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We’ve just been in touch with our partners from the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe and heard the very sad news that four ministers have died from COVID-19 in just a few short weeks.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing a second COVID-19 wave, with more cases in January than all of 2020 combined. Gathering for worship is currently suspended, which means congregations have no money to pay their staff or look after their members.

We’re using your gifts to respond immediately to these threats, as well as maintaining our funding for projects

    • Providing a small daily allowance to meet the critical needs of people without income who serve within the church
    • Providing personal protective equipment for people so they can continue to serve those in poverty
    • Helping ensure clean running water in our partner’s office so that leadership can stay safe to serve others.

Meanwhile, the longer term work of our partner MeDRA (Methodist Development and Relief Agency) is proving incredibly effective in shoring up people’s resilience during the pandemic.

We recently received this report from Mavis, describing the ways her training with MeDRA is relieving economic stress for her family.

My name is Mavis, I’m thirty-eight and  a member of an Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) group in a village in Gokwe South.

On a monthly basis, my group meets to assess our savings and share investment with each other, as we have been trained by MeDRA. As members we have been able to buy each other household utensils like pots, plates and cups, and at times we also share groceries.

With support from MeDRA, the group was advised to aim high and start investing money in more valuable assets. Equipped with the advice, the group changed its strategy in July 2020, and members were encouraged to invest in projects or buy high value assets that have good returns in the future.

When my turn came in the month of December, I received USD215 from the group. I had to consult my family on a project that would give us more benefit, while still being able to pay back the group loan.

As a family we settled for a broiler poultry project and with the loan from the group, I managed to start the project with seventy-five chicks. They matured into good broilers after six weeks and were bought like hot cakes. I am now doing a batch of 100 broilers per cycle.

The loan has helped to increase the family income and I can also pay back into the group loan. I sell at the local shopping centre to customers who come to the grinding mill or buy basic groceries at the shops. Access to the bigger Gokwe Town center has been limited by the lockdown regulations.

ISAL has opened doors for me to start a project on my own because my household income has been pushed to better levels. I get a lot of support from my family in looking after the broilers and collectively we participate in poultry management and the marketing of broilers. I get technical support from MeDRA and Agritex on how to look after the broilers.

Especially during this pandemic, I am so proud to be the owner of a project that is giving access to good income. I am no longer so worried about food security and school fees for my family, as my project can meet the expenses. For each batch of 100 broilers, I am managing to make a profit of USD 100. With proper guidance from the group and from MeDRA, I feel I can never go wrong in life. I look forward in expanding my enterprise by diversifying to other businesses like opening a Tuckshop that sells grocery items. Thank you for this opportunity!

PLEASE PRAY:

  • For the leadership of the Church in Zimbabwe, especially for those who have lost family members
  • For people like Mavis, who show such great resilience and courage
  • For Zimbabwe’s leadership as they struggle to combat new lethal variants of COVID-19 and source vaccinations.

 

Image: Mavis with some of her chickens – earlier in the month there had been a flock of 400!

Do you remember Paramjit, from Amritsar in India?

We bought you here story a few years ago as part of Lent Event. Watch it here!

A mother of four and the sole provider for her family, she was struggling to put food on the table until our partners, the Church of North India, offered her training to work in one of their education centres.

Paramjit grabbed the chance with both hands – and life dramatically improved. But where is she now? 

India has been through the throes of one of the world’s most serious outbreaks of COVID-19, and many families in the Amritsar region have relied on the church to bring them food during the lockdown. Over the past months, cases have dropped and work has now resumed where possible. Schools are back. And Paramjit? 

“Life is so much easier than it was five years ago, even though the pandemic has made things difficult for so many,” she told us. “I’m still working, my husband is around to support the family, and we are all happier now.”

It’s fantastic news considering everything they’ve been through.

“The Church has always been there for the community, not just spiritually but spreading information about the importance of education and helping children right through to graduation,” Paramjit told us. “During the Pandemic, they were there to help people survive with food, masks and sanitisers.”

Paramjit says her greatest hope is that she might be able to continue to reach people in the villages, and that others would have the same opportunity as she has had. She’s determined to use all the support she’s been given to help others.

COVID-19 threatens 150 million people just like Paramjit with a return to extreme poverty. Help us keep the good news stories coming – get on board with Lent Event this year and help our neighbours stay strong www.lentevent.com.au

 

Thanks to an exciting new partnership, you can now support our work by drinking great coffee!

As part of their commitment to creating a more just world, Brisbane-based coffee company Blackstar Coffee Roasters have agreed to donate 10% from each coffee subscription towards our projects in Timor-Leste! 

UnitingWorld supporters can also enjoy free delivery as well as a 10% personal discount on subscriptions.

AND for every kilogram of coffee sold, Blackstar will plant three trees here in Australia with Landcare and overseas through TREES.ORG.

If you’d like to try out the beans/grinds before signing up for a regular delivery, enjoy a sample pack with 30% discount.

Visit www.blackstarcoffee.com.au/pages/uw-offer and use the code: ????????? to order a subscription or sample pack with the discount.

While most of us love a good brew, you’re probably also aware that the farmers who supply the world’s coffee aren’t always well paid and the land on which they farm is sometimes not protected from clearing practices that damage the environment.

Where possible, Blackstar buys green beans directly from the coffee producers. Where that isn’t the case, they commit to only buy from importers that have a direct relationship with the farmers and cooperatives. Blackstar place a high value on community, environmental and specialty coffee projects funded and supported by their suppliers. You can find out more about their commitment to ethical coffee supplies and social justice by visiting their website here.

We’re really excited about this new partnership to fight poverty in Timor-Leste and hope the coffee fanatics out there are too!

Together we can make a big difference by making a little switch.

Order coffee today! CODE: UWC4TIMOR

Grow your networks and experience.

Serve church and community with your unique skills.

UnitingWorld is the agency of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) driving international church partnerships to address poverty, injustice and violence. It is funded by faithful supporters in the UCA and accredited to distribute aid funds from the Australian Government.

Our skills-based Board has oversight over governance and strategy and has membership drawn from a range of professional fields within and outside the UCA.

We’re looking for up to four passionate members of the UCA to join the team. 

Basic skills in governance and strategy are vital, but we are also looking for a rich diversity in life experience.

We are keen to attract people who reflect the social and cultural diversity of the communities we partner in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

Experience in international/community development, fundraising, finance and law are particularly valuable.

Click here for a full description of the opportunity.

Contact Dr Andrew Glenn, Chairperson of the UnitingWorld Board to express your interest.

andrewroderickglenn@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

The people of Fiji are bracing to be hit by Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa, a destructive category five super-storm in the Pacific.

General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Rev James Bhagwan has written today about what it means for his nation and the Pacific region.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa remains at Cat 5 and continues to track towards us bringing destructive winds, storm surges and swells in coastal areas of at least 10metres in height – probably more, and heavy rain and flooding.

The cyclone is coming in from the West and so will severely damage the Yasawa and Mamanuca island groups which are already struggling because of the collapse of the tourism industry. It is currently tracking to go between the two main islands and then down through the middle of the group. This is a huge system so Suva will take a bigger hit than in 2016 with Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, and as you know, the many squatter and informal settlements in the greater Suva area have very ill-constructed homes so this is a major worry. 

Yet our faith, our traditional knowledge and wisdom and experiences of the past keep us resilient. We have been expecting this weather since the early and abundant breadfruit season and prolonged mango season (see how God through His creation speaks to us and provides for us). 

Thank you for keeping us in prayers. It will be a tough Christmas. We really need to shift gear on Climate Change as these are all climate change induced extreme weather events. When we talk about loss and damage in climate negotiations – this is part of it. 

At times like this I question your government’s commitment to their Pacific family. How much of the support that will flow in after this cyclone in terms of relief is to their “Vuvale” Pacific Partnership and how much is a guilt offering on their failure to be the world leader they could be on climate change. 

It breaks my heart that the Pacific Church Partnership of DFAT will engage on many things but we are not able to leverage it on the urgent matter of climate change. Nevertheless we will remain the persistent widow until things change. 

We’re standing ready to support our partners the Methodist Church in Fiji in their emergency response and we’ll keep you informed about how you can help.

Please continue to hold Fiji in prayer as they make final preparations and lock down for the storm.

Header image: Boy living in an informal settlement near Suva, Fiji

The Uniting Church in Australia is a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

Thank you so much to all those who signed the pledge to urge the Australian Government to provide vital support to nations hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

You were among more than 25,000 Australians whose signatures were passed on to government to let them know we care about our neighbours. In the 2020-21 Budget announced in early October, the government committed $304.7 million of additional money for the Pacific and Timor-Leste to help them recover from COVID-19. This is critical assistance for nations whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic and a real win for the campaign you’ve been a part of. Thank you!

Your support and action has helped make announcements like these possible:

Micah Australia has released a video to say thank you and highlight the achievements of the campaign. Click the post below to share the good news!

“Together, we are showing what it’s like to be a generous nation and to step up,” said Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia.

“Together we are going to End COVID for ALL”

It’s critical that we keep speaking up for aid and collaborating for a more just world in these challenging times.

Thank you for standing with us.

The End Covid for All campaign is an initiative of Micah Australiaa coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty. Click here to visit the campaign homepage.

Our partners, the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG), have been running a successful behaviour change campaign for many years, teaching thousands of people about the importance of clean water and good hygiene. When the pandemic hit Papua New Guinea, they were ready to expand this work to include COVID-19 awareness and prevention, and they’ve been out in force educating communities about the threats of COVID-19 and the importance of regular hand washing.

With the permission of the PNG Government, over the past six months the UCPNG team (along with volunteer change agents) have:

  • educated 14,500 people on best practice water hygiene and sanitation
  • distributed 687 pamphlets, 2505 posters, six banners and 3840 bars of soap
  • worked with 11 congregations, 14 communities and six schools along the East Cape Coast

A team of three theologians also shared COVID-19 safety messages to help people understand this and other disasters from a theological perspective. One of them was Kerron, a recent Master of Theology graduate of Raronga Theological College. “Every home now is implementing the tippy tap approach to wash hands in the villages we visited, church seats are marked a metre apart and masks are sewn by women to help with schools and public,” said Kerron.

Thank you for supporting the work of our partners UCPNG and helping them make a huge impact in their communities!

 

The United Church in PNG Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

 

 

 

 

 

Header image: A Volunteer with UCPNG’s ‘Rait Mama’ behaviour change campaign.

Australia’s recent experience of lockdowns, home schooling and economic downturn have been tough. How do these things play out in places where cases of COVID-19 continue to grow? We talked to one of our partners, Om Prakash (OP) in Amritsar, India, to find out.

UW: What’s the situation in India at the moment OP? We’ve been hearing that maybe the cases have peaked?

OP: Yes, we feel a little hopeful. We had up to 90,000 cases a day a few weeks ago but numbers have dropped in the last two weeks. The rate of testing is still not high enough though and we are very worried about winter coming.

UW: What’s happening with the lockdown? How much has opened back up?

OP: Pretty much all parts of society are open again except for colleges and schools. This is a big danger period for us with shops and malls operating again, but still many people don’t wear the masks, and it’s hard to enforce. But there has been such an economic impact, we can’t afford the lockdown. Many, many people have no work, no income, no food.

UW: What government services are available to help people survive and recover?

OP: Workers and other vulnerable people registered with the government have been allowed a small pension during the pandemic. Two payments of 3000 rupees ($A57.00) have come through. But the problem is that most people are not registered. There is very low awareness in the community of the social services that are available, and people don’t know how to go about getting registered.

UW: That’s a huge challenge! How has your team responded?

OP: Even before the pandemic, we were running education workshops with communities to help people get registered for support. We still do that but we have to be smart and careful about social distancing. We do more door-to-door than in groups, and we use posters and social media. Our main practical impact right now is in education. School is online, but most families don’t have a smart phone to use for their children – there might be only one in each family. Our study centres are allowed to open even though schools can’t and so our staff are helping children who wouldn’t otherwise have access online to keep up with their schooling. Government teachers are in contact with our staff to provide resources; we’re even helping students sit their exams this way. Without these centres, so many children would have lost almost a year of their education, maybe even more.

UW: It’s an incredible role to play – and the church has also been providing income generating opportunities for parents?

OP: Yes, we started with sewing masks and women were gaining skills and some cash to buy food. We have a huge order about to go out to a Motorcycle Rally we have planned for the city to raise awareness about COVID-19 safety protocols. But we have also been helping women make and sell paper bags – plastic bags were due to be made illegal last year right across India because of the environmental impact, but that didn’t end up happening. We’re still committed to providing an alternative and an income opportunity at the same time.

UW: OP, your team’s commitment and innovation is really inspiring! We’re praying for you all.

OP: Please pass on my love and thanks to UnitingWorld and to the people of the Uniting Church in Australia. We are very grateful for your prayers and your investment in our work.

 

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and this year it’s especially important.

Global progress on ending poverty is one of the greatest human achievements of our time.

Since 1999, nearly a billion people have escaped extreme poverty. At the beginning of 2020, the global poverty rate was lower than it has ever been in recorded history.

That progress is now under threat.

The pace of change has been slowing in recent years and now the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing those decades of progress.

More than 700 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, still live in extreme poverty today and the World Bank recently estimated up to 150 million more people could be added by 2021.

“COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis that is far from over,” said UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe.

“The pandemic is pushing more people into poverty and vulnerability every day. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a reminder that we all have a role to play.”

The theme for 2020 is ‘Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all, and it aims to highlight the dimensions of poverty beyond income deprivation, including the rapidly growing impact of the environment. A more holistic approach is needed (like what our Pacific partners are creating for their context).

“No one should be deprived of what they need to live with dignity and each of us can choose to work together to create a fairer, more sustainable world for all,” said Dr Goringe.

Some ways to take action:

 

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been marked on 17 October since 1992. Learn more.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and UnitingWorld have joined Christian organisations around the world to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people and call attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines.

The VIC/TAS Synod is running a letter-writing campaign and has released a helpful resource with background information on the situation on the Philippines, who you can write to and helpful information to include in your letters.

Click here to read more and write a letter.

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer is encouraging UCA members to join the campaign, and has also written to the Philippines Ambassador in Australia and to Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne about the issue.


Context

Following a global virtual meeting convened by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and International Ecumenical Convocation for the Defense of Human Rights, a ‘Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines’ was drafted.

The statement highlights serious ongoing human rights violations that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A militarized response to the COVID-19 pandemic … has unravelled lingering social inequalities and has further deepened economic misery in the country,” reads the statement.

“The proliferation of extrajudicial killings, including the killing of thousands of people under a so-called ‘war on drugs’, is reprehensible. We are concerned that a general climate of impunity has been synergized with the Philippine president’s unabashed incitement to violence and regular calls for state forces to punish legitimate dissent by the citizenry.”

The statement is also a call for international solidarity and a commitment to action.

“Continuing violations of human rights under the COVID-19 pandemic … accentuate the urgent need for intensified accompaniment and solidarity from Church formations and people of goodwill within and outside the Philippines,” the statement reads.

“In continuation of our historic commitment as faith-based bodies within the wider ecumenical community worldwide to peace, justice and the integrity of creation, we hereby join to keep watch and bear witness to the hopes and struggles of the Filipino people.”

“We call for an end to these killings. We stand with the Filipino citizenry in denouncing state impunity and the wanton display of violence and brutality by state forces.”

Read full statement.

Our partner, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), is among the many civil society organisations routinely targeted for their human rights and social justice work.

In July this year UCCP’s Rev. Dan San Andres Sr, known as a human rights defender, was arrested a week after the passing of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act.

UCCP mission workers in Davao who have provided sanctuary to displaced indigenous peoples since 1994 had their building raided and closed earlier this year. They are now facing a series of outrageous charges instigated by the government anti-insurgency agency, the National Task Force to End Localized Communist Armed Conflict.

In August last year, 51-yr-old UCCP Pastor Ernesto Javier Estrella was gunned down by men on motorcycles in Antipas, Cotabato Province without an apparent motive. Investigations focused on whether he was assassinated for alleged ties with “left-leaning groups.”

Please pray for and end to the violence and persecution, our church partners and all those working for peace and justice in the Philippines.