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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

Lent Event is inspired by a simple but powerful idea. That every one of us has a role to play in building a world free from poverty and injustice.

It’s especially true of the issue of climate change.

Climate change is worsening every threat to peace, security and human wellbeing in our world.

It’s going to take all of us, doing all we can, with all our hearts, to fight it.

We believe people of faith have a powerful role to play in taking meaningful climate action, as well as inspiring hope and courage to face the future.

Join us for Lent Event. 14 February – 28 March, 2024

Commit to 40 days of faithful action for God’s creation. Start wherever you’re at with a large or small sustainability challenge. Use it to fundraise to help vulnerable communities who are fighting to build resilience and mitigate climate impacts. Raise your voice.

Along the way, we’ll be considering the role of faith in caring for God’s creation through a series of short devotions and video interviews with our partners and theologians.

Here’s a little pitch video with the help from some of our partners sharing the world we want to see…

Sign up today and start inspiring others to join! www.lentevent.com.au

The second annual Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders’ Summit (PAELS) took place in December.

More than 70 young Christian leaders from across the Pacific and Australia came together for connection-building, leadership development and dialogue over a week-long program, coordinated by Micah Australia*.

As part of the program, delegates were hosted for worship services at Blacktown Regional Uniting Church and Campbelltown Uniting Church.

At Blacktown Uniting, President Elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Charissa Suli, gave a sermon that encouraged the young delegates to boldly share their stories and their authentic selves.

“Your advocacy and voices are critical in shaping a future where the dignity of all human life and God’s creation is recognised and celebrated,” she told them.

Delegates went on to two days of advocacy training and a day of meetings with more than 50 members of Parliament in Canberra, where they discussed key development priorities for young people and their communities.

Raúl Sugunananthan, Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly was one of those leaders. He spoke to us at Parliament House about the importance of community organising and political advocacy to make change. Watch what he shared below.

*UnitingWorld is a member of Micah Australia, a movement of Australian Christians to advocate on the most urgent global justice issues facing our world today – extreme poverty, rising conflict and climate change.

UnitingWorld’s Annual Report 2023 is now available.

We’re 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.

In an era of deepening crises and rapid transitions, UnitingWorld faithfully continues the work of partnering with churches in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. This work enables many to live with dignity and hope, and to realise their God-given potential in their communities.

The work of UnitingWorld is sustained by the love, prayers, and generosity of our supporters across Australia. Our donors have stood with us, funding our long-term programs, and digging deep to support emergency appeals.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our supporters and determination of our partners, in FY23 we reached 257,502 people with tangible benefits, across 27 projects in 12 countries with 22 partners. Our projects addressed poverty, gender equality and climate resilience, and supported stronger governance and management.

Thank you so much!

You can read more about your impact. Click here to read or download.

Wish your loved ones the hope, peace, joy and love of Christmas.

Sending our Christmas cards to your friends, family and loved ones is a great way to fight poverty, build hope and inspire others about the work of our overseas partners.

$15 for a pack of eight cards, with two of each design, and eight recycled paper envelopes. Each card design reflects a traditional Advent theme.

Order while stocks last!

Click here to order online

or call 1800 998 122 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri)

✅ Christmas greetings to your loved ones

✅ Send joy to the world

Fight poverty!

Christmas card sales represent a donation to UnitingWorld and are tax deductible in Australia.

 

New Everything in Common Catalogue 2023

Every Christmas, we release a catalogue of gifts that represent many of our projects with overseas partners. It’s called Everything in Common.

In it you can find great poverty-fighting gifts like goats, pigs, clean water, education and livelihood opportunities, as well as gifts that support gender equality and care for creation.

Shop online today!

 

Everything in Common is UnitingWorld’s gift catalogue, filled with gifts that fight poverty through health, education, leadership and income opportunities.

When people give Everything in Common gifts, it directly supports our projects helping people lead lives of dignity and hope.

You can help us make a big difference by becoming an Everything in Common Advocate and hosting a gift stall in your church, school or community group in the lead up to Christmas this year.

We’ll send you everything you need to help your community make a big difference.

Register Now: www.unitingworld.org.au/everythingincommon

Or for more information, reach out on 1800 998 122
or email Mardi at mardil@unitingworld.org.au

Since 2004, the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have worked in partnership with PNG’s seven mainline churches and their respective Australian partners to promote ‘holistic, inclusive, and sustainable development’ under the Church Partnership Program (CPP).

UnitingWorld and our partner, the the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG), have been part of the CPP since its beginning. It is now one of the longest ongoing projects of Australia’s aid program. The CPP supports churches to improve their capacity to deliver crucial health and education services, especially in rural and remote areas, as well as a broad range of activities in support of gender equality and social inclusion, peace and prosperity, and disaster risk reduction.

In 2004 it was acknowledged that half the health and education services in PNG were run by churches and church-based agencies. Today it’s closer to 70 percent!

As a result, the CPP’s new phase aims to shift the emphasis from a service delivery model to a social accountability model, recognising that the PNG government needs to be held responsible and that it needs to have the capacity to deliver vital services to its people.

“The new focus of the CPP is about empowering civil society to hold their government to account to provide the country’s health and education services,” said UnitingWorld Head of Programs Peter Keegan. “To do that requires the kind of broad-based collaboration that already exists between churches via the CPP.”

Peter joined other CPP member churches in Port Moresby recently for a two-day forum to “Rethink development in PNG through theological principles and effective governance”.

Speaking at the forum, the Australian High  Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Jon Philp reflected: “Church networks and activities are often seen as a lifeline for the country’s most remote and disadvantaged communities, and they are equally important to PNG’s growing urban population. The success of the Church Partnership Program relies on the reach and impact of this network, along with the collective commitment of the churches, government, the private sector, civil society, and other partners.”

United Church in PNG leading the way on gender equality and social inclusion

One of the remarkable successes of the CPP is that through the partnership, despite each of the seven church denominations in PNG having very different theological and organisational cultures and traditions, they are working together to change lives.

UCPNG is the lead agency on Gender Equality Theology and social inclusion within the CPP and is determined to keep this central to their church’s mission.

As PNG remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or girl, the task of shifting cultures of men’s violence is a huge, long-term challenge.

The CPP has a critical role to play. Representing 71 percent of the country’s Christian population, CPP member churches wield enormous social influence.

The current phase of the project aims to better leverage the influence of church leaders and increase the community outreach of churches to shift negative gender and social attitudes that are commonly held in PNG towards women, people with disabilities and other socially excluded groups.

Working with media partners, churches will be helped to develop media engagement strategies that enable them to engage multiple forms of media (print, radio, digital) more effectively to maximize the reach and influence of messages of gender equality and anti-violence.

The CPP will also be tracking changes to community attitudes to be able to demonstrate the impact. We’re excited to see the results!

Please pray for the vital mission of the Church Partnership Program as it enters its 20th year of faithful collaboration to improve lives and communities.

For more details on the new phase of the CPP in Papua New Guinea, visit www.unitingworld.org.au/projects/church-partnership-program

 

Photos: UCPNG staff at a recent workshop and talanoa on the impacts of gender-based violence in PNG.

 

The Church Partnership Program is supported by the Australian Government
through the Papua New Guinea–Australia Partnership.