Rev John Yor Nyker, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) was recently asked the question, “what does transformative partnership mean to you?” His response gave us some insight into the value that he and his church place on their international partnerships.
“Transformative partnership means many things for me. It means learning new things and new culture from others, which is part of strengthening relationship and friendship between partners and our church. It’s caring for others; sharing each other’s happiness and unhappiness, sadness and joy. When the war broke out in South Sudan, our brothers and sisters in Christ’s service were shedding tears for us.
It is not resources that make partnership. Partnership is the ministry, the Kingdom of God through prayers for each other. Partnership is learning, making friendships and sharing of ideas and opinions. It is learning about the global world … learning how to pass [on] the information about your culture and your way of life. It is important to establish partnership as a part of human life.”
Photo: Rev John Yor eating a melting Tim Tam brought to South Sudan from Australia
UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports our partners, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), to train ministers and lay leaders and equip them with the tools they will need to teach reconciliation and peacebuilding skills in families and between tribal groups throughout South Sudan. Read more | Meet the peacemakers of South Sudan (video)
UnitingWorld hosted its annual ﬁve-day workshop on Gender Equality Theology in early November.
Led by Pacific theologians Rev Dr Cliff Bird and Siera Bird, ministers from partner churches across the Pacific met in Nadi, Fiji, to wrestle with biblical themes of equality and anti-violence. They discussed how principles from the Bible can be powerful forces for positive change in their communities, where violence against women continues to be a significant problem.
Participants expressed their appreciation for what they learned throughout the week and committed to taking the knowledge back to their home churches.
“The teaching tools have given me more clarification for deeper biblical analysis and identifying the root-causes of social issues,” said Rev Tomasi Tarabe, New Testament lecturer at the Davuilevu Theological College in Suva.
“I hope UnitingWorld continues to work with Pacific theologians on developing a methodology of reading and interpreting the Bible through our cultural lens.”
Participant Victoria Kavafolau, a theology student and newly appointed head of the Women’s Desk for the Tonga National Council of Churches, spoke about how her expectations for the event were turned around.
“Before I participated in the Gender Equality Theology workshop, I thought ‘oh, this is just another program advocating women’s rights.’ To be proven wrong was an understatement… Not only did it raise awareness about violence against women and children, but the workshop provided tools and resources for theologically interpreting and identifying gender equality within Scripture and how we can apply that to our relevant contexts,” said Victoria.
“This is an important area within our respective Oceania communities to be addressed and enriched. We are in a different era now with different worldviews and contexts. Our cultural values and customs often deter us from developing further perspectives on gender equality.
This program has impacted me at a personal level and has encouraged me to address this growing issue within my Tongan community. With the aid of UnitingWorld and the tools and resources they have provided me, hopefully change can be implemented according to the will of God. Praise be to God.”
The Partnering Women for Change project is supported by the Australian Government through the Paciﬁc Women Program.
Photo: Victoria Kavafolau (right) with UnitingWorld Program Manager Megan Calcaterra and Rev Lima Tura, a previous UnitingWorld scholarship recipient who is now a lecturer at Seghe Theological Seminary in the Solomon Islands. Photo credit: Megan Calcaterra.
UnitingWorld welcomes the ‘Shaping the Path’ report on the prevention of sexual misconduct by ACFID members released today.
As a member of ACFID, UnitingWorld supported the commissioning of the Independent Review on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and participated in the review and interview processes.
While UnitingWorld had no reportable incidents, National Director Dr Sureka Goringe says UnitingWorld endorses all the recommendations made by the report.
The final report today found that of the 76 incidents reported by ACFID agencies, there were 31 substantiated sexual misconduct cases involving aid workers over a three-year period.
“As an agency committed to preventing harm to vulnerable people; those we serve, our partners and staff, we look forward to working with ACFID on implementing the 31 recommendations in the report,” said Dr Goringe.
“While we already have strong processes for preventing sexual misconduct, we are committed to learning from this review and improving our practices.”
“We want to echo the words of ACFID CEO Marc Purcell, that any case of sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable. Our sector must do better.”
UnitingWorld’s current prevention measures include: a complaints process that makes it easy for people to report misconduct; strong training and compliance processes for managing staff behaviour; regular surveys of our staff and partners providing an anonymous complaints process for discovering any issues or misconduct early; strong screening process for hiring staff, police checks and requiring a Working With Children Check; and a Code of Conduct that is included in the ‘ACFID Good Practice Toolkit’ as an example of good practice. Our staff receive refresher training and re-sign in the Code annually. We also require our Board, partners, volunteers and contractors to sign and be bound by the Code.
We do not send Australian-based staff overseas for long periods of time and instead work in close, long-standing partnerships with local churches.
Our close and vibrant relationships with our partner churches allow us to facilitate regional trainings with local staff about the Code of Conduct, compliance requirements and processes for reporting sexual misconduct. Our close partnerships also allow us to have clear and frank discussions about expectations for implementing the Code of Conduct across church-based partner organisations.
In addition, UnitingWorld regularly runs regional workshops in collaboration with local church partners and theologians to promote gender equity and address gendered power dynamics, an issue identified in the report as one requiring improvement across the sector.
UnitingWorld remains committed transparency, accountability and constant improvement of our systems to prevent sexual misconduct.
If you have any questions about the AFID report or UnitingWorld’s processes for preventing sexual misconduct please do not hesitate to contact us.
UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. We connect people and communities in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa to work together for a world where lives are whole and hopeful, free from poverty and injustice.Find out more.
UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe has responded to the Prime Minister’s recent pledge of $3 billion towards infrastructure investments in the Pacific.
“We welcome calls to strengthen Australia’s partnership with the Pacific but we are cautious about the motives and the means,” said Dr Goringe.
“Ramping up investment to out-bid China for influence in the region should not take priority over sustainable community development.”
UnitingWorld echoes the words of ACFID CEO Marc Purcell, who notes the large number of existing lenders to the Pacific and many Pacific nations already suffering debt distress.
We recall the Christian-led Jubilee 2000 movement in the 1990’s to cancel crippling dept that kept states in poverty for more than a decade.
“If a step-up means an overburden of debt in the Pacific, it would be a huge step back. Especially considering the disaster-prone volatility of the Pacific region and the increasing impacts of climate change,” said Dr Goringe.
There are also concerns about lack of consultation with Pacific leaders and omission of climate change in the initiatives outlined by the PM.
The government’s own Foreign Policy White Paper in 2017 committed Australia to work in partnership with governments in the Pacific to respond to climate change, bolster resilience, strengthen emergency responses and improve governance, education, health and gender outcomes.
“True partnership is mutual and multilateral – more basically, it listens to the concerns of other parties before acting,” said Dr Goringe.
“We hope the Prime Minister’s ‘Pacific family’ rhetoric plans to meet the road at some point.”
UnitingWorld launched an appeal this week to support local churches in Sulawesi who are responding to the crisis with emergency shelters, food, water, clothing and fuel.
Our partner organisation, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) has been coordinating the emergency response activities of their member churches in Sulawesi: the Indonesia Protestant Church in Donggala (Gereja Protestan Indonesia di Donggala – GPID) and the Protestant Church in Central Sulawesi (Gereja Kristen Sulawesi Tengah, GKST).
Initial funds raised by the Tsunami Crisis Appeal have now been sent to support relief work coordinated by PGI. More funds are urgently needed.
Local churches act quickly
Immediately after the crisis, churches in non-affected areas around Donggala began collecting donations and emergency supplies to take to Palu and coastal areas that were hit. Travel was near impossible for days because roads were destroyed by the earthquake.
The GKST quickly opened an emergency shelter in one of their high school buildings near Palu. Relief efforts are being coordinated by three local ministers. They report that the people being served at the centre have been so traumatised by aftershocks that they prefer to sleep outside the buildings.
Many GKST and GPID buildings have now become emergency centres being used by church leaders and volunteers. They are asking for supplies and medical aid. The PGI is preparing to send a health team from Jakarta to support the emergency centres.
UnitingWorld partner church, the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor (GMIT) also has a presence in Palu through their development organisation, Tanaoba Lais Manekat (TLM), which has been running a large-scale microfinance project there for many years.
Up to 4,000 of their clients have now lost their homes and many gains made by the project have been lost. TLM staff in Palu have nonetheless been at the forefront of the disaster response work in their community.
(Below photos via TLM)
TLM staff and volunteers resting in a makeshift shelter
Road damage has severely restricted relief efforts
70,000 people have been made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami
More aid needed
We are continuing to work with our partners on rapid needs assessments and determining how to best support them in the short and long term. They have indicated the initial needs they are aiming to address are food, water, clothes, fuel for transport and cooking; tents for refugees and help with burials.
Your donation will support local churches to help and serve their communities.
They’re the first words we learn, wherever we happen to be travelling in the world. Hello, and thank you. Sometimes, it’s all we’ve got. All we need.
Our work takes us to places where we might expect only suffering and hopelessness, and yet what we meet time and again is gratitude. Gratitude from people who are thankful beyond belief for opportunities they never thought they’d be given; a chance to study their way out of hunger; a toilet built with their own hands.
“Please tell them thank you – thank you for helping us, even though they don’t know who we are.”
The words are spoken with a kind of holy wonder. These are families who look after one another with a fierce love, but the idea that people in countries far away know and love them too is another thing altogether.
For us, gratitude leaps the banks and spills both ways. A smiling mother cooks us corn from her garden and we sit to eat with her husband, father and five children. Later, we find out she has gifted us everything she had to feed her family for the week. Tears in his eyes, a Pastor shares a story of the love that led him back to care for his church, even after feeling a loaded gun against his temple. A child slips her hand into ours and sticks close, her smile a mile-wide. She has never seen anyone with skin like ours before. In these moments, we’re not the powerful dispensers of donations and resources and knowledge. We’re just sharing the goodness of what it is to be alive; the grace of life in all its messiness and small mercies.
“In all things, give thanks.” Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica have as much relevance today as they did two thousand years ago. Gratitude transforms our daily lives as we concentrate on all that is good and gifted rather than all that wearies us and wears us down.
To each of you, we give our thanks.
In the past 12 months together, we have reached hundreds of thousands of people with the practical love of Christ, providing:
Training to leaders of God’s church
Clean water and education to save lives
Loans to start small business
Emergency shelter, counselling and respite in disaster
Thank you for your love and prayers. We remain grateful for the faith that binds us together as we continue to work towards the world we all long for.
In the wake of the devastation of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has called on UCA members to pray for the people of the Philippines and our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
Dr Palmer has written the below prayer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
God of mercy and comfort,
We pray for the people of the Philippines, whose lives, homes, food and water supplies and sources of income have been devastated by the impacts of Typhoon Mangkhut.
We pray for comfort for all those who are grieving, for those who have lost families and friends and whose communities have been severely impacted.
We pray for strength and support for all those responding to this disaster.
We pray for our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
Thank you for their faithful and compassionate embodiment of your Gospel as they respond to the needs of those aﬀected by the Typhoon.
May they know your sustaining love and our solidarity with them as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Through Christ we pray,
UCCP has asked for support from their international partners. Your donation will make a huge difference, helping provide essential food and relief supplies to struggling families, many who’ve lost everything in the landslides.
UnitingWorld’s Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll and Marcus Campbell have contributed chapters in the recently published ‘Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South.’
One of the key transformations affecting global Christianity today is the shift of the ‘centre majority’ to the Global South, where Christian faith thrives.
The (imperfect) classification ‘Global South’ includes about two thirds of the world’s population, many of whom have less-developed or severely limited resources.
The two-volume Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South is a huge resource on the study of contemporary world Christianity, with a focus on regions and themes that reflect its actual geographical distribution.
Rev Dr Carroll contributed an entry entitled, ‘Feminism and Christianity,’ highlighting the ways localised forms of feminism have inspired and empowered women in much of the Global South.
She writes on the critical and unique contribution of women theologians to understanding “women’s multiple oppressions and their secondary and subservient role in church and society;” how Christianity is understood in the Global South alongside different indigenous religions; and how the Bible “inspires active involvement in the struggle towards a renewed church and transformed world.”
Marcus Campbell contributed the entry on the Indonesian provinces of West Papua and Papua, drawn from his recently completed thesis on the role of religion in peace and conflict there.
His entry charts the history of Christianity in West Papua, as well as the inspiring legacies of the indigenous Church in peacebuilding, nonviolence and grassroots human rights work.