UnitingWorld Update Issue 3, 2022

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“As I looked deep into the theology, it was something that transformed me” Rev Noa and the power of Gender Equality Theology

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. Together we work for a world where lives are whole and hopeful, free from poverty and injustice. Because every person matters.

Pictured: Rev Noa and Varitema Turaganivalu. Rev Noa’s life was transformed when he understood God’s vision of equality and dignity for all people.

FAITH THAT TRANSFORMS VIOLENCE Rev Noa and the power of Gender Equality Theology “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.”

“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.”

The patriarchal mentality he grew up with continued into his marriage. “Back then I tried to take ownership of my wife. I was vulgar and abusive. She can tell many stories…,” Rev Noa says with a grimace.

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 to a Methodist 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. “... I was taught that ‘being a man’ meant to be strong, to belittle women,” says Rev Noa.

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.

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.

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.

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.” 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!

REACHING THE MOST VULNERABLE IN SRI LANKA Church Sri Lanka (MCSL), has called for people to refrain from violence and called on leaders to facilitate a swift return to electoral democracy.

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

Early in the crisis, MCSL pledged to do everything in their means to alleviate suffering. Much of this work 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. This includes the Empowering People with Disabilities project in partnership with UnitingWorld. In the current crisis, Deaf Link is providing additional support in rural project areas identified as most vulnerable. They have been delivering dry

ration packs to project participants and to other families identified as needing assistance. “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.” said Rev Kandeepan from Deaf Link. “Those who received dry ration packs expressed their gratitude to Deaf Link and UnitingWorld.” 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 their existing projects. Visit www.unitingworld.org.au/srilanka to donate.

A BEAUTIFUL AND UNEXPECTED GIFT 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.

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.

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

BE AN EVERYTHING IN COMMON ADVOCATE! Help pioneer the ethical gift‑giving movement Everything in Common is our ethical gift catalogue, filled with gifts that fight poverty through health, education, leadership and income opportunities. When people give Everything in Common gifts to their loved ones, it directly supports our projects helping people lead lives of dignity and hope. Last year was our biggest year ever! You can help us do it again by becoming an Everything in Common Advocate and hosting a gift stall in your church, school or community group. We’ll send you everything you need to help your community make a big difference. Interested? We want to hear from you! Reach out to us today on 1800 998 122 or email Niko at nicolasd@unitingworld.org.au

HELP FIGHT FAMINE Our neighbours need your help Right now, 49 million people in 46 countries are on the brink of famine due to conflict in Ukraine and drought in the Horn of Africa. This is an urgent crisis that cannot wait. Together with a coalition of community and humanitarian organisations, we are calling on our new federal government to Help Fight Famine. Find out more and take action: www.unitingworld.org.au/help-fight-famine

Thank you!

In the final months of the financial year, you, our supporters, raised more than $520,000 to support the life-changing work of our partners! Exceeding our target means more families lifted out of poverty; more people earning an income, getting an education or better

access to clean water and sanitation; safer communities for women and girls; more people prepared for a changing climate... It means God’s love and hope made real for people struggling through crisis. People like Ranjit and her family in India, whose story we told as an example of the impact our partners are having. Thank you so much for sharing our vision of a more just and hopeful world, free from poverty. We look forward to updating you about what God is doing through our work in partnership over the coming financial year.

SUPPORTER STORY Why Renata became a Global Neighbour New UnitingWorld Global Neighbour, Renata, began donating to international charities when her only income was $5 a week pocket money. She says, “There are people in this world living on a scale of poverty that I cannot even begin to understand, and it’s only luck that I was born here instead of there. As God has given to me, I feel obliged to pass some of that on to others.”

“I could see that even $1 per week would make a difference to people living on less than $2 per day.”

Renata became a Global Neighbour recently, and chose to support UnitingWorld because she likes the values we hold and the way we work with local communities. “There is a delicate balance

Your regular gift will empower our partners to make sustainable change and equip their communities to live free from poverty and injustice. Find out more and sign up at www.unitingworld.org.au/globalneighbour or by calling 1800 998 122.

between promoting equality and justice vs forcing your beliefs/principles onto someone else, and I trust UnitingWorld to handle that balance. I particularly value UnitingWorld’s programs on gender equality and disability empowerment.” Renata’s regular giving means we can commit long-term to our partners and they can plan ahead with confidence. We can also save money on fundraising. Renata says it also helps her be more intentional and sustainable in giving. “I’ve set up my regular giving so it comes out of my account on the same day that my pay goes in so I don’t even notice it going. Regular giving enables me to plan in the same way I manage my other expenses.” Thank you, Renata and all of our Global Neighbours! You are making a huge difference by making a regular donation.

FROM THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR “When a tree falls in the forest, you hear the sound. When a tree is growing, you hear nothing.” This wisdom was shared at the Pacific Church Partnership Advisory Network (PCPAN) meeting in Canberra recently, where I had the great pleasure of listening to Christian leaders from across the Pacific region as they expressed their hopes, joys, struggles and dreams for the future. It was the first meeting of its type in-person, where the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) facilitated the gathering but allowed the agenda and conversation to be guided by the participants, particularly Pasifika and First Peoples. Naturally, it followed a “talanoa” and “yarning” process of dialogue, which meant deep listening, reflection and then speaking. The government representatives mostly listened in from the sidelines. The conversations were rich and comprehensive, expressing the need for the sector to move away from paternalistic interventions based only on human needs and towards partnerships that allow families and people groups to determine their own futures.

There was an outpouring of compassion about the injustices suffered by Australia’s First Peoples after reflections from Rev. Mark Kickett and Alison Overeem from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and ‘Aunty’ Pat Anderson, co-Chair of the Uluru Statement. I looked around and there was barely a dry eye in the room. It reinforced the desires of Pasifika church leaders to centre the voices of First Peoples in all their engagements with Australia. We can each learn from that approach as our nation continues to grapple with issues of justice and reconciliation. I also recently made a visit to meet three groups of amazing UnitingWorld supporters in Queensland. Meeting face to face for the first time in years, it struck me anew that the Uniting Church is filled with people whose lives seem ordinary, yet are utterly extraordinary.

Quietly but surely, people are making positive change, big and small, local and global, through community outreach and supporting our international partners. Though we may not hear it or perceive it, the tree is growing. It is a hopeful and motivating thought. With thanks for all you do with us,

It brings me back to the quote I picked up at the PCPAN meeting. The dozens of people I met on my trip are not public or loud. They dodge acclaim and recognition, but the depth of their commitment to leaving our world in a better place than they found it is truly inspiring.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @UnitingWorld UnitingWorld is an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Dr Sureka Goringe National Director UnitingWorld

This newsletter was printed using vegetable-based inks on paper that was sustainably sourced from plantation forests. UnitingWorld PO Box A2266, Sydney South NSW 1235 ABN 47 817 183 926 Telephone 1800 998 122

info@unitingworld.org.au www.unitingworld.org.au

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