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Call for churches to step up on climate change

A United Nations (UN) official told some 80 participants gathered for the World Council of Churches annual global advocacy week in November that it appears there will be no binding agreement on climate change signed by world governments at the upcoming Copenhagen meeting in December. This means "climate disruption" will continue unabated "unless governments can ramp up the courage to address it," Olav Kjorven, assistant secretary-general and director of the Bureau for Development Policy at the UN Development Programme, told the group.

Yet there is still a chance something significant will be decided in Copenhagen, so the church needs to put on pressure for an agreement to be met. Kjorven, said that religious groups around the world have yet to realise the real impact they could have on moving governments to address climate change immediately as well as other justice concerns.

"You have an enormous economic clout that is too rarely recognised even amongst yourselves. You reach more people on a regular basis than any other institutions in the world today," Kjorven said, pointing to the fact that religious groups, including Christian churches, own roughly 8% of the land in the world, much of which is forested. "In the financial markets, religious institutions are the third largest actor through pension funds. When the faith groups decide high carbon activity is a sin, to put it in your terms and start to shift from high carbon to low carbon lifestyles, it will send shock waves through the financial markets."

The fact that religious groups and in particular the churches have enormous potential to impact climate change and in general influence leaders and dismantle global injustice was noted in a keynote address by Lois M. Dauway, interim deputy general secretary for the General Board for Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church (USA). But she wondered if the church was up to the task. Saying she has been feeling "testy" lately about what the church needs to do to dismantle global injustice, Dauway told the group the church needs to adopt a theological approach to deal with justice issues such as climate change. It is time for the churches to act, "Just do it, just do it!"

She told the group that churches and the ecumenical community have the theological wherewithal to dismantle global injustice, but "we simply do not have the will. …If we in the churches are truly going to make a change in this world, we must realize that it takes more than eloquent resolutions and sermons on peace and justice," she said. It takes listening to those who suffer and joining with them, "sometimes leading, sometimes being led and pooling the resources of the churches. …. We could indeed turn the world upside down in the name of Jesus," Dauway said. "Lord knows we have the power, so let’s just do it."

"Are we ready to be the counter-culture church of our calling?" asked the Rev. Elenie Poulos a Uniting Church minister in Australia. "This is the leadership the world needs – a leadership of faith and justice that is a living demonstration that a different life is possible," she said."The planet and its people are running out of time, and we need to do more than just resist the dominant paradigms. We must transform them. We need an economic system that is not based on greed, materialism, individualism and the fear of scarcity."

Kjorven emphasized that now was the time for religious groups to step up. "We need a much stronger voice when it comes to the social justice aspects of climate change," he said. "And we need change for the long term.”Given the collapse in the Copenhagen agreement, Kjorven said there were things to salvage at the December meetings, "such as a framework for a future agreement."

Mark Beach WCC News 18 November 2009

Call to respect right to food


A World Trade Organisation (WTO) gathering in Geneva in the first week of December is seeking new ways of alleviating poverty and generating growth. Faith groups are calling on the trade ministers who will gather in Geneva to respect the right to food.

A group of religious-based organizations and civil society groups under the banner of the Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance sent a petition on 24 November to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and the chairperson of the WTO's General Council Mario Matus. In their letter they called for the world trade regulator to respect the right to food as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "We hope to see the inclusion of the right to food … as part of the solution towards addressing the current food crisis," said the faith leaders. They urged: the recognition of the right to food in the WTO negotiations; just and sustainable agricultural production and trade systems; measures to address import surges and price volatility and the right of all countries to produce for domestic consumption and ensure their food self-sufficiency.

The food campaigning coalition said in their letter to the WTO officials, "We believe it is important for WTO members to uphold a common vision of the right to food, which allows countries to produce and have access to an adequate supply of food while ensuring a fair income for their food producers." They said trade rules are needed that will end "dumping" of products in developing countries, referring to lucrative subsidies for farmers in developed countries.

The signatories to the petition sent to the WTO included Christian World Service in New Zealand.


Peter Kenny, Ecumenical News International,

24 November 2009, www.eni.ch

HIV & AIDS – despite progress worrying gaps still exist


Christian leaders in the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance active in the response to HIV and AIDS have welcomed the latest statistics on the epidemic, which indicate a decline in new infections over the past eight years. They have also emphasised the need to expand comprehensive treatment and prevention services to continue the positive trend. UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation released their annual AIDS Epidemic Update on 24 November, indicating that 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008, up slightly from 2007. The higher figure is credited to increased availability to treatment allowing more people to live longer. Overall, the data indicates that new infections have dropped 17 percent over the past eight years.

Despite areas of progress, worrying gaps exist. Children still account for 2.1 million of people living with HIV, although the number of deaths has declined. The number of children newly infected with HIV in 2008 was roughly 18% lower than in 2001. “Certainly it’s good news that the number of new infections in children are declining and there is more access to anti-retroviral drugs for children,” says Rev. Christo Greyling, Global Advisor on HIV and AIDS and Faith Partnerships for World Vision International. “But frankly, the question is why over 400,000 children a year are still being newly infected? We have the knowledge and services to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child, yet the majority of expectant mothers – 55 percent – still do not receive such services.”

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, Caritas Internationalis, emphasises that the report shows that “AIDS remains a global health priority that needs concerted effort. Its complexity also means we have to address the root causes of vulnerability, encourage responsible behaviour, and promote universal access to health care and treatment for all in need.”

Manoj Kurian, Programme Executive for Health and Healing, World Council of Churches, says the report highlights the challenge of HIV prevention. “No single approach is effective, but we need to use the combined efforts of the variety of organisations involved in the response to raise awareness, share information and resources, and provide the support necessary for culturally appropriate and evidence-based forms of prevention.”

EAA 27 November 2009

Season’s greetings to all from Methodist Mission and Ecumenical.

May you have a joyous Christmas and a good beginning to the New Year

 

 

Unity is a gift of God
 


Because unity is finally a gift of God, "it demands a profound sense of humility and not any prideful insistence." With this call to the "never-ending search" for unity of the church, which is also an ever-unfolding journey", Patriarch Bartholomew I opened the 7-14 October meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Plenary Commission, in Kolympari, Crete, Greece.


Speaking to the 152 theologians attending the event, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople also highlighted the importance of a double conversion, namely turning both toward the past and the future. “It is crucial that we learn from the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church and from those who – in each generation – maintained the integrity and intensity of the Apostolic faith. At the same time, we should turn our attention to the future, to the age to come, toward the heavenly kingdom. This ‘eschatological’ perspective should offer a way out of the impasse of provincialism and confessionalism".


"We must find a way to build on what we have achieved, or else it will evaporate", warned Mary Tanner, a former moderator of the Faith and Order Commission. Tanner reviewed highlights of the quest for unity since the early 1900s, stressing the importance of remembering that Faith and Order dialogue has always been characterized by "deep spirituality grounded in prayer and is not an arid academic exercise".


Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople stated that the "crucial question" in current theological debate is "without doubt, ecclesiology", or our understanding of the nature of the "One Church". Dialogue on their different
ecclesiologies has enabled the churches in recent decades to reach a better understanding of one another and of themselves. Today what is needed said Gennadios is a renewal able "to promote an ecclesiology of more convergence". Gennadios says there is need for a "spacing ecclesiology" – an enlarged understanding of the "One Church of Christ". Today, churches "are called to a new ecumenical 'ecclesial space of togetherness' in view of celebrating one day together at the Lord's Table." Within such a space churches would be drawn together on the condition that they all are "called to be the One Church".


John Gibaut, director of Faith and Order, explained the three areas of concentration for this meeting of the Faith and Order Plenary Commission: Moral discernment in the churches, Sources of authority: Tradition and traditions, and The nature and mission of the church. "The overarching theme of our gathering this week is ecclesiology", he said, "with specific attention given to ‘The Nature and Mission of the Church’ document."


The Faith and Order Plenary Commission meets once between every WCC Assembly and has 120 members. These are men and women from around the world - pastors, laypersons, academics, church leaders- each nominated by his or her church. Faith and Order also enjoys full membership and participation of several churches who are not members of the World Council of Churches, among them the Roman Catholic Church. Thirty members of the Faith and Order commission constitute the Faith and Order standing commission that meets just prior to the Plenary Commission.

WCC News Service


 

A pastoral visit to churches in North Korea


In October the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia,  made a pastoral visit to churches in  the Democratic Peoples’ republic of Korea [North Korea] at the invitation of the Korean Christian federation of North Korea. The visit took place 17-20m October. Kobia visited the Bong Soo Church and the Chilgol Church in Pyongyang, the capital, and a house church of twelve members in the town of Sunam.

The Bong Soo Church was constructed in 1987 with funding from the North Korean government and the Presbyterian Church of Korea. The church is thoroughly modern with a full sound system, balcony and music text on a large screen in front of the church, a video camera system, a high-lofted ceiling and an area for a large choir. Bibles and songbooks line the seating areas for the congregations. Within the church compound is a recently constructed theological seminary where 12 students are now enrolled to earn degrees in evangelism. The Bong Soo worship service overflowed with music from the choir, soloists and several women's groups, mostly singing traditional hymns.


The smaller congregation at the Chilgol Church has been in existence since the late 1800s. The current building is relatively new, as the original building was destroyed in the Korean War by the U.S. bombing of Pyongyang.


The house church of twelve members meets in a home in the community of Sunam just outside of Pyongyang. The members said the house church movement within North Korea is growing. The church meets on Sundays, sitting on the floor of the living room of a member's home. One member brings an accordion to accompany the singing. The singing in the North Korean church tends to be extraordinarily rich and is a key part, along with prayer and teaching, of any worship service.


Kobia had a meeting with North Korea’s President Kim Yong-nam. During this meeting Kim talked about how the North Korean government has assisted over the years in rebuilding churches that were destroyed during the Korean War and the bombing of Pyongyang. He invited the WCC to continue its relationship with the Korean Christian Federation through ongoing visits to the country. Commenting on the nuclear weapons situation of North Korea, Kim said the solution was to denuclearize the entire region. Creating a nuclear free Korean peninsula was “one of the last instructions from the Great Leader”, former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, who is called the “eternal leader” of North Korea and died in 1994.

Following the visit to North Korea, Kobia travelled to Hong Kong to participate in an international consultation on peace, reconciliation and reunification of the Korean peninsula.


In a briefy foretaste of Korean reunification, two Korean pastors - one from the north, one from the south - bridged more than 60 years of separation in jointly presiding over a celebration of the Eucharist during a worship service commemorating more than 25 years of work toward bringing peace and reconciliation to the divided Korean peninsula. The Rev. Kang Yong Sop, chairman of the Korea Christian Federation of North Korea, and the Rev. Tae Jin Bae, of the National Council of Churches of Korea (South Korea), shared in reading the prayers of holy communion before offering the Eucharist to an ecumenical congregation.

WCC News Service

 

News in brief

Pijin Bible studies

The first Pijin translation of Know Your Bible (KYB) material, known as “Save Long Baebol Blong Yu”, was recently launched in Honiara, the Solomon Islands. During the celebration the book of “Rut” (Ruth) was marched in by the women from Maoro Village in Malaita. Unity Kuba, Coordinator of Solomon Islands KYB said that having the studies in Pijin would mean that many more women would now be able to join in and really understand the word of God in their own language.


Death of noted hymn writer

The Rev. Fred Kaan, a prolific 20th century English-language hymnologist, died on 4 October aged 80. Kaan was unable to read music but wrote the words of more than 200 hymns in English, even though he started to learn the language only at the age of 16. He was born in the Netherlands in 1929 of Dutch parents, and moved in the 1950s to England. Kaan was a retired minister of Britain's Untied Reformed Church.


Mission and Unity Conference 2010

Planning is underway for an ecumenical conference to mark the centennial of the landmark world missions conference held in Edinburgh in 1910 that later gave rise to the 20th century ecumenical movement. The conference will be held at St John’s theological College, Auckland, 18-19 June 2010, with the theme: Mission and Unity: Then, Now, and into the Future. Watch this space for more information next month.

 

New general secretary’s vision for World Council of Churches

Norwegian theologian and pastor Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, aged 48, was elected seventh general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in August during its Central Committee meeting. "This task I really feel is the call of God. I feel that we have a lot to do together", said Tveit in his acceptance speech before the central committee. He stressed the spirit of unity that dominated the whole process and expressed hope that it will continue to reign in the common journey. Tveit encouraged the committee members to continue praying for him: "Please do not stop!"

Since 2002, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has been the general secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations. Tveit is a member of the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission and the board of directors and executive committee of the Christian Council of Norway.

Tveit was asked to outline his vision for the WCC. He referred to a tapestry on the wall of the WCC plenary hall where he was elected as general secretary. It displays the words – in Greek – of Christ’s prayer in John 17: “ that they all may be one”. “That is the foundation of the World Council of Churches, and its goal,” said Tveit. “Any vision for this work has to make that vision visible. It’s not the old agenda; it’s the new agenda as well.”

Tveit went on to say that the WCC has particular gifts to offer the world, including a strong legacy of service, a unique global access through its network of churches, and a talented group of staff and members who can be God’s hands around the world. Those gifts will be needed to address four major areas that Tveit has identified as priorities: solidarity among the world’s Christians, interreligious relationships, broader ecumenical connections and justice issues.

Tveit said many Christians today are minorities in the communities and countries where they live, or in areas that are suffering from violence or extreme poverty, or both. “We can raise the voice of others, and we can strengthen the voice of others,” he said, noting the importance of accompaniment and advocacy.

In regard to other religions, Tveit said dialogue and work with Islam is particularly important in the current time. He cited the positive relationships he has had in the Church of Norway – Islamic Council of Norway contact group. Churches, he noted, have “great potential” to break down the various barriers that exist in the world. He said the road forward begins with a simple premise: to “see one another as fellow human beings. All faiths call us to that.”

He looks forward to continuing the WCC’s strong ties with the Roman Catholic Church, which is not a WCC member but has a long-standing working relationship. Tveit called that partnership “one of the crucial relationships for this organisation”.

On justice issues, he pointed to the effects of climate change. He noted the experiences of his region – particularly Greenland, which has dealt with dramatic melting of its snow and ice pack, as well as the Pacific, where some islands are slowly being submerged.“To hear the voices of those who live with these changes now, not just what might happen in the future, is something very different,” Tveit said. He emphasized in answers to later questions that it is “a Christian duty to respond to the needs of our neighbour”.

Tviet has acknowledged that he has much to learn, reflect on and pray about in the months until he officially takes office. He said again that he’s looking forward to the work ahead, despite its daunting scope. “It’s a challenging task,” Tveit said. “It’s not an impossible task. I think it also can be a very important task.”

WCC News 28 August 2009

Muslims and Jews break bread together

Pointing to a loaf of sweet braided bread on the table, the Muslim man asked a group of Jews sharing the meal with him: "Why do you eat only this type of bread at the Sabbath meal?" Haysam Pakir, a 30-year-old Muslim from Nablus, a Palestinian city in the northern part of the West Bank, was at a dinner held to commemorate the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Along with some 120 other Israelis, Palestinians and people of other nationalities, Pakir attended the meeting at the Beit Jalla Talitha Kumi Lutheran School near Bethlehem to mark 9/11 and commit to a better future in the troubled region of the Middle East.

A Jewish woman explained that "During the time of the Temple the high priests were commanded to bake 12 loaves of bread for the Sabbath. After the destruction of the temple Jews bless two loaves on the Sabbath eve meal in commemoration."

The meal took place at the time when followers of Islam break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, called Iftar, and the weekly Shabbat meal that Jews have on their rest day. "I have heard something about Shabbat but there were things I didn’t know," said Pakir, using the Hebrew word for Sabbath. Like most of the people at the dinner, Pakir is a member of the on-line MEPEACE or Middle East Peace (www.mepeace.org), an international network which sponsored the dinner.

Some of those present noted that it is rare for Palestinians and Israelis to be able to meet in such a location because of Israeli political restrictions. Israelis are not permitted to enter Palestinian areas while Palestinians must have permits to enter Israeli territory.

Straddling Israeli and Palestinian border, the Tatlitha Kumi Lutheran School is in a place where both Israelis and Palestinians are permitted to come together and where they say they feel safe meeting. Following the construction of Israel's separation barrier the school has become almost the only venue where Israeli and Palestinian dialogue and interfaith groups can legally meet, noted school principal Georg Durr. Durr said that during the recent summer some 25 interfaith and dialogue groups met on the grounds of the school. "We are very happy we can facilitate such meetings, where people can meet each other to undermine … prejudice. There are great people on both sides."

The Iftar/Shabbat dinner was the only event where Palestinians and Israelis marked 9/11 together, noted Eyal Raviv, founder of MEPEACE. "Especially on a day like this, we must show them that there is another way; that Israelis and Palestinians do want to meet. The evening is all about faith, family and food," said Raviv.

Judith Sudilovsky, Ecumenical news international, www.eni.ch 17 September 2009.

HIV Training at Helena Goldie Hospital

A one week training on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV was held at Helena Goldie Hospital (HGH) in August. The training was funded by UNICEF and organised by the National HIV/Aids Unit of the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS program coordinator of Helena Goldie Hospital.

Thirteen nurses attended the training sessions. They came from as far as Choisuel, Gizo and Seghe. At the end of the training, they were awarded a certificate. The training was designed to prepare nurses to deal with issues relating to HIV & AIDS. Solomon Islands is at a very high risk of an epidemic if prevention measures are not taken seriously.

A counselling site was also launched at HGH, funded by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Helena Goldie Hospital. There trained counsellors will work to provide services for the public relating to HIV & AIDS testing and counselling and any other needs. The site is the first one to be established in the provinces.

A statement issued after the training event said HIV & AIDS is not a medical issue alone, it is a spiritual, political, economic, social and family issue. “Everybody must work together to prevent the spread of the virus. ... It is important that we all identify our parts to play in the whole issue and start now or never.”

Solomon Star 24 August 2009

Solomon Is theological students on mission in Honiara

Students of the United Church’s Seghe Theological Seminary in the Western Province completed three weeks of outreach mission in Honiara in August. The 36 students and three teachers visited United Church congregations in Honiara, as well as Rove Prison and the National Referral Hospital as part of their training as church leaders. Principal Reverend Burabeti Tabe said it is important that as part of their training for church leadership the students are exposed to urban mission. The concept of the outreach mission is leader-ship capacity building. Rev Tabe said the United Church’s theme for this year is “Year of Searching and Evangelising”, therefore the seminary is fulfilling the theme through fellowship and outreach to others. As part of the mission, the students attended a two-day advocacy workshop on sexual reproductive health organised by the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association. A similar outreach mission to Noro in the Western Province, will take place in December.

Solomon Star 24 August 2009

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter September 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Building an interfaith community

Religious diversity is an unavoidable reality today – and an opportunity, according to the participants of an interfaith seminar held in July at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Institute at Bossey outside Geneva, Switzerland. The three-week course, which had the theme "Building an Interfaith Community", was attended by young Christians, Jews and Muslims from all over the world.

Delphine Horvilleur, a female rabbi in France, was a guest speaker at the seminar. She said there were two key threats when it comes to interfaith dialogue. "It's disturbing in interfaith dialogue that there is a tendency to move towards this idea of absolute sameness – an attempt to synchronise all the positions," she said. "To create the idea that there is absolutely no difference between the religions can be a big threat." But she said there was also a danger at the other end of the spectrum: "The other most common threat is the idea that there is only one truth, or that 'my truth is truer than your truth'." Charting a middle road between these two extremes was the key to constructive dialogue, she said.

Lubna Alzaroo, a student in English literature at the University of Bethlehem, said that the course had highlighted for her the reality of religious pluralism in today's world – and helped her to see the value in it. "There are many truths, and my truth can be different from another person's truth, but it's alright," she said. "It's okay if people are different, because that's what society is based upon – people's diversity and differences." Alzaroo was one of ten Muslims in the group, hailing from countries as diverse as Romania, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Another participant, Sarah Abdullah, lives in a town of 600 people in South Carolina, USA, where she and her mother are the only Muslims. "It's a predominantly Christian culture," she said. "I think interfaith dialogue is important for this area, because when I first moved there, people were shocked and couldn't work out who I was and where I came from." Abdullah said that what she had learned on the course will help her to engage with the people in her community when she returns home. "I learned a lot of things about Christianity that I didn't know, even though I've spent most of my life living in a Christian country," she said. "It's broadened my horizons – it's helped me think about the world beyond the States. Now that I have a better understanding of Christianity, I can relate better with the Christians around me."

Jessica Sacks, an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem, said she regularly sees first-hand how divisions can emerge based on religious differences. "I come from a place where you can't afford not to engage in interfaith dialogue; a place where I live in very close proximity to people whose language is different and who read the place we live in completely differently," said Sacks. As a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem she was a member of a group of Muslim and Jewish female students who met regularly to learn about each other's faiths. The impact may have been small, but it was an important starting point, she said. "For us that was significant, and we formed friendships. Change will come through us each working in our own communities to try and open them up a little more."

Rev. Bruce Myers, a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada and a masters-degree student at Bossey, said interfaith dialogue was of increasing importance in the Canadian context. "We still like to think of ourselves as a Christian country, and the statistics and the census bear that out, but we're also a country of immigrants and always have been," he said. "Increasingly we're receiving new Canadians from parts of the world where Christianity is not the predominant religion, and we're still in a process of learning as a country how we can make room for the other, how we can make room for new arrivals and new expressions of religion, and still maintain what we could consider a Canadian identity."

During the seminar daily morning prayers were prepared alternately by the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim participants. The group also attended services in a synagogue, church, and mosque in Geneva.

Emma Halgren, WCC News 12 August 2009


Signs of growing ecumenical collaboration

At the third meeting of the Joint Consultation Commission (JCC) between Christian World Communions (CWCs) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), the agenda focused on a mid-term review of the work accomplished so far in this growing ecumenical partnership. The commission of fourteen also looked toward continued collaboration in the future.

In its review of cooperation already undertaken the group affirmed the joint collaboration between the CWCs and WCC toward the one ecumenical movement. In the current review process the JCC identified four foundational learnings:

· The primary actors in the ecumenical movement are and must be the churches.

· In recent years there has been genuine movement between CWCs and the WCC from a relationship of competition to that of collaboration.

· Ecumenical cooperation is built upon and sustained by deepening personal friendships and not simply the actions or activities undertaken by organizations.

· The common goal of the ecumenical movement in its diverse institutional expressions, both in conciliar and confessional bodies, is the search for the visible unity of the church for the sake of God's mission in the world.

WCC News 7 July 2009


Mission project updates

United Church Solomon Islands

Construction of the Children’s and Youth Centre at Munda, funded by Mission and Ecumenical, is expected to be completed by October with an official opening in December.

The copra project at Vonunu on Vella Lavella Island has been affected by the world economic recession which has led to a downturn in the international copra market. We have agreed to provide some additional financial assistance to help the project ride out the recession.

Helena Goldie Hospital has taken several cost cutting measures in 2009 due to a reduction in Solomon Island Government funding brought about by the world economic re cession. A staffing review has led to redundancies .The community visiting program, which was interrupted by the earthquake and tsunami of 2007, has resumed with the holding of outpatient clinics, an immunisation programme, and other health awareness activities in outlying villages. Building of additional staff houses and a medical students’ and overseas visitors’ and volunteers’ house is underway.

The Helena Goldie College of Nursing will replace the former Nurse Aide Training School at the beginning of 2010. The Davinia Taylor memorial building, funded by Mission and Ecumenical will provide the teaching base for the new college of nursing. We will be considering sponsoring some HGH nurse aides who will enter training at the new college in 2010. We are looking to fund an air conditioning unit for the library as well as further book purchases.

In 2008 Mission and Ecumenical began providing assistance for Sasamunga Hospital on Choiseul Island. Construction of staff houses to replace those lost in the 2007 earthquake and tsunami is underway. Funding for two refrigerators, one for the laboratory and the other for pharmacy, has been provided. This year’s annual appeal will enable us to do more for Sasamunga hospital.

The secretary will visit the UCSI later in the year, the timing to coincide with the opening of the Children’s and Youth Centre at Munda. He will also visit the Assembly Office, Helena Goldie Hospital, Sasamunga Hospital and the Copra project at Vonunu on Vella Lavella Island.

United Church Papua New Guinea

The fish farm project at Metago Training Institute is progressing. A site plan and implementation schedule has been prepared. October 2010 is the expected completion date.

Rarongo Theological College has received sixteen cartons of donated biblical and theological books sent by Mission and Ecumenical. Further new book purchases have been made. Scholarships for four new students have been provided.

Bougainville region is to establish a Leadership and Ministry Training College this year and is to send a proposal for Mission and Ecumenical’s financial support.

A significant mission anniversary takes place in December 2009. In December 1959, New Zealand Methodist missionary Rev Cliff Keightley journeyed into the Nipa Valley in the Papua New Guinea Highlands to begin a new mission. Cliff went on to became chairman of the Highlands District and in 1965 moved to the district headquarters in Mendi, leaving behind a growing church. Some family members will be attending anniversary celebrations.

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter August 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Hymns trigger revolt in Fiji

Charles Wesley, the great Methodist hymn writer, may have penned his famous words "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer praise" almost 270 years ago, but it seems just singing these words today in strife-torn Fiji could destabilise a whole government. The military government of interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has agitated the normally harmonious voice of Fijian Methodists by attempting to stop the church's conference from taking place in late August.

A Fiji court order on 23 July silenced two top Methodist Church ministers and paramount chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa. They were charged with defying the Public Emergency Regulation over the church's annual conference which they had planned. Ro Teimumu along with the church's president, the Rev. Ame Tugaue, and its secretary general, the Rev. Tuikilakila Waqairatu, were granted bail after being held in custody for two days, and ordered to appear in court in three weeks. They had to surrender all their travel documents and are banned from having any meetings for 21 days, and are not allowed to be seen in public or to conduct anything that might be construed to be a meeting. It is believed to be the first time a Fijian government has clashed so openly with the Methodist Church. About one third of Fiji's almost one million people are Methodists.

In the days leading up to the conference it is normal for up to 10,000 singing Fijians to gather together for the nation's biggest social gathering: the Fijian choir hymn singing contest. Fiji is as renowned for its choir singing as for its electrifying brand of rugby football.

Now church members say the government has also banned the choral feast, fearing it ill lead to further political instability. But in a show of religious con-viction and support for their church leaders that may have political reverberations for the fragile hold on power by Bainimarama, it is rumoured that many more choirs will make their way to Suva to sing their hymns of God's power and might.

It has been said that between 20,000 and 50,000 Fijian Methodists are planning to descend on the area around the national capital, Suva, to ensure the hymn singing - and the church conference - goes ahead. "The tension is growing and there is a great deal of anger. People are concerned that it will just take a clash between a couple of angry young people and the military for violence to erupt. While there may be only two roads into the area around the airport and the military may think they can control the area, many are concerned that 50,000 people will be beyond their capacity and then they may resort to violence," he stated.

Methodist church leaders are reported to be finding alternative leadership structures to deal with the muzzling of their president and general secretary, who are now under strict bail terms which prevent them from talking to more than one person at a time. At this stage, the church is determined to hold its annual conference, which usually brings together up to 1000 church leaders for a week of discussion, celebration and singing. It is the supreme decision-making body for the Methodist Church. It is said that many church members will still attend the location of the conference, even if the church leaders call the gathering off.

Both the Methodist Church of New Zealand and the Uniting Church in Australia have pledged their prayerful support for the Fijian church.

Kim Cain, Ecumenical News international, 27 July 2009, www.eni.ch

Church youth activity in the Solomon Islands

In June the United Church in the Solomon Islands held a week long celebration to mark 50 years of youth work, with the theme “Iumi tugetha buildim iang pipol for Christ” (Together we build young people for Christ). Hundreds of youth and church members gathered for various activities including a Bible quiz, custom and contemporary dances, a choir competition, devotions and talks on social issues affecting young people.

A specific focus on youth work started by a Fijian Missionary Seci Lingairi on 12th June 1959 in Marovo Circuit, Western Province, during the time of the Methodist Church. At that time there were practical youth projects such as the Iohe coconut plantation, cattle projects and airfield maintenance at Seghe. Youth work then spread to other parts of the Western Province. In the 1980s the youth programme became the United Church Youth Fellowship.

Youth leader George Pitakoe said the recognition, and involvement youth have today in the life and witness of the church is something to celebrate. He said youth participation in leadership, both in the church and the community, means that they are not only leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today.

Mr Pitakoe urges young people to realise and recognise their potential and opportunity to influence and bring about positive changes. He encourages young people to be involved in advocacy which is about influencing decision makers to bring about desirable change.

“What do we advocate for? The rights of children and youth through ensuring the availability of basic services especially for remote and underserved areas; the adequacy and proper allocation and utilisation of resources; and social and behavioral change.” When we advocate, we seek to influence the attitudes of others in planned and organised ways in order to bring positive changes, Mr Pitakoe said.

To be able to move forward, Mr Pitakoe said young people need support from their parents and church leaders at all levels. “As we face a lot of challenges in this world, especially social problems and health problems, our young people need more teaching and guidance.” Therefore, Mr Pitakoe said, youth ministry in the church must be actively encouraged and supported. He urged the church to be a voice for the voiceless.

Mary Kivo Solomon Star 16 June 2009

HIV and AIDS: fighting diseases of the human spirit

Faith and civil society groups campaigning on HIV and AIDS have urged United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to step up efforts to combat discrimination and criminalisation of HIV and AIDS sufferers. The call, supported by more than 20 faith-based organisations, was presented to Ban at a 16 June meeting in New York with members of the global steering committee of the World AIDS Campaign.

"The secretary-general spoke passionately of his encounters with people living with HIV, the unacceptable laws and practices of some governments that violate the rights of people living with or affected by HIV," said Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), a network of churches and Christian organisations advocating on HIV and AIDS.

The meeting with Ban took place as "Universal Access and Human Rights" was announced as the 2009 and 2010 theme for World AIDS Day, which falls on 1 December. The theme is set by the World AIDS Campaign, which brings together civil society groups including EAA. Hartke said she welcomed a statement by the U.N. secretary-general that, "The fight against AIDS also requires us to attack diseases of the human spirit: prejudice, discrimination, stigma." EAAs own campaign on HIV and AIDS, places a priority on upholding the value, life and dignity of all persons and calls for actions that

recognise and protect international human rights. In a statement announcing the World AIDS Day theme, the World AIDS Campaign and the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS noted that many countries still have laws and policies that impede access to HIV services and criminalise those most vulnerable to HIV. Included are laws that criminalise men who have sex with men, transgendered people, lesbians, sex workers and people who use drugs. More than 80 countries have reported that they have laws and policies that act as obstacles to effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for vulnerable populations, the statement reported. Around 59 countries have laws that restrict the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV.

At the same time, laws and regulations protecting people with HIV from discrimination, and women from gender inequality and sexual violence, are not fully implemented or enforced. "Respecting, upholding and protecting human rights, especially those of children and women, will no doubt contribute to fewer infections, fewer deaths, and even less demand for treatment," said Chabu Kangale, executive director of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV or AIDS. "We must work for a more human and just society for all. That is the right direction for all of us."

Stephen Brown, Ecumenical News International

18 June 2009 www.eni.ch

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter July 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Ecumenism is a way of life

Sister Pina Sandu says that in her Orthodox monastery, in the mountains of Romania, they practise "touristic spirituality". With a resort built up around the monastery, "like it or not" the tourists "hear the bells, hear the services three times a day& They hear, they feel, they know that something is happening." As a result, their curiosity leads them into the yard and into the church – "small, sure steps towards something beautiful."

Sister Pina and five other sisters – two each from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant orders – are providing a similar subtle but radical witness at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey outside of Geneva, Switzerland, for students and visitors alike. The sisters live together, coordinate the worship and prayer life at the Ecumenical Institute, participate in classes – and embody a sense of "ecumenical spirituality" in daily life.

Their presence alone, in their striking habits, is noticeable to all who use the Institute for meetings and events. Visitors come from church or development groups to secular organizations like Rolex or the regional Swiss television company, all of whom are invited to take part in the prayer life at the Institute. But their main role over their year at Bossey is to provide pastoral support for the students. Dealing with the tensions generated in the classroom is one way the sisters model ecumenical relationships. Sister Pina describes how after heated discussions, they would walk from the classroom to the kitchen for a meal, and the sisters would smile and talk.

The sisters themselves were uncertain how it would work living together, but they have found it is possible to live together, and the "happiest of times is sharing about our life, what we are doing and our spiritual life" says Sister Sperancia Mulashani Thadeo, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. "For us," says Ivy Athipozhiyil, a Dominican sister from India, "ecumenical spirituality is living together. We are sharing everything, laughing. This we offer, without knowing, to others like the students. For them it is a sign."

The witness of the sisters is noticed not just by the students. Sister Ivy recalls overhearing a member of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, who were meeting at Bossey. "One bishop looked at us walking together, and he said [to another participant], ‘we are talking, talking, talking – and there – you see!"

"What I have realised is that when we talk about unity, it means to sit together, to share, to love each other and to accept each other." Maria Elena Romero Molina, a Missionary Dominican sister from Guatemala, states it most simply, "Ecumenism is not a concept. It is a way of life." Sister Pina reflects, "The motto of the life and work commission, back then, was doctrine divides, service unites." Now, she states, "I could say doctrine divides, spirituality unites."

Sara Speicher WCC News 3 June 2009

Pacific Church leaders and climate change

Peter Emberson, Climate Change Campaign Officer of the Pacific Conference of Churches, commenting on the “Moana Declaration” issued at a meeting of Pacific Church leaders, in Fiji in April says “The word Moana in all Polynesian societies represents the sea and its life-giving force - the watery tapa that conjoins Oceania and its peoples. & The saddening reality is that this same moana - endeared and valued in all Pacific cultures - is threatening the very concepts of our lives as oceanic peoples.”

In their statement Church leaders affirmed their belief in the Christian tradition that the land and sea are the creation of God, who is present in and beyond both and in which the Pacific peoples “live and move and have their being”. They acknowledged that they are God’s gifts to be used for the livelihood and well being, not only of the present generation but all generations to come and as such are to be respected and cared for.

The declaration further says “It is painfully clear – from convincing scientific evidence that the human release of carbon dioxide through the continued burning of fossil fuels is causing and will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophes. To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only recklessness; it is sin.”

Noting the impact of this on “food and water security; our way of life; our culture; our community; our overall health and well being; the ecological systems on which we depend and other creatures with whom we share Gods creation”, the church leaders call on the Pacific Islands Forum, the affected states and the international community to take the necessary steps to respect and protect people and communities overcome by climate-induced catastrophes.

In particular they call for plans to care for people forced to flee their homes and lands and to establish a convention for resettlement and to identify suitable places for relocation.

The church leaders have prepared a petition calling on the Pacific Islands Forum to take all necessary steps to ensure these measures are put in place.

CWS Update June 2009

Emergency and development groups unite

A church-based emergency grouping and a development organization, both Geneva-based, with similar names and backers, have announced they are to unite and will formally launch in March 2010 as the ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance, which will have access to billions of dollars.

ACT Alliance will be launched in Malawi by the merger of ACT International and ACT Development, both of which are supported by mainly Protestant and Orthodox churches along with their development and aid organizations. Jill Hawkey, the New Zealander director of ACT Development, said, "The unification is a great moment for our members, since most of them work in both long-term development and emergency response. It makes sense to them coming together like this."

The new organization will bring together more than 150 agencies, churches and organisations with a common income of more than US$2 billion dollars and staff numbering 40,000, including volunteers.

Through emergency appeals, ACT International coordinates humanitarian operations all over the world, and has been recently active in areas such as Sri Lanka, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Colombia and India. ACT Development works on long-term development issues and coordinates work in areas such as aid effectiveness, impact assessment and malaria.

Peter Kenney, ENI 28 May 2009 ww.eni.ch

To Twitter or not to Twitter the gospel

As social networks become more and more popular, churches still struggle to find the best ways of using these new features to communicate with their members and spread the gospel. More than 40 representatives of churches and church-related organizations from a dozen different countries seized the opportunity of the 14th European Christian Internet Conference (ECIC) in Helsinki and Stockholm, 7-10 June 2009, to discuss their experiences and best practices in using these new tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, for their work.

Among the projects presented were a social networking platform used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia to offer pastoral care to its church members, especially to Latvian migrants living in Ireland; a Church of Sweden fundraising campaign based on social media; as well as ideas for sharing spiritual resources. An example is the prayers offered on the website Sacred Space, run by Irish Jesuits.

As most young people nowadays use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, most ECIC participants agreed that the church should be present in these media if it wants to reach out to them.

However, as Terhi Paananen from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland said in her presentation on how to use social media in church life, "it is not enough just to go where the people go. We need to have a mission and a purpose to help, to encourage, to teach.”

WCC News, 11 June 2009

Orthodox Church leaders speak out on the environment

In a message for World Environment Day on 5 May, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stressed that "the care for and protection of Creation constitutes the responsibility of everyone on an individual and collective level." The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is widely recognized as spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox community.

In a similar message, Archbishop Hieronymos II, who leads the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, said: "It is God's real blessing that people today, though they live in an era of secularisation and materialism, have become aware that our planet is our 'Oikos', our 'Home', which we have to protect and preserve".

As "the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by sacredness," Patriarch Bartholomew said, "its abuse and destruction is a sacrilegious and sinful act.” The Patriarch’s staunch support for environmental causes has inspired churches at large and the World Council of Churches, which has been working to raise awareness on climate change for more than 20 years.

World Environment Day, one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

WCC News 4 June 2009

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter June 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Plans to celebrate 100 years of landmark mission event

As the centennial of a landmark mission event approaches in 2010, a global study process is mobilizing churches, theological institutions and mission bodies around the world. The World Mission Conference that took place in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910 brought together 1,200 representatives mainly linked to the Western missionary movement. In addition to its focus on evangelism, this historic gathering emphasized cooperation and unity.

"It is because of this concern for unity that Edinburgh 1910 is widely considered the symbolic starting point of the contemporary ecumenical movement, although there were no Orthodox nor Catholic delegates present at that time. The 2010 gathering and its preceding study process will be much more inclusive and representative of the global church." The theme of the 2010 event is Witnessing to Christ Today. A key activity marking the centennial is a study process on nine themes that are at the centre of contemporary missiology. The themes range from the foundations of Christian mission to current forms of missionary engagement, including aspects like inter-religious, postmodern and other contemporary contexts in which the missionary endeavor of the churches takes place. The inter-relations between mission and power, unity and spirituality are also among the themes.

The outcomes of the study process will be the main input for a 2-6 June 2010 conference hosted by the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Some 150 delegates from the stakeholder organisations will engage with about 70 delegates from the study process.

Organisers see the conference as an opportunity for joint celebration of what God has done in the growth of the church over the last 100 years; repentance for all that has gone wrong in mission; and re-commitment to a new shared vision for the present and future of God's mission in the world.

"There will be many events marking the Edinburgh centennial in 2010, and several major Christian organizations will have their assemblies during that year", says Jacques Matthey, a Swiss pastor who is the director of the WCC programme on Unity, Mission, Evangelism and Spirituality. But "the specificity of the common 2010 Edinburgh conference lies in the wide spectrum of churches, denominations and mission traditions united around the project".

This spectrum includes Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Independent traditions. "Although relatively small in terms of participants, the 2010 Edinburgh conference will be the most representative of the diversity of world Christianity today", adds Matthey, who has been involved with the project since its inception.

Whilst Edinburgh 1910 led to the International Missionary Council and the contemporary ecumenical movement, Edinburgh 2010 is not expected to create a new structure or institution. However, the four-day long conference will not be the end of the Edinburgh 2010 process.

"There are already many ecumenical or interdenominational mission or church bodies at global and regional levels who can take up the results of the process and of the conference", explains Matthey. "It will be up to them to keep going on the key conversation on mission that Edinburgh 2010 will initiate." WCC News 14 May 2009

New campaign to tackle root causes of hunger

A group of Christian leaders who campaign for justice in the fight against hunger are calling on the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to seek tangible results in recognising the right to food. The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) sent the letter to Ban as the first of a series of actions in a global campaign on food.

"Churches have always helped people in need of food, but now we want to tackle the root causes of hunger as a structural problem," says the Rev. Malcolm Damon, chairperson of the EAA's Food Strategy Group. Damon, who is executive director of an economic justice network in Southern Africa, said, "The economic crisis and the climate crisis alone will lead to even more hunger problems, so we need to engage actively with the systems, policies and practices that are at the heart of the problem."

Citing statistics put out by international organizations, the EAA says that nearly one billion people are facing chronic hunger "in a world that currently produces enough nutritious food to feed everyone". Damon, a South African theologian says, "The production, distribution and access to culturally appropriate nourishment is a fundamental matter of justice and we want people all over the world through their churches to advocate for just food production systems and trade distribution systems."

The letter to the UN secretary-general applauds his recent call to include the Right to Food in the Comprehensive Framework for Action at the recent High Level Meeting on Food Security for All in Madrid, and urges him to go further by taking "practical and tangible action".

The four-year EAA campaign will also mobilise people all over the world through Christian organisations to advocate for just and sustainable consumption. This will be done with the realisation that the right to food for all means people having access to nutritious food, without sacrificing other fundamental rights such as housing, education or health.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Food, Olivier De Schutter, has welcomed the EAA campaign and noted, "Producing more food will not reduce hunger if we neglect to think about the political economy of the food systems and if we do not produce and consume in ways which are both more equitable and more sustainable."

De Schutter added, "Nor will increased production suffice if we do not ground our policies on the right to food,-- as a means to ensure adequate targeting, monitoring and accountability." ENI 15 May 2009

News roundup

Tutu visits Solomon Islands

Retired Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu from South Africa launched the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in a visit to the country in May. At the launch he said he hoped those who have been victims of the ethnic tension in the Solomons will be able to walk the path of reconciliation rather than revenge. Archbishop Tutu said he prayed that the perpetrators of the conflict are willing to participate in the healing process by their readiness to confess and ask for forgiveness from the ones they have wronged. He stated the old saying that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

Archbishop Tutu said it was an honour for him to come and share his own experiences in the area of reconciliation and true forgiveness. In the post-apartheid era of South Africa, Archbishop Tutu chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was the first Commission of its kind in the world. The Solomons TRC will investigate the causes of the past ethnic tension which nearly ripped the country apart.

Archbishop Tutu said the Solomon Islands must shake itself out of the problems it faces and fly over the horizon to peace, prosperity and stability. He said that if the Solomon Islands is serious about its future, it can shake off the problems it faces and move ahead into a brighter future. Solomon Star May 2009

Church choir entertains RAMSI

Wesley United Church Choir in Honiara recently performed for police and military contingents of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands. Choir Master, Atu Balekana, enthusiastically led the dedicated group comprising Solomon Islanders, Fijians and Papua New Guineans. The choir has a long history with the Balekana family. Atu’s father, Banabasa Balekana composer of the Solomon Islands national anthem, started the choir in 1956 and tirelessly worked to guide and teach its members over the next 53 years until he passed away on 22 January this year. Atu saw it as an honour to take over the choir from his father. The choir has 49 members who regularly sing together. The choir sang at the 2009 ANZAC Day service at the Honiara Cenotaph. The choir has an outreach programme where they visit hospitals, schools and prisons to sing and spread peace and goodwill to all. Solomon Star 15 May 2009

Sasamunga Hospital appeal

The 2009 special appeal for Sasamunga Hospital has raised over $6,000 to date. Donations are still being received. A canoe and outboard motor for visits to surrounding villages to provide basic health care, has already been funded and the boat is in use. There are several equipment and other needs the hospital has so the appeal is open to the end of the year. We look forward to ongoing support for this appeal.

United Church Papua New Guinea visit

John Roberts visited the United Church in Papua New Guinea 26 April to 3 May. He spent time with Moderator Samson Lowa at the assembly office in Port Moresby, visited the Metago Training Institute a little out of Port Moresby, and travelled to Bougainville Region and to Rarongo Theological College near Rabaul. There will be an article on this visit in the June issue of Touchstone.

Exceptionally Inhumane Weapons

This is the topic of the subject of the latest Hot Topic resource from the Churches Agency on International Issues. It covers landmines, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium weapons. The question of ethical investment is raised and a theological reflection is included. Available from Christian World Service PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142; Email: international @cws.org.nz; and can be downloaded from www.cws.org.nz

l

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter May 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Transform global financial systems says WCC

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is urging a drastic transformation of financial institutions, stating greed has become the basis for economic growth, and said that world leaders must build a new system based on ethical principles. "What we need are brave and new measures to correct this unjust and unethical system in order to prevent such a crisis from occurring once again," said the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia. "The need of the hour is to construct a system in which market forces are checked [not only] through ethical regulations and oversight but also by a framework of common values that sets clear limits to excessive and irresponsible actions based on greed." Kobia has urged world leaders, "to go beyond short-term financial bail-out actions and to seek long-term transformation based on sound ethical and moral principles".

According to Kobia, values such as honesty, social justice and dignity for all need to be at the centre of a new financial architecture; in addition, mechanisms able to curb greed as the basis for economic growth are needed. Only in this way will the moral and ethical dimensions of the crisis be taken into account.

The WCC has put forward eleven proposals.

1. Democratise all global finance and trade institutions.

2. Deter destabilising currency speculation.

3. Develop a practice of ethics and social justice for financial markets.

4. Establish international mechanisms to control capital flows and capital flight.

5. Implement an international monetary system based on a new system of reserves.

6. Prohibit hedge funds and over-the-counter markets.

7. Eradicate speculation on commodities, especially food and energy.

8. Dismantle tax havens and combat tax competition and evasion.

9. Establish a new international system of wealth-sharing.

10. Cancel illegitimate debt and address unsustainable debts of impoverished countries.

11. Ensure there will be no reduction of development aid to poor countries, nor adverse effects on the Millennium Development Goals.

Ecumenical News International 30 March 2009


Sri Lanka’s deepening crisis

An international ecumenical consultation held in Bangalore, India, at the beginning of April has appealed to the government of Sri Lanka and the rebel movement Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to halt fighting in order to free tens of thousands of civilians trapped in a war zone in the north of the country.

"180,000 people are trapped in the war zone amidst shelling and crossfire, lacking basic amenities like food, medicine, shelter [and] sanitation," says the statement issued by the consultation, which was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) together with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the South Asian Councils of Churches (SACC).

Participants at the consultation appealed "to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to immediately

stop the ongoing military operations, and to ensure safe passage arranged by credible and neutral agencies for those trapped in the war zone".

On 27 March, Shanta Fernando, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), was taken into custody by the Terrorism Investigation Department of the Sri Lankan police. no specific reason for the unlawful arrest or detention of Mr Fernando has been given so far. The World Council of Churches has called for his immediate release.

Asia Sunday – which falls in May each year, but can be observed at any suitable time – will have a special focus on Sri Lanka in 2009. The liturgy for Asia Sunday can be found at:

www.cca.org.hk/resources/resframe.htm

WCC News April 2009

News roundup

'Water buffalo' theologian dies

Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese Christian theologian who advocated contextual theologies rooted in the experiences of everyday people, is being remembered for his far-sighted commitment to religious pluralism, dialogue and peace. He died on 25 March, aged 79, in Springfield USA. The Japanese academic is perhaps best remembered for his 1974 book Water Buffalo Theology whose title underscored his belief that the starting point of theology must be people's own experience. The book emerged from the author's efforts to communicate the Christian message to farmers in Thailand, who cultivated fields with water buffalo, while he was a missionary and teacher there from 1960 to 1968.

ENI 1 April 2009

Need for dialogue over West Papua

A West Papua religious leader says the New Zealand government could perform a role in facilitating dialogue over Indonesia’s troubled Papua region, as it did for Bougainville back in the early 1990s. Father Neles Tebay of the Catholic Diocese of Jayapura says ongoing human rights abuses and killings related to the presence of Indonesian troops in Papua highlight the urgent need for dialogue on the future of his people.

He says New Zealand’s acknowledged key role in facilitating talks which led to peace in Bougainville after years of civil war show how it sometimes just takes a neighbour to help bring positive change to a regional conflict. “I think the National-led government can facilitate some meetings between the Indonesia government and Papuans to discuss on how to settle the West Papua conflict through dialogue.”

Radio NZ International 31 March 2009

Fundraiser for Goldie College

More than 200 ex-Goldies, friends, and family members turned up at the ex-Goldies BBQ event at the Wesley United Church compound in Honiara recently. The event gave ex-Goldies a time to renew old friendships and laugh about the special school day memories.

The Chairman of Goldie College Alumni Association, Dr Alpheaus G. Zobule highlighted the conmtribution Goldie college pupils have made and continue to make to the nation, in Churches, public service and private sectors. He drew attention to the impact of the 2007 earthquake on the college buildings.

“There are many things we can do for the school,” said Jeffrey Wickham, a former teacher at Goldie, “but we must not try to do everything at once. Let us do one thing at a time and do it well.”

Chief Executive Officer of Our Telekom Loyley Ngira asked the executive “to map out plans so that we can be focused in what we do for the school. It is better to do one project and complete it well rather than do many things and leave them all half done.”

Many friends who are not ex-Goldies, but have a concern and support the school also attended the event. Organised by the newly formed Goldie College Alumni Association, the BBQ was a big success raising SBD18,062 for the school.

Solomon Star 23 March 2009

Helena Goldie Hospital

Hospital administrator , Eddie Pratt, has provided an update on developments at the hospital. The HGH Community Touring Program resumed in April 2009. “A team will go out to the villages each month to do immunisation, outpatient clinics, health awareness and other health activities. Building of a medical students and overseas visitors and volunteers house is underway. The 3 bedroom house is funded from Australia. HGH is taking several cost cutting measures as from the beginning of 2009. A staffing review is under way and those who have reached retirement age will be asked to retire by June 2009. Two doctors from Methodist Church UK will come to work at HGH hopefully as from July 2009. “

The HIV & AIDS gospel

A recent five-day workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands, empowered church leaders to become HIV & AIDS advocates through an approach called ‘Channels of Hope’. The objectives of the workshop were:

1. To be able share correct basic information on HIV and AIDS with members of their congregation.

2. To be able to challenge stigma and negative attitudes within their faith communities.

3. To be able to facilitate a caring and compassionate attitude response to the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

4. Be able to share positive messages from scripture with their congregations as guiding principles for their response to HIV & AIDS.

5. Have a strategy to address HIV & AIDS withion their congregations.

Solomon Star 6 April 2009

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter April 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Pacific women speak out on critical issues

Pacific governments have called for greater recognition of issues relating to both climate change and the global economic crisis in a region which faces unique vulnerabilities to all global crises. The issues were addressed at the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March.

As a result of climate change, the Pacific faces particular risks in terms of rising sea levels and temperatures, floods and droughts, and intensification of tropical cyclones, which could have serious impacts on the capacity of the Pacific’s formal and informal agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors to provide food security, livelihoods and economic growth. These burdens are expected to have a disproportionate impact on women, including in the context of care-giving — given the anticipated health impacts from climate change.

The Pacific group emphasised that women are not only disproportionately impacted by these global crises, they are also key agents of change and must participate actively and equally in developing and implementing sustainable strategies at all levels: national, regional and international.

The regional Pacific Islands Forum statement also noted that there is an urgent need to increase Pacific women’s economic equality, not only to reduce their vulnerability to the effects of the global financial crisis, but also as part of the effort to support equality in other priority areas including participation in all levels of decision-making and elimination of violence against women.

With respect to both climate change and the financial crisis, the statement added that policy interventions would require the active and equal participation of women and men. And that would require to fully integrate a gender perspective. Also to ensure that stimulus packages and budgetary decisions keep social and human capital at the forefront of priorities.

A further call was made for the world’s governments to adopt appropriate measures to overcome negative impacts of the economic and financial crisis, including on women and girls. Also, to integrate a gender perspective into these measures so that they equally benefit women and men, while seeking to maintain adequate levels of funding for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Post Courier online 20 March 2009


Water is a human right

Members of the church-backed Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) are urging that water be affirmed as a "basic human right" by government delegations meeting in Istanbul at the World Water Forum (WWF) in March.

The WWF takes place every three years and is the largest international event dedicated to water issues. It is organised by the World Water Council, composed of a variety of stakeholders, including corporations and business associations. "In the past the forum has tended to emphasise water privatisation and large-scale water infrastructure. While the interests of business players are well represented in discussions about water issues, it is important that civil society organisations and churches raise awareness of the needs of affected communities," says EWN coordinator Maike Gorsboth.

The EWN groups churches and Christian organisations campaigning for people's access to water around the world. They have maintained that water is more than merely a "human need", as stated in the forum's draft ministerial declaration. "The right to water and sanitation is firmly grounded in international human rights law," said a statement signed by EWN members.

The latest U.N. World Water Development Report warns that the surging growth in global population, climate change, widespread mismanagement and increasing demand for energy have tightened the grip on the world's water supplies. "After decades of inaction, the problems we face are enormous. If left unattended, they may become insurmountable," said Ko?chiro Matsuura, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in presenting the report to the Istanbul forum.

The United States, Canada, China, and several other nations refused to recognise the human right to water at the March forum, mistakenly fearing that recognising such a right would force them to share their water resources with other nations.

Ecumenical News International 20 March 2009

Ecumenical news

National ecumenical dialogue

A group of New Zealand Church leaders met for the third time in March to discuss the possibility of setting up a new national ecumenical entity. Ken Harrison, the national leader of the Assemblies of God churches joined the group for the first time. Catholic Archbishop John Dew recapped the journey thus far. Further consideration was given to the draft statement Towards a Theology of Ecumenism. It was agreed that the meeting needed to further explore creating an ecumenical ‘instrument’; draft some ground rules for how the ‘instrument’ would gather; establish some terms of reference for the instrument. It was strongly felt that church leaders need to be part of any ongoing ‘instrument’, and that the ‘instrument’ needs to be open and inclusive. The suggested name for the ‘instrument is The Churches Commission for Christian Unity. A task group will prepare some ground rules and terms of reference for consideration at the next meeting in September 2009.

Anglican Methodist Covenant

A national Anglican Methodist Dialogue has been taking place for six years. A covenant between the two churches was proposed and this was drafted in 2007 and agreed to by the highest courts of the two churches in 2008. An event to celebrate the signing of the covenant by leaders of the two churches will be held on Sunday 24 May. Two venues opposite each other in Orly Avenue, Mangere (next to the Mangere Town Centre), will be used. The celebration will begin at Lotafala’ia (Tongan Methodist Centre) at 2pm and conclude at Te Karaiti Te Pou Herenga Waka (Maori Anglican church) with refreshment. This is a public event and it is hoped Anglicans and Methodists will give it their fullest support by attending the celebration.

Christian Conference of Asia round table meeting

Twenty-two church leaders from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand met together with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) executive secretaries and consultants for the Asia Roundtable Meeting with Asian Church Leaders held in Bangkok, Thailand, March 12-13, 2009. Vice-President Ron Gibson and General Secretary David Bush represented the Methodist Church of New Zealand.

The meeting was about cultivating mutual understanding and strengthening cooperation and the sense of ownership of CCA among its members. The meeting agreed to: increase CCA membership contributions to 50%. of total income; increase income in kind; increase the CCA emergency fund to respond to emergency situations.

David Bush will brief the MM&E Committee on he significance of thisriundtable gathering at its May meeting.

CCA letter 20 March 2009

UN Decade for Interreligious Cooperation for Peace

Some forty-five religious, interfaith, and value-based organizations from five continents have agreed to form a coalition to advance a "United Nations Decade for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding, and Cooperation for Peace." Coalition members expressed the hope that the UN Sixty-Fourth General Assembly, which will begin its deliberations in September 2009, will approve a resolution establishing such a decade from 2011-2020.

The meeting took place in New York, on 2-4 March. Participants included Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Zoroastrian as well as indigenous traditions.

The president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, called for a "new spirit of solidarity and a powerful injection of moral and ethical values into our business and political lives." He urged the religious leaders to work together with the United Nations since these concerns require "life-long commitment" and religious institutions have the "staying power in the face of these challenges."

The coalition elected a steering committee to strategically promote the decade idea among member states of the UN. Coalition members hope the proposed UN decade will be launched on 21 September 2010, the International Day of Peace Cultures.

WCC News 11 March 2009

Joint consultation on mission and ecclesiology

Two World Council of Churches (WCC) commissions, the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism and the Commission on Faith and Order, have their roots in the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910. Representatives of the two commissions are working together to mark Edinburgh 2010. They recently met in Hungary. The respective working groups on ecclesiology of both commissions recognise that mission lies at the very heart of the church. They shared insights and looked toward supporting one another in the future.

They have recommended to their commissions the following areas for future collaboration: joint working on various projects on mission and unity; representation on one another’s commissions; celebrating together the 50th anniversary of the integration of the International Missionary Council and the WCC in 1961, as well as the historic ecclesiological statement of the New Delhi WCC assembly with its roots in both Mission and Faith and Order.

Each commission has decided to invite representatives of the other to forthcoming major events: the Faith and Order Plenary Commission in 2009 and the Edinburgh 2010 conference.

WCC News 7 March 2009

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter March 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

Good news on nuclear threat


Prepare for some good news in 2009. Despite the terrible start in Gaza and other areas of conflict, governments committed to shared security are set to reach an historic milestone this year. Specifically, the number of countries protected by nuclear-weapon-free zones is set to jump to 110 countries from 56 at present.

The change will come as soon as two more governments ratify the treaty making Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Churches are promoting the step, and linking Africa's action to the need for similar progress in the Middle East. "This will be good news on the nuclear front for Africa and the world," notes Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, a senior African statesman. Kiplagat is leading a World Council of Churches (WCC) initiative to help bring the Africa Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty into force, with church action nationally to support an international goal.

A recent ecumenical delegation to Namibia received a positive response from top government officials there. Ratification of the Africa treaty will mean that the whole southern hemisphere and adjoining regions are protected. Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and Central Asia have also set up zones that exclude nuclear arms and related activities.

The new administration in the United States has already helped push nuclear treaties higher on the world agenda. Curbing nuclear fuels and banning all nuclear tests will be central issues at major United Nations conferences the WCC will attend in Geneva and New York in 2009. For churches, the trend means that 60 years of disarmament policies reinforced by all WCC Assemblies have a future again after years of frustration.

In a major address late last year, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon called the abolition of nuclear weapons "a global public good of the highest order". He said progress would come via the rule of law, including treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and, unavoidably, the Middle East. The UN leader noted the essential role of the main nuclear arms control treaty (known by its acronym, NPT) and the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Ecumenical and interfaith delegations attend both forums regularly. To promote the nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and the Middle East, the WCC has established contacts in 50 countries with representatives of governments, civil society and religious groups.

The Middle East project is based on cooperation among the three Abrahamic faiths, including some of the signatories of a historic letter from Muslim to Christian leaders in 2007 which condemned weapons of mass destruction. Both the Africa and Middle East initiatives implement WCC Assembly and governing body resolutions.

Recent moves against nuclear weapons also include a global civil society initiative to eliminate nuclear arsenals, called "Global Zero"; 500 cities in 2008 joining an anti-nuclear coalition called Mayors for Peace which now links 2,600 city governments; a new European Union proposal for a global ban on nuclear testing and on fissile material production; UK churches lobbying against their government's renewal of its nuclear arsenal; and a recent ecumenical conference in Seoul that challenged churches to respond globally to nuclear threats against nations.

Jonathan Frerichs, WCC News 27 January 2008


News roundup


Papua New Guinea focus of World Day of Prayer

The liturgy for this year’s World Day of Prayer on Friday 6 March has been prepared by church women in Papua New Guinea. In the city of Lae in Morobe Province an awareness program was launched in advance of the day of prayer. Women from the mainline Christian Churches in Lae used drama and theatrical performances, songs and public speeches in and around the city and province. Awareness co-ordinator Sisa Gewebing from the Lutheran Women’s Group said awareness training would continue to the eve of the World Day of Prayer to encourage all the women in the province to pray on the day. “This is a very important day for all the churches because this will be the day when all the Christian women from all over the world will come together to pray for peace and good order for the world community.” Countries around the world will pray for Papua New Guinea on social and political issues including polygamy, domestic violence, marriage breakdowns, prostitution, law and order, good governance, corruption and political stability. Post Courier

Tutu to visit Solomon Islands

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa will be in Solomon Islands to help set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the country. Tutu was instrumental in setting up the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of the apartheid regime. Archbishop Tutu is expected to arrive at the end of April. The invitation for Tutu to visit was part of the Solomon Islands government's commitment towards peace and reconciliation. Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. He is vocal in his defense of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. Solomon Star

A focus on water for Lent

As the season of Lent begins, the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) invites Christians to mark the occasion with reflection and action on water justice. During the Seven Weeks for Water initiative, theologians and church activists from Africa, Europe, North and South America will share short biblical meditations for each week along with some campaigning ideas and resources. The first set of materials is available on the EWN Website: www.water.oikoumene.org. “Traditionally Lent is a time for concentrating on what is essential in life and opening our hearts to our neighbours, for example by fasting and giving to the needy,” says Maike Gorsboth, the EWN coordinator. “The Seven Weeks for Water initiative encourages Christian groups and individuals to deepen this experience, reflecting on the concrete issue of water justice.” Another opportunity to highlight the importance of water comes on World Water Day, Sunday 22 March. EWN has put together a collection of resources and links that can help congregations address the issue. These highlight the challenges posed by unequal access to freshwater and sanitation. WCC News 19 Feb 2009

Right to food

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) and faith-based organisations and leaders around the world applaud the recognition of the essential role of the right to food in combating hunger by the recent High Level Meeting on Food Security for All. The EAA is launching a new four year campaign on food among the churches and Christian organizations around the world. Dr Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, reflecting on the prayer for daily bread, says, “When we say ‘our’ rather than ‘my’ daily bread, we define our need for the minimum requirements for human dignity in explicitly communal terms. Adequate food must be a right for all, not a privilege for some.” EAA January 2009


Projects update


Children and Youth Centre, Munda

The building contract has been signed and a groundbreaking ceremony was to take place on 26 February. It is expected to take four months to complete. Thanks to those who have contributed to this project sponsored by Mission and ecumenical.

Helena Goldie Hospital

Principal Nurse Chris Leve, whose salary is provided by Mission and Ecumenical, has returned after a year studying for a degree specialising in nursing administration and education in Papua New Guinea. Denty Levo, who was sponsored by Mission and Ecumenical for six months radiology training in Honiara, has also returned.

Sasamugga Hospital

The appeal to assist Sasamugga hospital is meeting with an encouraging response. We will soon be able to provide the boat and outboard motor to assist the hospital in its outreach programme.

Copra Project

A generous donation has enabled further assistance

for the copra project based at Vonunu, Vella Lavella Island. This will enable the appointment of more local agents and generally boost the finances of the project.

Books for Rarongo

A consignment of books for Rarongo Theological College will be shipped from Auckland in April. Most are in the area of biblical studies.

Metago Training Institute

Funding has been provided for the first year of establishing a fish farm project at Metago, which is based in Port Moresby. The purpose is to generate income for Metago, and assist local communities through access to fish purchases and some employment opportunities.

Disaster responses

Mission and Ecumenical has contributed to the disaster appeals of Christian World Service for the Congo and Gaza. It has also paid the freight charge for two containers of goods sent to Fiji by the Auckland Fijian Methodist Circuit, to assist the victims of the recent floods in the Nadi area.

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter February 2009 Secretary: John Roberts

James Bond and water for all


In the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, released in December, the villain is seeking to control the water in a developing country. How realistic is the idea of a mafia gaining control over a country's water supply? Maike Gorsboth, the coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, an initiative of churches, Christian organisations and movements working on people's access to water and community-based solutions to the water crisis, says we are witnessing struggles over the control of water supply and resources.

With water scarcity increasing and demand for water rising steadily in many countries around the world, control over water translates more and more into profit and power. Companies are buying water rights and land in order to secure their access to water resources. Often they do not care much about the rights of communities, or environmental consequences, and so they deplete and pollute this precious resource.

Gorsboth says the idea of the movie is not as far fetched as one might think. Corruption does play a major role in the water sector. Legal provisions ensuring public control and regulating private ownership and use of water resources are in inadequate.

But why is "water for all" something the churches should worry about? Gorsboth says without adequate access to water, human dignity is harmed and development impossible. And those who suffer most from missing out on, and unequal access to clean water, are the poorest. This is not simply the result of physical water scarcity. It is about political, social, and economic factors determining who gets water and who does not. That makes it an ethical concern, a matter of justice.

In the movie James Bond tackles the problem gun in hand. So what kind of action do churches take? Gorsboth says in the movie the villain almost succeeds because he is working in secret and playing on other people's greed and corruption. Churches around the world however are raising awareness and are educating people about what is happening, they are warning of the danger of privatising the very source of life. They speak up for the poor and most vulnerable and thus help them to defend their right to water against more powerful interests. And they counter the tendency to reduce water to an economic commodity by reminding people and authorities alike of the social and spiritual value of water.

WCC News November 2008

Children living with HIV


A new action guide from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance encourages young people to take the lead in calling for improvements in testing and treatment for infants and children living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Prescription for Life is a guide that provides information and resources for schools, families, faith groups and communities to empower young people to write letters to pharmaceutical companies and governments, and promote the issue through the media. It can be used in church and community settings. Together, we can make a difference and give a future to millions of children.

It is estimated that 2.1 million children, aged under 15, are living with HIV. Yet children remain largely forgotten in global and national efforts to address HIV and AIDS. This is especially the case for children's access to diagnostic testing for HIV and medicines to treat HIV, known as antiretrovirals. Currently, only 15 percent of children in need of HIV treatment have access to it.

When children living with HIV do not get appropriate treatment, they suffer and die faster than adults living with the virus. Despite evidence that HIV treatment is very successful in children, more than 900 children die of AIDS-related illnesses every day.

Letters generated from this year-long action will help keep governments accountable to commitments made in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and will also used in advocacy with pharmaceutical companies. An exhibit of the letters will be prepared for the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 2009.

Download or order free print copies of the guide at: http://www.ealliance


USA church leaders address Obama


In her sermon at the first prayer service attended by US President Barack Obama after his inauguration, Rev. Dr Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called on the leader who, she said, would "set the tone" for the nation, to chose compassion, faithfulness and love over vengefulness, anger and fear. Preaching at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on 21 January, Watkins, a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, said: "Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbour, including our global neighbour, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope." Watkins' sermon took up a recent suggestion by Muslim scholars worldwide for love of God and love of neighbour as a "common basis for building a world at peace", explaining that the best way to express love of God "is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other."

Poverty, violence and war are amongst the "enormous and formidable" challenges of the present time, representatives of member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the United States have pointed out to President Barack Obama on the occasion of his inauguration. "Ours is not to point fingers at your new administration and say 'Fix it'," members of the Board of the US Conference for the WCC wrote in a letter to Obama dated 20 January. "Rather, ours is to roll up our sleeves and partner with you to help bring about the changes that are so desperately needed for the United States and the world to more closely reflect God's vision for humankind and all of creation."

Greeting Obama as "your sisters and brothers in Christ," the signatories of the letter declare to be "encouraged by [Obama's] commitment to rekindle hope and [his] vision for this country and our world.” “Much is required of you and us if we are to begin to turn things around," the US churches representatives state in their letter to Obama. They propose a nine-item list of issues that need responsibility and work together. It includes: trust amongst nations, national unity, common good rather than self-interest, human dignity over race and class divisions, an economy at the service of the poor, human rights, education, environment and health. The US Conference for the WCC gathers the 34 member churches of the Council in the United States.

WCC News January 2008


Zimbabwe crisis a slow genocide


A South African Methodist bishop who came to prominence fighting apartheid, has called Zimbabwe's crisis a slow genocide. He was speaking during the launch of a campaign to highlight the "immoral" role played by the South African government in supporting Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. Bishop Paul Verryn, of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg,, which is housing hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees, said on 8 January, "We are witnessing a slow genocide in Zimbabwe."

He and a Raymond Motsi, a Baptist pastor at Bulawayo, have joined Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, in fasting in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, which faces a collapsing economic and political order and reports of a military alert amid fears of a coup. Tutu is now fasting once a week. "If we would [only] have more people saying 'I

will fast', maybe one day a week - just to identify with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," said Tutu. The fasting is intended to continue to foster awareness of Zimbabwe's plight under the rule of Robert Mugabe.

Civicus, a global civil society alliance, is planning civil action that will focus on South Africa's role in support of Mugabe. "We need to up the ante a bit in terms of the types of activities that put pressure on the government," said Civicus acting chairperson Kumi Naidoo, a South African who is also co-chairperson of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. In a letter of support to Naidoo, Tutu said, "As the world's eye turns to the mass killings in Gaza, we must not ignore the ongoing deaths in Zimbabwe - [which are happening] not with bombs, but with starvation, disease and apathy. These deaths are no less deliberate than those perpetrated with arms."

Ecumenical News International, January 2009