12th Assembly 2009

UnitingWorld lunch hears pleas for justice

Uniting Church members today heard of challenges faced by four partner churches overseas at a lunch hosted by UnitingWorld.

Faces in the room reflected the seriousness of the situations experienced by churches around the world.

UnitingWorld national director Kerry Enright welcomed guests and emphasized how the church benefits from relationships with partners.

Presiding Bishop Simbarashe Sithole of the Zimbabwe Methodist Church spoke of the “marriage of convenience” between the Zanu PF and Movement for Democratic Change with Robert Mugabe as president and Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.

He described the murders, rapes and suffering by his people over recent years.

“It is our obligation to speak out,” he said. “We have to ensure what has happened never happens again.”

The Methodist Church has prepared a submission to the commission for truth and reconciliation calling for justice for the perpetrators of crimes.

“If there is clemency, let it come but there should not be blanket forgiveness,” he said. “People must be held accountable for their crimes.”

Mrs Helen Grace Paris of the United Church Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) spoke passionately about human rights abuses in her country under the Gloria Macapagil administration.

She claimed that in the last eight years, 32 killings or violations of human rights have happened to church members.

She highlighted the Rev. Edison Lapus, a UCCP Pastor who on May 12, 2005 was shot dead in front of his wife, as a tragedy typical of the crimes committed against UCCP members.

The Rev. Mrs Jemina Mirino Krey of the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua talked about the work of the church in "what is considered one of the world’s most remote and underdeveloped regions."

She described the Papuans’ struggle for recognition as equal citizens of Indonesia.  She described how the church is seeking “to facilitate a just, sincere and respectful dialogue between Papuans and Jakarta to answer basic problems and bring an end to the conflicts and human rights abuses in our land.”

Chair of the Uniting Church’s Fijian National Conference in Australia Rev. Jovilla Meo came to the Assembly as a special representative of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma. Fijian invitees were unable to attend due to events within Fiji.

Rev. Meo said that the Methodists now find themselves in a difficult situation after negotiations to allow their annual meeting failed.  The latest decree by the interim government banned meetings of more than ten people without written permission from the Police.

This decree means that no planning for the meeting can take place. But Rev. Meo believes that the Methodists will have their meeting on the August 22nd as planned, come what may.

“God can do the impossible so we need your prayers and support in this time,” he said.

“Lord, remember Fiji,” he concluded.