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Methodist Church in Fiji Circuit Minister, Rev Uluilakeba Ligiraki, was one of 26 leaders who attended a workshop on Gender Equality Theology, run by the church in partnership with  UnitingWorld.

He found the training confronting, challenging his whole perspective about gender and what the Bible has to say about positive human relationships.

“I used to have the perspective of male‑dominant rule in the family, and issues of gender were confronting to me, but after the workshop my perspective of seeing things changed,” said Rev  Ligiraki.

“It drastically changed my thoughts and behaviour. Before, I used to see household chores as female work but now my wife is happy to see me helping her out in washing the dishes, ironing my children’s uniforms in the morning, cooking and other little tasks. My wife has spoken to me about the changes that she has seen in my life, and [that] she is happy about it. I really thank God for that.”

This change of perspective has also become a part of his preaching and work as a Circuit Minister.

“I now view violence against women as one of the most important issues to address especially in the church. I am doing it through preaching, teaching and talanoa sessions,” Rev Ligiraki said.

“Women in the church have now positively voiced out their opinions and men are willing to accept to hear from them in a respectable manner. That wasn’t the norm before in the circuit that I now serve.”

Photo: Methodist Church in Fiji Gender Equality Theology (GET) Minister, Rev Noa Turaganivalu presents Circuit Minister Rev Uluilakeba Ligiraki with his GET Advocate and Trainer certificate.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our appeal to help our church partners end family violence through Gender Equality Theology. At time of writing, we’re just over two thirds of the way to reaching our $90,000 goal.

If you’re inspired by the work of the Pacific Church, please support their mission by visiting www.unitingworld.org.au/endviolence

It has been a busy year for our three Women in Ministry scholarship program students: Rev Geraldine, Daphney and Rev Susana. All three are studying post-graduate degrees at Pacific Theological College (PTC) in Suva, Fiji.

Rev Geraldine is continuing her PhD and is expecting to graduate at the end of 2023. Daphney and Rev Susana are on track to graduate with a Master of Theology at the end of 2022. It rounds off this part of their journey, which had the extra challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of it. Please keep them in your prayers as they celebrate their accomplishments and trust in God’s call on their lives. We look forward to seeing how their gifts enrich churches across the Pacific in the future.

If you want to support this project, find out more here.

Student spotlight: Daphney

Daphney (pictured above) handed in her thesis in September and awaits her final results. Her thesis topic is “Wantok Justice: a community approach to ministry towards women’s rights issues for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG”.

After completing her Masters, Daphney’s goal is to work with the people (including women and children) either on the ground or teaching contextual ministry for justice to help Pacific communities adapt and become resilient in a changing world through the teachings of Jesus.

Outside of her studies, Daphney is a member of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat group, engaging in the Pacific Ecumenical Youth spaces, regional workshops, community work, advocacy campaigns, and webinars. She is also a passionate campaigner against deep sea mining in the Pacific.

What have you been working on during your final semester?

This year my studies focused on thesis writing, so I did not take any classes but attended seminars and public lectures on missiology and academic research (critical thinking, critical reading, academic writing, critical analysis, etc.). I have learned something new on missiology and the inter-cultural translation of ancient texts and academic research and skills.

Was there anything that you learned that has challenged you?

Every day at PTC is a new learning experience; the seminar conversations around indigenous theology of whole of life and leadership for justice challenges my worldview of justice, rights, and my responsibility towards others within the household of God.
What I’ve been learning has helped me in writing my thesis towards a community approach to navigate injustices against women and protect the human dignity of women in our communities.

As a woman studying theology, who inspires you?

My grandparents are my biggest inspiration, the blessings of their humble evangelism work throughout the Morobe, Gulf, and Highland regions of Papua New Guinea is seen in our families every day. Listening to the stories of their evangelism work as a child I became curious as I grew up, wanting to know more about the work they do and the interesting stories of them walking thousands of miles to help German and American missionaries teach God’s word to the people of PNG. The stories of my grandfather observing tribes, clans and villages, and learning their language in order to adapt to the rhythm of life of these communities was fascinating. My grandfather did not go to a formal education system but he used instinct and his little knowledge at the Bible school to contextualise learning for the PNG communities.

He thought about God in the context of the people. His ability to contextualise theology and apply it in his ministry practices has inspired me to study theology and write a thesis on contextual church ministry for justice for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG. The strong will, courage, endurance and patience of my grandmothers, who have closely walked beside their husbands in this evangelism work, has inspired me to be strong-willed, courageous, endure, persevere, and patient in the process of research and writing.

Do you have a message for the Uniting Church?

My heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving to God for the Uniting Church in Australia’s generosity in not only supporting me financially with my studies but for supporting women theologians across Oceania. I pray for God’s blessing and grace upon the Uniting Church in Australia as it continues its ministry to support and help more women become theologians and leaders in their churches.

Prayer Requests from Daphney

  • The PTC community as we are going through the transition into a university come 2024.
  • Pray for one of our PTC community members, Rev Taniela Ratawa, and their family. The Reverend’s wife has been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and has gone through her 4th chemo cycle.
  • Pray for the ecumenical community especially church leaders in Oceania who attended the World Council of Churches Assembly.
  • Daphney’s mother, Geac, sadly passed away in early October. Please pray for the family during this time.

Rev Susana

Rev Susana hopes to continue on to a PhD. Her dream is to be the first iTaukei woman to achieve a Doctorate degree in Theology. She said:

“I thank the Uniting Church for supporting and assisting me for the two years of my studies. Thanks for the heart of giving and I hope God will continue to bless the Uniting Church.”

Prayer requests from Rev Susana

  • Pray for my new posting for next year
  • Pray for my family

Rev Geraldine

In September, UnitingWorld hosted a Zoom conversation (or talanoa) with Rev Geraldine and supporters of Women in Ministry. We had 25 people join us from 10 different communities that directly support Women in Ministry. Project Manager Tanya interviewed Geraldine, which was followed by questions and a short time of prayer. It was a great evening and very inspiring to hear Geraldine’s story and passion for her work. If you would like to watch the interview section, the video is now available.

Prayer requests from Rev Geraldine

  • Please pray for my studies and family.
  • Please pray for my new supervisor, Rev Dr Afereti Uili, to help him understand my thesis and guide me throughout my writing.

Our church partners in Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Solomon Islands are reaching out in faith to shift community norms and behaviours that allow or excuse family violence, to prevent it long before it has the chance to happen. They are doing it using the heart language of the Pacific, where upwards of 90% of people identify with a Christian faith.

Since 2012, we’ve been supporting our Pacific partners in a unique and powerful approach, addressing the root causes and breaking cycles of violence that go back generations, through gender equality theology.

The results are incredible. There’s exciting change happening in our partner churches: hearts moved, lives transformed away from violence, families and communities made safer. Read more

Here, some of our partners share about the impact of gender equality theology in their lives and communities.

And you can see it for yourself! Download our Gender Equality Theology Resource Pack here.

We need your support to continue this life-changing work.

This program was previously supported by the Australian Government, but the grant expired in 2021. Your support will help us continue this powerful and unique work to end family violence, led by our Pacific partners. We hope to raise $90,000 to keep it going strong. 

Donate now

Mereani Nawadra, Methodist Church in Fiji and Pacific Conference of Churches

“What does peace mean to me as a woman? Peace is gender equality. Peace is education. Peace is freedom from violence and oppression. Peace is being able to walk on the streets of Suva without the fear of being sexually harassed or assaulted.”

Pastor Lima Tura, United Church in the Solomon Islands (centre)

“90% of people in the Solomon Islands believe in God. When a message about women comes from the Bible, their eyes are open, they feel it has more weight. And that’s why we will see a reduction in gender-based violence and increased respect for women in our society.”

Pastor Nippy Aiong, Presbyterian Church Vanuatu

“Many people don’t believe until they study the Bible notes we make [on gender equality] and then they say, ‘Oh! There is something here for us!’ And they are accepting women as equals. I cannot tell you what a change this is for us.”

Rev Dr Cliff Bird, United Church in the Solomon Islands

“Statistics on violence against women and girls and children are shocking… they must lead [us] to actions that counter the evil head on. It is people who construct cultures, it is also people who can and must change cultures that dehumanise and deny certain groups of people their God-given humanity, dignity and equality.”

Bairenga Kirabuke, Kiribati Uniting Church

“Rates of violence are too high, and people need to choose a more peaceful way. It starts with small things: men being more helpful, sharing the load, considering others. That can be a good first step. I hope we can take the message of Gender Equality Theology to all the outer islands of Kiribati.”

Religious and caste discrimination is one of the leading causes of poverty and social exclusion in India. This has prevented access to basic services, including education, health facilities and other government services and schemes for large sections of society.

UnitingWorld supports the Church of North India’s Diocese of Durgapur and Diocese of Amritsar, to run study centres for children of vulnerable families. The projects operate in the urban slums and tribal villages of West Bengal and in Amritsar near the Pakistani border.

In Durgapur, skills training is also offered to marginalised women and farmers to build livelihoods and provide communities with access to and information about government services and schemes.

In Amritsar, the project also seeks to empower people from marginalised communities to advocate for their rights and entitlements and support women to generate income.

The result of this project is empowered, organised, educated and healthy communities, who are involved in local governance and capable of accessing government services and schemes.

Good news from 2021-2022

In Durgapur, over 3000 people were directly impacted by this work. This included:

  • 365 parents/carers took part in seminars on the importance of childhood education
  • 441 children took part in non-formal education and alternative education pathways
  • 585 people were helped through community health and wellbeing programs, including nutrition, infection control, and access to health care
  • 262 people received better access to essential medicines, health services and commodities
  • 2846 men and women gained access to various livelihoods and social empowerment schemes and services.

In Amritsar, over 7000 people were directly impacted by this work in the last financial year, including:

  • 954 children attending study centres received remedial education from trained teachers
  • 1400 parents attending monthly meetings on their children’s education, encouraging and motivating parents to keep their children in school
  • 425 adolescent children gained awareness on the value of higher education and increased knowledge in career options
  • 140 teenagers attended career guidance camps to help them identify future education and career opportunities
  • 28 teachers participating in training to strengthen teaching skills
  • More than 1200 people accessed their first COVID-19 vaccine
  • 2070 people participated in sessions on health and hygiene
  • 765 people were trained in how to access government services and schemes
  • 97 women involved in self-help groups accessed training on financial management and income generation

Work has also been done to help the Diocese of Amritsar strengthen their organisational systems and processes. The assessment was undertaken by a very helpful local agency.

You can read personal stories from our church partners here on our website.[/vc_column_text]

2022-23 plans

Both the Durgapur and Amritsar projects are changing to reflect new needs of their communities. Some of the activities that will be undertaken in the 2022-23 financial year include:

  • Supporting 467 children in Durgapur and 920 children in Amritsar to continue their studies, including providing healthy snacks, remedial education and training teachers.
  • Capacity building of staff and study centre teachers.
  • Supporting women’s self help groups to build skills and livelihoods.
  • Raising awareness among communities of available government services and schemes, through community workers, notice boards and Village Development Committees.
  • Supporting these communities and community leaders through advocacy, training and leadership development to advocate for the rights and entitlements of their community.

The Durgapur project also supports daily wage labourers and other migrant workers to set up and improve farming practices, building food security and income and enabling them to stay with their families. Vocational training is planned for teenagers to improve their career options.

The project is working to improve disability inclusion. So far, disability analyses have identified 40 people with disabilities in the villages. The project design process will include consulting with local Disabled Persons Organisations, as well as specialists in addressing violence against women.

In Amritsar, the key work continues but with a focus on sustainability and community ownership of the project. Local communities will, of course, need to be supported in a transition to make sure this great work continues without extra support from our partners or UnitingWorld. To no longer be needed is the goal of most projects we work on. The Amritsar project is also increasing their focus on teenagers to support them (as well as encourage their parents to support them) to pursue higher education and career goals.

Thank you for your partnership.

Recently we were privileged to share a zoom conversation with Rev Geraldine, one of the PhD students supported by UnitingWorld’s Women in Ministry project. The recording is now available to view (below) if you missed the call, or would like to watch it again.

Rev Geraldine is awesome!

You can find out more about this project here or make a donation here.

After a fire ripped through Glebe Road Uniting Church in Ipswich, QLD, the congregation did not expect to receive help from people in one of the poorest nations in our region.

In May this year, a fire caused extensive damage to Glebe Road Uniting Church’s auditorium, initially forcing the congregation to meet at other Uniting Churches in the Ipswich area.

Glebe Road Uniting has maintained a partnership with Ekaristi Church in Dili, Timor-Leste since 2011. Even before that, they were building a relationship with our partner, the Protestant Church in Timor-Leste (IPTL). Through the partnership, Glebe Road Uniting has built strong relationships through exchange opportunities, allowing members of each church to experience the life, faith and community of the other. They also generously fundraise to support UnitingWorld projects with partners in Timor-Leste and beyond.

After the fire, Glebe Road member and UnitingWorld Ambassador Noel Rothery shared pictures of the damage to his friend Soffian at Ekaristi Church via WhatsApp. Soffian offered prayerful support in return. “That was really appreciated, as we were all coming to terms with the impact that the fire would have on our community life,” said Noel.

A few days later, to his amazement, Noel received a call from Soffian who told him that Ekaristi Church, along with its small school and kindergarten, had pooled funds and decided to send USD $2,300 (about AUD $3,600) to Glebe Road Uniting to assist in the rebuilding process.

Noel was quite emotional about such a sacrificial gift from friends who have so little. He acknowledged the gift was made in response to the need of the Glebe Road congregation, but also as an act of appreciation for the support Ekaristi Church has received through the partnership over the last ten years.

“They have always given back to us from their hearts in love,” said Noel. “Their faith in God and his provision for them is evident in their willingness to share what little they have.” “Our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Timor-Leste has never been one way. What a privilege it is to walk side by side with them.”

Read more about the partnership between Glebe Road Uniting and Ekaristi Church: www.gleberd.com.au/team-timor

 

Relationship between Glebe Rd Uniting in Ipswich and Ekaristi Church in Dili – “What a privilege it is to walk side by side with them”

Growing up, Rev Noa Turaganivalu had a typical life for a boy in Fiji.

He was raised in a rural village on a small, remote island, played a lot of rugby and went away to a boarding school (where he played more rugby). And as the only son in a family of six, he was always regarded as ‘first’ and ‘above’ his three sisters.

“It’s been a cultural and traditional norm for the male to come first and be at the top of everything we do. That’s how I was raised. … I was taught that being a man meant to be strong, and women were inferior to men,” says Rev Noa.

It is no secret that such norms can be a factor in the prevalence of violence against women everywhere. In the Pacific, where the vast majority of people identify as Christian, Pacific churches have a huge role to play in ending violence.

Today Rev Noa is an ordained minister and, supported by UnitingWorld, is a champion of gender equality for the Methodist Church in Fiji (MCIF). But it’s been a long journey to where he is now, Rev Noa admits.

The patriarchal mentality he grew up with continued into his marriage.

“Back then I tried to take ownership of my wife. I was abusive and she can tell many stories of how I used to treat her,” Rev Noa says.

The journey to change for Rev Noa started at theological college but wasn’t fully developed until he was confronted by the theology of gender equality expressed by Solomon Islander theologians Rev Dr Cliff Bird and Rev Siera Bird, and others.

Before embracing his post as Gender Equality Theology (GET) Minister for MCIF, Rev Noa spent an entire year grappling with the gender equality Bible studies and other resources, first reading and meditating on the ideas, and then starting to enact them in his life.

“As I looked deep into the theology, it was something that transformed me: The way I see the world, the way I see my wife and my children and the way I see others,” says Rev Noa.

“When we go out from the right interpretation of the Bible, that men and women were created in the image and likeness of God, that does not allow you to do any harm or abuse to anyone.”

Rev Noa says his life has changed in a way that makes him proud as a husband, father and grandfather.

“I can now respect my wife for who she is, her dignity and also my children and grandchildren. They can tell the story of my transformation in the way I speak and the way I act now.”

Supported by UnitingWorld, Rev Noa has been travelling throughout Fiji, preaching at churches and fellowship groups, running workshops, training ministers and lay leaders and changing hearts with his powerful testimony as he teaches the biblical basis for gender equality and anti-violence.

It’s busy, hard work. But Rev Noa says things are changing before his eyes.

“The ball is rolling. Slowly, because this work is countercultural and counter-traditional,” he says.

“Thank you all in the Uniting Church for your partnership. We need your prayers and support as we try to bring peace and stability to our nation and our world.”

We Need Your Help!

This program was previously supported by the Australian Government, but the grant expired in 2021.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing stories and fundraising to continue this powerful and unique work led by our Pacific partners. We hope to raise $90,000.

To donate and find out more, visit www.unitingworld.org.au/endviolence We look forward to keeping you updated about this life-changing project!

Top photo caption: Rev Noa and his family “I can now respect my wife for who she is, her dignity and also my children and grandchildren.”

 

Rev Noa, Gender Equality Theology Minister for Methodist Church in Fiji, preaching about the biblical basis for gender equality and anti-violence.

 

Education is a gateway towards a fulfilling future, equipping the next generation with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to lead a life of their choosing. But for children with disabilities, one of the most marginalised minorities in Sri Lanka, accessing an inclusive education is difficult. As a result, these children are less likely to access the healthcare facilities and schemes, and the economic opportunities and social prospects they need to both survive and thrive.

Through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), UnitingWorld is supporting Deaf Link* to coordinate with government Special Education Units and ensure that children with disabilities can access mainstream schools. Deaf Link facilitate school enrolments, and support teachers and staff to improve education practices and accessibility for students. As a result, there are now more children with disabilities enrolled, literate and at essential learning capacity than ever before.

Sahasra** chose to send her son to a Deaf Link-supported school in a nearby town after hearing it was involved in the program. Seeing the change it made, she has chosen to relocate her family to the town permanently to give her son the greatest hope for his future.

“(My son) is studying at this school for almost a year now and I can already see so many encouraging improvements in him. As a result of the inputs provided at the school, my son now responds to queries, speaks [a] few words and is making efforts to walk, spacing few steps, playing and taking care of himself.

“The school and the special education unit here have truly been able to bring actual change in the lives of many children with disabilities like my son giving them and their parents hope for a better future. I regularly attend the parent’s meetings and can see the change in the attitude and perceptions of fellow parents towards their children. We often share our happiness collectively. This school has now become a centre for change, hope and development for the children affected by disability.”

*Deaf Link is a centre committed to work with people with disabilities, established by the Methodist Church Sri Lanka.

**Name changed for confidentiality.

Header image caption: Children in an inclusive education class run by Deaf Link using the AUSLAN signal for applause.

 

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.

 

An estimated 202,000 people are experiencing poverty in Bali, and as COVID-19 continues to take its toll, that number is only expected to rise. With limited funding going to local governments, many people struggle to access the housing, electricity, water and other basic services they need. But for the most vulnerable groups, including women and people with disabilities, their voices often go unheard in village decision-making processes, further compounding the challenges they face.

That’s why UnitingWorld is working with Maha Bhoga Marga Foundation (MBM) to build the confidence and skills of vulnerable groups to participate in village governance and advocate for their rights.

By equipping vulnerable people to monitor the funds allocated to their village through the Village Development Program, and investing in vocational training, health services and grassroots advocacy, this project has seen greater representation of women, people with disabilities and poor families in targeted villages and increased distribution of local government budgets towards their specific needs.

Across 29 villages, at least 13,300 people now benefit from this work. Kadek is one of them. With the support of MBM and UnitingWorld, Kadek advocated on behalf of a group of poor families to receive goats and pig cages so they could earn a living. Doubling his income through the program, Kadek has now bought a home for his family and is ready to send his two children to college.

“Before joining in a group, I never attended or being invited in any village meetings,” Kadek said. “Now, I am invited as a group leader. My confidence is growing since I also received some training from MBM and I often lead group meetings.”

Photo caption: UnitingWorld partner MBM hosts monthly group meetings for community members who are often overlooked, providing training and technical assistance to help them participate in village governance.

Read more about this project

 

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.

During the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history, our partners have been reaching out to help vulnerable communities.

With inflation now above 50%, the cost of everyday goods like food, fuel and medicine has skyrocketed. Essential services have shut down and there have been widespread power cuts. As frustrations boil over and protests escalate, our partner, the Methodist Church Sri Lanka (MCSL), has called for people to refrain from violence and called on leaders to facilitate a swift return to electoral democracy (read full statement).

The human suffering is difficult to comprehend.

Early in the crisis, our partners pledged to do everything in their means to alleviate suffering.

They’ve been doing exactly that. Much of it is happening through Deaf Link and the disability outreach work of the church.

Established by MCSL, Deaf Link is a centre committed to providing access to education for children with disabilities and occupational training to adults with disabilities.

Despite the difficulties of public transport, the Deaf Link team of Rev Gnanarajah and Rev Kandeepan were able to travel in June to visit participants of the Empowering People with Disabilities project in rural areas identified as most vulnerable. They delivered dry ration packs to project participants and to other families identified as needing assistance.

“Due to the present economic crisis in our Island, many people are affected,” said Rev Kandeepan.

“We gave help according to our capacity, but the local Rural Development Society said there are many more families who need help. Hopefully more can be provided as soon as possible.”

“Those who received dry ration packs expressed their gratitude to Deaf Link  and UnitingWorld,” said Rev Kandeepan.

The Deaf Link team also visited self-help groups run by the project, which connect people with disabilities to share knowledge and encourage each other through the crisis. The project also promotes home gardening by providing seeds, training and assistance to market their produce.

A member of the self-help group who lost one of his hands during the civil war was keen to show his home garden and how he can cultivate it with just one hand (pictured right).

The Deaf Link team were planning to visit projects in the Eastern Province this month, but due to exorbitant costs of transport they instead met with the Coordinator in the region to get updates.

Please pray for their important work.

You can help our partners reach the most vulnerable during this unprecedented crisis. All funds raised will support the work of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka providing assistance through through their church and community networks.

People with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable people in Sri Lanka. Without support, disabilities can become a huge barrier to accessing appropriate education, employment and full participation in community life. Because of this, people with disabilities are up to five times more likely to live below the poverty line.

The Deaf Link project mentioned is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and impacted the lives of 2,625 people with disabilities in Sri Lanka in FY 2020-21.

More

Previous Update from Partners in Sri Lanka

Calls for prayer as Sri Lanka faces deepening economic crisis