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Voices raised for our Pacific neighbours at Parliament House

2nd December 2016
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Over 200 Christians, from all around Australia, including some Victorian Baptists, representatives of Pacific communities and Members of Parliament gathered in front of Australian Parliament House this morning calling on Australia to be a better neighbour to our Pacific brothers and sisters.

Speakers from Fiji, Tonga and Kiribati shared their experiences of climate change, and the effect it is having on their lives and communities. They called on politicians to make a greater commitment to climate change action and aid focussed on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for developing nations in our region. Prayers were said for our churches, our nation, our nation’s leaders and our world.

Rev James Bhagwan, a leader from the Methodist Church of Fiji, greeted the crowd with a traditional greeting – “Bula!” – as a reminder of the importance of place and relationships.  He called on the Australian government to love and care for all people, including our Pacific neighbours.

“To love and care for only a few is not to love at all,” he said.

Tinaai Teaua and Vasiti Tebemare from Kiribati spoke of their love for their land and culture, and their worry about what the next big king tide will mean for their people. They shared how climate change and the corresponding sea level rise is causing increasing severity of these events, and the flooding of homes and hospitals in their homeland.  They spoke of their fear, watching their people run around frantically looking for somewhere safe to go.

“But there is nowhere to run in Kiribati” Tinaai said. “This is not about policy for us, it is about survival”.

Joseph-Zane Sikulu from Tonga spoke about the grief he feels when seeing country acknowledged in Australia and knowing that climate change puts his own people at risk of experiencing severe loss of land and culture, and all the pain that comes with that, as indigenous Australians have suffered.

Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty.

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Domestic Violence – where is God in the grief?

24th November 2016
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For some of us, death, especially so premature, is a reminder of our own limits on life. We sit in the presence of eternity, and reflected on what we are living for, and whether we are prepared for life with God.  

All too often the media relates horrific stories of our fractured and violent world. Women and children battered, abused and often murdered by partners or family members. Domestic violence un-checked in a society where the weak and vulnerable stand little chance, confronted with anger, addiction, abuse.

At least one woman each week is killed in Australia by their former or current partner. Do you know that women in certain age brackets are more likely to die of violence than obesity and smoking, or drugs and alcohol abuse? For this, tears AND anger are appropriate.

Domestic and family violence is the major cause of homelessness for women and their children. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report, Specialist Homelessness Services 2011-12, shows that people experiencing domestic or family violence make up one-third of the almost 230,000 Australians that accessed specialist homelessness services in that period. Of such clients, 78 per cent were female.

On Friday 18 October, 500 people gathered at Aberfeldie Baptist Church for a thanksgiving service for Rekiah O’Donnell. Rekiah grew up at Aberfeldie Baptist with her parents Craig and Kerryn, and siblings Jesse and Indiana. This year she turned 22, but in early October she was shot by a violent ex- partner, leaving her family and friends, and the broader community, shocked by the violent injustice.    

But I suspect many of us also sat with anger and rage. We were digging deep for comfort and peace, relying on God and one another for reassurance and grace; but whether with words or tears we struggled with the confusion and fear, and senseless and tragic loss of Rekiah. We sat with that, but I prayed – for God’s sake and for Rekiah’s and for others like her – I prayed that we wouldn't just sit but take a stand for hope. 

We sat at Aberfledie with our memories and grief, with friends and family we love. But as we left the church, Rekiah’s life AND death reminded us to take a stand for a world that is more loving and compassionate, more hope-ful and safe; a world where justice and respect, hope and grace are a reality for all. 

In times of grief and loss we’re confronted with our deep desire to nurture our relationships; we cry out for people to take a stand for safer neighbourhoods, for healthy living, for respect for one another – for communities that are more in line with God’s dream. To say NO this is not the way things should be. We ask “Where is God? Where was God?”  Whether we ask it after Auschwitz or 9/11, after the disaster of hurricanes or accidents, after the murder of Tracy Connelly in St Kilda or Jill Meagher in Brunswick, of after Rekiah O’Donnell’s murder in Sunshine, can we answer anything else other than God is here in the pain. God is suffering too.

Our hope comes not from being rescued from pain, but in experiencing God coming alongside us in our pain, that we would know and experience God’s love and comfort, and grow wiser and stronger though we feel crushed and bereft.

Our hope is outworked in taking action, standing up against injustice. Standing for respect and safety. Our hope is outworked when we notice those at risk and offer support and way out. Our hope is given voice when we break the silence and speak out about violence.

White Ribbon Day (25 November) is one action people are taking to raise the issue of violence against women.

How can you take a stand?

How can your church get involved? http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/

A version of this article was originally published online as Darren Cronshaw, “Domestic Violence – Where Is God in the Grief?”, Witness (20 November 2013).

 

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Upcoming Events

5 Dec
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Innovate - Leadership for Innovation (Session 6)

Presented By: BUV

Session 6 - Join us to discover more about your own leadership style, develop skills and receive pointers which will strengthen and equip you as a leader for Innovation.

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18 FEB
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Safe Church Awareness Workshop - Kilsyth South

Presented By: BUV

Safe Church Awareness Workshops are interactive, awareness raising workshops covering Christian foundations of safe ministry, duty of care, vulnerable people and child protection (abuse prevention), due diligence in relation to recruitment and supervision of all church leaders and the management of program risks.

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