term objectives, and current capabilities, as well as the requirements and expectations of UW and our funders; to deliver the right outcomes.

See the post on Ethical Jobs for full details and to apply.