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from the National Council of Churches in Australia

 

from act for peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

 

from the National Council of Churches in Australia

“… in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” Hebrew 1:2 TEV

The message from our government and business community this Christmas is: “Spend up big for the sake of the country.”  Will we be rich or poor?  This seems to be the ultimate economic question.  No matter how well off we become we still fear losing it all.

On the one hand we must save for the future.  On the other we must spend as much as we can for the present, and Christmas is given as the reason.  The message seems to be how we manage our economy and provide for ourselves.

But that’s not the message.  Christmas is about our God who is incredibly generous, loving, and unreasonably extravagant toward human beings.  Christmas says ‘thank you’ for his astonishing daily gifts.  God has spent up big on us, and he continues to spend up big.

Christmas is a Christian festival that celebrates a divine life, the life of God’s Son, born in the most unlikely circumstances, and given for the sake of the world.  There is no greater gift, freely given, that once received lasts for eternity.

Celebrate and spend this Christmas, if it’s good for the economy.  But even better, say thank you to God, because that’s good for the soul and for your life.

Revd John Henderson, General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Australia

(NB. In the Western Church, Christmas is celebrated on December 25.  Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity on January 7, 2008.)
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Anglican Church of Australia

This Christmas the talk around the dinner table will probably be very different from last year.  The world has changed quite dramatically in 2008 and many people fear for their future.

But spare a thought for those in real poverty.  In Australia we might be limiting our spending on Christmas gifts but today more than 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.  That is extreme poverty.

This Christmas I urge people everywhere to take time out to give thanks for what we have and for our standard of living here in Australia.  We should all reflect on those who we should be reaching out to, those in desperate need, those who can’t afford a meal let alone presents.

I am reminded of the words in Mathew 25.  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked and you clothed me.’  In this parable the righteous queried Jesus saying they could not remember doing those things.  ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’

Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate
Anglican Church of Australia
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Armenian Apostolic Church

St Paul spoke of love as the greatest spiritual gift cited with faith and hope.  At the advent of the holy season, as we celebrate the Holy Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ let it be a time of reflection on how we use these spiritual gifts to impact our own lives and those around us.

Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message fulfilled in the incarnation of the Son of God.  When we live a life of faith we are blessed with a life of direction and purpose.  Live with faith.

Hope is the attitude and focus which brings solace to our lives when we trust the Word of God and are assured that God will fulfil all promises as He fulfilled His promise to send the Messiah.  Live with hope.

And love, the greatest of the trilogy of spiritual gifts is the action by which God calls us to live.  Honestly evaluate your heart today and make it a priority to live with love.

We can look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life only when we live with faith, hope and love in Christ.

“Christ is born and revealed.  Blessed is the revelation of Christ.”

Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate
Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand
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AOG in Australia/Australian Christian Churches

I often try to picture what the very first Christmas would have looked like.  And can I tell you; the night that Jesus arrived in Bethlehem was no peaceful, silent night!  In fact, the town of Bethlehem was facing a crisis of their own.  In a city overrun with people, crowded streets, new rulers, and uncertain futures…a baby was born.  And He looked nothing like a King.  It was majesty in the midst of the everyday.

Christmas is a fantastic time of year, and yet this season can become overwhelming at times.  The good news is that 2000 years ago, our God showed us His love by bringing peace in the midst of chaos. 

Friends, as tensions and financial pressures begin to rise around the globe, let us not forget that the birth of Christ came in the midst of chaos, but left us with a promise of hope for the future.

In a profound moment before He departed from this world Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I now give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The peace of Christmas is not merely about the absence of conflict and pressures.  Jesus was not born into a peaceful situation, and yet He IS peace.  No matter what circumstances you face today, may you find hope and rest in the midst of uncertainty, and hold fast to the knowledge that Jesus himself left His peace with you.

May you and your family be blessed this Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas

Pastor Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church, &
National President, Australian Christian Churches
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Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4: 9-10 (NKJV)

To our beloved brothers in the Lord, honorable Prelates; elected clergymen and all our brothers and sisters in Christ:
Prayers and blessings receive:
On the occasion of the Holy Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ we take this opportunity to extend our Episcopal greetings to the faithful sons and daughters of the National Council of Churches in Australia’s member churches, all Christians in Australia and around the world and to convey upon them our blessings.

For Christians, the Nativity season is a time of intense prayer and meditation on the teaching and message of the Holy Scriptures. Christians throughout the world rejoice and submit themselves to prayer in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and the goodwill, peace and immense hope that is brought to all humankind as a result. The Holy Church offers worship and praise to the Heavenly Father who bestows love and kindness upon humanity in sending His Only Son, our Lord and Saviour to dwell amongst His creations on earth. This act of sacrifice and mercy attests to the grace which Almighty God finds it in His wisdom to pour down upon all humankind. Having received the grace of the Lord and witnessing God incarnate dwelling on earth, Christians submit themselves in this important religious season to commemorating the humble birth of our Lord, our King and our Saviour.

During this period of immense joy for Christians, we wish to again bring to the attention of our fellow Christians throughout Australia and around the world the continuing suffering of the Assyrian Christian people in their ancestral homeland of Iraq. This year has seen some of the most intense acts of violence and persecution committed against Iraq’s Assyrian and other Christians, particularly in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. It is the hope of the Assyrian Church of the East that as Christians we may all take upon ourselves the inherent responsibility to provide advocacy and support in alleviating the severe plight of the Assyrian Christian people in Iraq. Without our combined efforts these Christians, who are living under intense duress, shall remain voiceless and forgotten. It is our prayer that 2009 will bring an end to the suffering of the Assyrian Christian people in Iraq and that peace and security may reign. The suffering of these most ancient Christian communities is not justifiable and Assyrian Christian citizens of a new and democratic Iraq must be guaranteed the right to maintain their distinct ethnic identity and Christian faith without impingement.

May the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, forever and ever: Amen.

His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
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Baptist Union of Australia

One of the great personal pursuits of our time is a sense of self worth and acceptance.  This quest is often pursued through people, possessions, power, and prestige, which ultimately prove to be inadequate sources for personal significance.

Christmas is good news because its true message declares and demonstrates that we have eternal worth and value.  So great was our personal value to God that he showed it to the world: "for God so loved the world that He gave us His son.”

While Christmas can rightly be understood as relating to concerns with peace, goodwill, and forgiveness, more centrally it is a demonstration of the great love of God for humanity, in action.  Eugene Peterson in the Message Bible puts it simply: "And this sublime Word became flesh and blood and moved into our neighbourhood."  God came close to us in Jesus.  He entered our neighbourhood, which is not always a place of harmony and peace, but a place representing real human life and struggle.  The good news of Christmas is that God still comes close to us.

The simple truth remains: You are loved, - do not be afraid.  An engineering professor asked his class what was the most important thing to come out of a mine.  After several minutes of discussion and answers about fossil fuels and other elements mined from the earth, the wise professor said: “The most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner!”  So too the most important thing to come out of Christmas is Christ – for unto you is born this day a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.

Have a very happy Christmas knowing you are greatly loved by God.

Revd Dr John Beasy, President
Baptist Union of Australia
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Baptist Union of Australia

It’s time to claim back Christmas!  Once a solemn Christian memorial to the birth of Jesus, for many Australians it’s devolved into a retail festival that misses the point.  Cheer and good will give way to frenzied activity, congested traffic, endless queues and financial worry.

Many approach Christmas like Tattoo, the basset hound, inadvertently taken for a ride by his owners when his leash was caught in their car door.  Fortunately a policeman saw it and pulled the car over, but not before Tattoo reached speeds of 30kph, rolling over several times!  Maybe our ‘leash’ is caught in the door of Christmas commercialism and hype.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can reclaim Christmas.

Maybe this Christmas we focus less on food and self-indulgence and more on recalibrating our lives with the God who loved the world so much that he sent his son to save us.  Let’s decide to make the main thing the main thing this Christmas; less presents, more wonder and worship.

And as we focus more on Jesus this Christmas let’s allow his values to shape our own.  Perhaps the best gifts to give this year are less expensive, but worth a whole lot: showing hospitality to a homeless person, or a donation to a charity, or maybe something as simple as repairing a rift with an estranged family member.  Christmas need not be expensive for it to be profound.

The Baptist Churches of Australia pray this Christmas will be our best ever as we capture again its true meaning.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believed in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Rev Dr Brian Winslade, National Director
Baptist Union of Australia
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Catholic Church in Australia

One of the interesting aspects of the world economic crisis is how it seems to have surprised so many people, including the economic experts, in its size and scale.  Day after day, pages of newsprint and hours of broadcast time are devoted to analysis of what went wrong and how it can be rectified.  All of us, from the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve to the person on the street, are trying to make sense of it all.

One thing we do know about this crisis is that it affects us all in varying ways.  As stocks crash, businesses and industries fail, governments seek to respond and individuals and families tighten the purse strings to prepare for what looks like a bumpy road ahead.  Many people have watched the bottom fall out of their retirement nest-egg, others have had savings locked up by financial institutions and, even as interest rates fall, families are keeping a wary eye on their job security and their mortgage commitments.

Charities and social service providers are also feeling it.  A recent report from Access Economics for Catholic Social Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, the Salvation Army and UnitingCare Australia examined the impact of the global financial crisis on social services.  It found that the crisis will have an acute impact on the most disadvantaged members of society, as well as pushing increasing numbers of low and middle income earners to seek the services of already stretched welfare agencies.  The report says that with unemployment expected to rise next year, the services most immediately affected by the deteriorating economic conditions include: employment, housing, financial and general counselling and emergency relief.

And so this Christmas, a general feeling of uncertainty prevails.  Perhaps more than ever, we are all seeking the traditional blessings of the Christmas season – joy, peace and goodwill to all people.  Much of the anxiety we might feel about the global economic crisis comes about because we know we cannot control it.  The decisions that will be made to deal with this global situation will be made by others, but they will affect our lives.  This Christmas, Christians all over the world will draw strength from knowing that far from being an anonymous cog in the economic machinery, each human being is precious beyond understanding, having been individually created, known, and loved by God.  Indeed, God loves us so much that he became human.  And when God became human he was not born into a situation of wealth or prestige.  He didn’t earn multi-million dollar bonuses in the sub-prime mortgage or hedge fund industry of his day.  Jesus Christ was born of a lowly maiden in a stable and raised by a carpenter.  And yet despite these humble beginnings, Jesus Christ had a profound impact on the world and continues to be present in people’s lives today.

This Christmas, I pray that all people of goodwill will take a fresh look at the face of the Christ-child.  When we welcome Jesus into our hearts and into our lives, we begin to make sense of the things happening around us.  Hope, joy and peace begin to take the edges off our anxiety and fear, and goodwill and generosity to our neighbour in need will surely flow.

May the hope, peace and joy of Christmas be with you all.

Archbishop Philip Wilson, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Catholic Church
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Churches of Christ in Australia

Over many years, many Christmas sermons and homilies have focused on the need to "put Christ back into Christmas".  And, as we have listened to such sermons, we mark the tide of materialism that reaches a flood at Christmas.  There is an overwhelming sense that we, as disciples of Jesus, are fighting an "Empire of materialism".  Against such an Empire, our attitude is often one of resignation.

We need to look back in order to have hope for the future.

During the 1st century, as the Roman Empire reached dizzying heights of power and prestige, there came into the world a child born of a virgin in a small village named Bethlehem.  Long foretold but still unlooked for, the world seemed to spin unmoved by His birth.  Empires appeared to be intact.  Yet the child grew.  A man developed.  The Messiah, the incarnation of God, walked amongst us.  Life by life he replaced a transitory Empire with an unshakeable Kingdom. Then, through His death and resurrection, He opened the door for all to have eternal citizenship in His Kingdom.

When we ponder the Empires we find ourselves in at Christmas, let us remember Jesus.  His presence is sometimes only birthed in small, unnoticed actions.  It is our part as citizens of His Kingdom to perform such actions, His to transform Empires with them.

Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator
Churches of Christ in Australia
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Coptic Orthodox Church

The Feast of the Nativity 2008

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity in which we celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Today we rejoice because of the birth of Emmanuel our God.  St. Matthew the Evangelist wrote that the name Emmanuel means God is with us, as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated, God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14).  Today, we rejoice because God is with us.

God wishes to be with man, because He loves him and said, “My delight was with the sons of men.”  (Proverbs 8:31).  In His love for man God created him out of nothing and gave him the grace of being.  Furthermore, He created man in His image and likeness.

The entire history of humanity revolves around God’s presence with man; it is the story of God’s love for man, as well as the story of eternal life, as it is written in the Holy Bible regarding the Heavenly Jerusalem, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.”  (Revelation 21:3).

Our feeling that Emmanuel is with us, that is to say God is with us, is what gives us courage, so we can say with the Psalmist, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 118:6).

Let us rejoice today, because our God Emmanuel is with us.  Our joy will be even greater when we are with Him.

Let us joyfully present to God repentant hearts, so He can dwell within us and we can be confirmed in Him and He in us.

Let us pray that the Lord may grant us to feel that we are always in His presence, leading us to a life of holiness and righteousness.

May God bless Australia, its government and its people.  Wishing you and your families a blessed Christmas and a joyful 2009.

Bishop Daniel
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of NSW, QLD & NT

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Lutheran Church of Australia

Among the things being said to us this Christmas, for many, the financial market crash across the globe may well be telling us not to take our many blessings for granted.  Even more than that.  Our blessings only reach their potential when they are used to benefit those around us and those who need us.

It is a scriptural principal that ‘moth and rust’ can quickly erode earthly investment and security.

Our current financial crisis is a reminder we do not live in isolation.  We are all members of the human family with one economy.

It is significant that God’s gift of his son Jesus the Christ at Christmas is to be offered to all.

When fear takes over and blame is directed at big business, governments and banks, what the world needs is for all of us to admit to our own part in this financial dilemma in which we too have been idolaters placing earthly gifts in front of the heavenly gifts.

God’s gift of his son in the child of Bethlehem is the treasure that is eternal.

Let Christmas be for all of us a celebration that God is not abandoning us, but giving us new starts and a new hope with a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

Revd Dr Mike Semmler, President
Lutheran Church of Australia
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Presbyterian Church of Australia

Our youngest daughter has just had her first child.  Tiny.  Helpless.  Utterly dependent.  Profoundly loved.  They called him Sebastian, because they liked the name.

2000 years ago, another little one was born.  In Bethlehem.  They certainly didn’t have the facilities our daughter enjoyed.  Did they even have a midwife?

They called him Jesus.  They knew why too.  Not just because they liked the name.  His name means “The LORD God saves!”  They actually called him that.  Jesus.

They also knew their own Scriptures.  How a Messiah would come.  A Deliverer.  They knew that his other names were Wonderful.  Counsellor.  Almighty God.

And there he lay.  Being nurtured at his mother’s breast.  Jesus.  God!

The apostle Paul would later say of Him, “He is before all things.  All things were created by Him and for Him.  God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross!”

Amazing.  Then a tiny human being.  Jesus.  Now, exalted above all.

If we are not amazed, frankly we’re not thinking!!

We’ve been asked to contribute to a CHRISTMAS MESSAGE and GREETING.

What’s best?  Merry Christmas?  Seasons Greetings?

I’d rather say, give Jesus the honour that is his due.  Thank Him for Who He is.  Worship Him.  Ask Him for all you need for life and godliness.

THEN, you’ll have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

Robert Benn, Moderator General
Presbyterian Church of Australia
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Seventh-day Adventist Church

GOD’S WAYS ARE DIFFERENT FROM OUR WAYS!  CHRISTMAS is just the time to come to terms with that.

CHRISTMAS reveals the way God fights against sin.  God could have wiped out sin by wiping out humanity when we rebelled.  But instead He chose to put Himself at ultimate risk so that He could take our place and die for our sins.  That all began when God chose to become one with His own creation – and did so beginning at the most vulnerable stage of human existence, a baby.

Yes, Christmas is a time to remember God’s extraordinary act of becoming a vulnerable human so that He could save us.   He is a real person in history.  It is worth remembering that this Jesus who came in such a humble manner is, in fact, the King of kings.  Yet He is much more than that.  He is the Creator.  Our Creator came in humility as one of us and then died for our sins.  Amazing!  And the result is that we can find forgiveness through Him.

Let us, this Christmas, humble ourselves before such a wonderfully gracious God and seek forgiveness.   He is so eager to forgive and is able to do so because, as a human, He died in our place.  In forgiveness you will receive a peace that passes all understanding!

God’s ways are so different from our ways!  And aren’t we glad they are!

Pastor Ken Vogel, General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church
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Uniting Church in Australia

How different Christmas feels this year!  Twelve months ago the economy was steaming along, it felt like the new government was doing all the right things, our prosperity and security seemed assured.

But since the middle of this year it’s all changed.  Now we feel vulnerable.  Unemployment is on the rise, a recession may hit, the Aussie dollar has plummeted, living standards may drop.  Terrorism is in the news again, the war in Afghanistan goes badly, ice caps are melting, and Africans are still dying from disease and poverty.

Wars, disasters, poverty and vulnerability were part of Jesus’ world too.  The Roman Empire had a firm grip on Jesus’ world - they taxed heavily, they ruled with brutality, and they dealt ruthlessly with every insurgency.

Jesus came into this world, teaching God’s love and modelling a life of self-giving service and peace.

True security lies in knowing you’re loved, no matter what.  That’s what the birth of Jesus means for us.  No matter who we are or what our circumstances, God’s love and God’s guidance are there for us.

Receive God’s love afresh this Christmas, and thus find true security in life.

Revd Gregor Henderson, President
Uniting Church in Australia
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from act for peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

To download the high resolution photo that aligns with this release, please go to:  http://www.ncca.org.au/actforpeace/zimbabwe_media_release.

Australian households are beginning to feel the financial strain of a global economic crisis.  The spirit of giving and sharing at Christmas time will be a true test of people’s generosity this year. However, while we face a difficult and uncertain period, Zimbabwe is in crisis.

More than 5.1 million Zimbabweans need food aid urgently, as the country is crippled by a collapsed economy, severe food insecurity, a lack of basic service delivery, a political stalemate and a devastating Cholera outbreak.  In the past few weeks, aid channels have been opened again and it is time to help.

The Christmas Bowl supports several partners in Zimbabwe including Christian Care Zimbabwe, which delivers food aid and agricultural assistance to more than 720,000 people.

Christian Care Director, Reverend Forbes Matonga said, “As a nation, we are confronted with the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time.  The near collapse of the financial system, near destitution of close to five million members of our population who are now reliant on food aid, a run away cholera epidemic already spinning out of control and spilling beyond our borders and the HIV/AIDS scourge.”

The Christmas Bowl has been a source of resilience and hope during the protracted 10 year food crisis in Zimbabwe.  During this time, Australian churches have demonstrated a significant kinship through the Christmas Bowl by standing in solidarity with the people during the country’s immense struggles.

Rev. Matonga said, “We express our profound gratitude to the goodwill of the Australian people for standing by us during our darkest hour.”

78 lives have been lost to Cholera in Beitbridge where Christmas Bowl helps provide rainwater tanks.  The outbreak has spread to all of the nation’s eight provinces, killing more than 1000 people.  Cholera is spreading because of Zimbabwe's collapsing infrastructure.  The Australian church community needs to engage and contribute meaningfully to combat this horrendous loss of life.

Despite Zimbabwe’s immense challenges, the people are resilient, and are still full of optimism and hope.

Rev. Matonga said, “As a people of faith we remain hopeful and confident that God will remember us and heal our land.  May the Good Lord honour your service and assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.”

Christian Care Zimbabwe is calling the Australian church community to support the Christmas Bowl and ensure that it can continue to:

• Improve household food security through environmentally friendly, low cost methods of crop production.
..
• Fight the root causes of poverty by positively empowering communities at the grassroots level.

Alistair Gee, Executive Director of act for peace said, “The crisis in Zimbabwe is staggering and  we must do our part to assist Zimbabweans.  A gift of $35 to this year’s Christmas Bowl can provide a farmer with a supply of high yield maize, millet and cowpea seeds and $94 can educate farmers in efficient farming methods.  act for peace aims to send at least $160,000 to help Zimbabweans in the coming months, so we need your support.  Despite our personal hardships and the crisis we face in Australia, we should consider Zimbabwe’s people as we share Christmas with our loved ones.”

The Christmas Bowl is a program of act for peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

For further comment from the Executive Director, please contact Edwyn Shiell, Marketing & Communication Coordinator, on 0402 254 968.
www.actforpeace.org.au

To download the high resolution photo that aligns with this release, please go to:  http://www.ncca.org.au/actforpeace/thailand-burma_border_christmas_bowl_press_release


For twenty one years, the Christmas Bowl has supported hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees who have fled to camps on the Thailand-Burma border in an effort to escape the horror of the persecution imposed by a brutal and violent military Junta.

The suffering of the people of Burma became even greater in 2008, when Cyclone Nargis devastated the lives of those living in the Irrawaddy Delta, the main rice production region of the country.

Saw Ler Lah is a survivor who sought refuge in the already under-resourced border camps following the Cyclone. He recalls, “I said to the people in my village to take shelter in the church. We stayed there throughout the night and listened to the cyclone. When we came out in the morning, everything was gone.”

In addition to this disaster, the global food price crisis brought further suffering to the already impoverished people of Burma. 

Sally Thompson, Deputy Director of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) said “we are in a critical time because of the global food crisis and the cyclone in Burma.”  These problems cannot be ignored as the health and well being of 140,000 refugees is at stake.

Thompson said of Cyclone Nargis, “It has brought many issues to a head at the same time. We have to be flexible to deal with the emergency inside the country; at the same time we have to remain open to the fact that Burma is still generating new arrivals of refugees…If we do not get a certain amount of dollars, we will have no choice but to cut the ration.”

Australians have been drawn into Burma’s tragic narrative as more of us have come to recognise the inhumane situation in which our close neighbours live.  During a period of such uncertainty, it is critical that the Christmas Bowl assists the TBBC in maintaining stability in the conflict-ridden border area.

This year, the Christmas Bowl hopes to provide food, shelter and income generating activities to more than 5000 Burmese refugees. As the price of rice has more than doubled in the wake of Cyclone Nargis and the global food crisis in Burma, assistance for Burmese refugees should be on everyone’s agenda this Christmas. By giving just $76 to this year’s Christmas Bowl, you can provide food for a family of four refugees for one month.

The Christmas Bowl is a program of act for peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

For further comment from the Executive Director,
please contact Edwyn Shiell, Marketing & Communication Coordinator, on 0402 254 968.
www.actforpeace.org.au

a statement from the National Council of Churches in Australia

The following statement was endorsed by the Executive of the National Council of Churches in Australia at its meeting on 6 November 2008.

In recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10th 2008, the member Churches of the NCCA affirm their commitment to dignity and justice for all, and in particular for our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

With great vision the creators of the UDHR enshrined the knowledge that we are all born with inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights. The theme for this year’s commemoration reminds us of this great truth and calls us to take action where we see injustice and to treat each other with the dignity and respect inherent in our humanity.

We are reminded however that 60 years after creating this potent statement of human rights, Indigenous Australians have cause to question whether dignity and justice has really been for all. The Churches have always believed that humankind is created in God’s image and that we must respect and love each other no matter who we are or where we are from. We acknowledge that we too have had to examine our own past relationships with Indigenous peoples and understand where we have failed to recognize and respect God’s likeness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We look to the future with hope and believe that this moment in time represents a critical juncture in how we, as a nation, relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We recognize the high level of political and popular will to create real and lasting change. We recognize and congratulate the Federal Government on their stated commitment to addressing Indigenous disadvantage, one aspect of achieving dignity and justice. We believe that the Federal Government has voiced a sincere commitment to a new and reinvigorated approach to ending Indigenous poverty.

However, we are concerned that without a meaningful and far reaching re-visioning of our relationship with Indigenous peoples and an overt commitment to a human rights led development agenda that we are doomed to repeat past mistakes and wrongs.

We urge the Government to ensure that the human rights of Indigenous Australians are safeguarded and their citizen rights upheld. Policy solutions must ensure that individual rights are protected. We therefore ask the Government to ensure that all policy measures, including the Northern Territory Emergency Response, adhere to the Racial Discrimination Act. Further, we urge the Government to explicitly show their support for Indigenous rights by signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Then we can be sure we are moving towards Dignity and Justice for all.  

_______________________
For further comment contact: Mr Graeme Mundine 0419 238 788

Friday, 07 November 2008 01:00

Crisis Escalates for Christians in Iraq

a statement from the National Council of Churches in Australia

Violence and persecution against minority groups in Iraq continues, including communities of Christians which have been in existence for over 1500 years. The Assyrian Church of the East, as one of the Churches most affected, has mobilised itself worldwide to call attention to the crisis, and seek help where help can be found. Other Churches under extreme duress are the Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Chaldean.

Prior to 2003, 4% of Iraq’s population was Christian. Yet 40% of Iraq’s 2.2 million refugees are Christian, which indicates the seriousness and disproportionate degree of violence and persecution to which Iraqi Christians are being exposed. “No one has been untouched by grief either by personal loss or to see their country torn apart by violence,” said Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia, Australian head of the Assyrian Church of the East. According to Church sources this exodus is the result of a campaign of violence, murder, terrorism, threats, and intimidation targeted at the Christian minority.

Attacks have escalated since September, when the electoral law was changed to remove the system of quotas that ensured minority groups representation on provincial councils. The result of government investigations and the arrest of about 12 people in relation to the latest wave of attacks are being awaited.

The international Assyrian Christian community is raising money to help. Local parishes are collecting money to help the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (ACERO) provide aid for people in the city of Mosul, where the recent escalation of attacks has been most severe. In the long run the hope of those fleeing the country is for a self-governing administrative region within Iraq.

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) stands in solidarity with Iraqi Christians, and the Assyrian Church of the East which has been a member Church of the Council for many years. “We are distressed to hear of the suffering of Christians in Iraq, and the deliberate and targeted attacks which they are experiencing,” said the Revd John Henderson, the General Secretary of the NCCA. “We continue to ask the Australian government to take this situation into account in its consideration of support for Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, resettlement plans for Iraqi refugees once the country finds peace, and support for repatriation when it is safe to return.”

We urge the Australian Government to:
• Increase the level of aid to Iraq’s internally displaced people and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, and;
• Increase Australian refugee intake levels for the affected population.

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For further information contact: The Revd John Henderson 0419 224 935

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) is marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by urging all Australians to examine and put right their relationship with Indigenous Australians.

Executive Secretary of NATSIEC, Mr Graeme Mundine said, “Indigenous Australians should not be living in poverty. Australia has the resources, but we have always lacked the will from the mainstream community to raise our Aboriginal brothers and sisters to the same standard of living that other Australians enjoy.”

“On Monday, the Federal Government released its report into the Northern Territory Intervention and said they needed to “recalibrate” their relationship to Aboriginal people who are affected by the Intervention.”

“No truer word was said. The past eighteen months have brought some significant changes in Indigenous affairs such as the rollout of the Northern Territory Intervention, the new Federal Government, and the Apology in February. While all these things are signals that things can improve, my fear is that too much has stayed the same. The fundamental relationship and attitude to Indigenous people has not changed,” Mr Mundine continued.

“I particularly urge people not to be complacent, and think these positive signals mean all has been rectified. Don’t think for a minute that the Intervention, especially in its current form, will end poverty. Don’t forget for a minute that not all Aborigines live in the Northern Territory. Indigenous poverty is experienced right around Australia.”

“The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty draws our attention to the needs of the poor and stirs our hearts to take action and mobilizes our voices to speak out against injustice. This year it is more pertinent than ever before as we watch the world financial system melt down. Rather than panic and worry about how we will personally be affected by the financial upheaval, could we not take this opportunity to question the system that gives wealth to 5% of humanity and leaves the other 95% floundering in the wake?”

“On this significant day I urge people to question the systems that cause poverty, to enlarge their understanding of Indigenous poverty, and to make a personal commitment to Making Indigenous Poverty History,” Mr Mundine concluded.

For further comment: Graeme Mundine 0419 238 788
For further information on the Make Indigenous Poverty History Campaign www.makeindigenouspovertyhistory.org

Friday, 17 October 2008 01:00

The Gift that Keeps On Giving

from act for peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

To download the high resolution photo that aligns with this release, please go to:  http://www.ncca.org.au/actforpeace/sudan_christmas_bowl_press_release

This year marks the 60th year of Australians giving and sharing through the Christmas Bowl. Over the past 60 years, it has delivered critical assistance to people around the world affected by poverty and ongoing conflict.  The Christmas Bowl has become an important symbol of people helping people.

After the end of World War 2, the Christmas Bowl began as a unique way for churches to work together, uniting and inspiring others to bring hope in a volatile and unstable world. On the 50th anniversary of the Christmas Bowl, vital humanitarian relief work was carried out in Papua New Guinea, Kosovo and East Timor. In the Christmas Bowl’s 60th year, the priority remains assisting people who suffer from extreme poverty and ongoing conflict, such as in Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe and more than a dozen other countries.

The photograph on this year’s Christmas Bowl materials depicts six South-Sudanese girls who live in the Dereig camp for Internally Displaced People. They are hurrying to attend a school established by the church-based Darfur Emergency Response Operation, which the Christmas Bowl supports. This Operation assists children and families like these girls by providing essential services such as food, shelter, education, health, psychological counselling, and community empowerment to overcome one of the most horrific civil wars of all time.

Khayida, a member of the Dereig camp community centre who fled her home village and now lives in Dereig camp, expresses a sense of joy about the new community centres and opportunities that are becoming a reality. She says, “I’m very happy with the opening of the new centre, which has been built for us…We, the old women, are like the trunk of a tree, the others are like the branches. Here we as old people are allowed to provide the youngsters with knowledge.”

Sudan is just one of the places in which the Christmas Bowl provides assistance.  With partnerships around the world, it seeks to encourage a spirit of giving and togetherness so that we as Australian’s can realise that even sharing a small gift can make a significant difference.

As Amina from the Dereig camp considers the last several years of hard times, she says “much has changed and I now thank God that I have learnt all these things.”  We thank you for allowing the Christmas Bowl to continue this work overseas and in Australia and celebrate the lives it has improved over the last 60 years.

For further comment from the Executive Director, please contact Edwyn Shiell, Marketing & Communication Coordinator, on 0402 254 968.
For more information about act for peace and the Christmas Bowl, please go to www.actforpeace.org.au.

from the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission

The recommendations contained in the Northern Territory Emergency Intervention Review Report were welcomed today by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

The Executive Secretary of the NATSIEC, Mr Graeme Mundine said, “We affirm the recommendations of the review and welcome the guidance it provides governments to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal people”.

Mr Mundine is in Canberra with Bishop Greg Thompson, the Anglican Bishop of the Northern Territory.  Together they are visiting politicians to talk about the Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign and how the Millennium Development Goals should be adapted to alleviate Indigenous Poverty in Australia.

Bishop Greg Thompson said, “I welcome the findings of the report which provide a strong guide to steering appropriate long term support to Indigenous people.  This review provides a template for genuine partnership for sustained cultural and economic development as well as for the care of children and families”.

Bishop Greg and Mr Mundine particularly welcomed the report’s emphasis on the need to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal people and the acknowledgment that the success of the NTER, Northern Territory Emergency Response, has been hampered by the failure to consult and engage with those people for whose benefit it was developed.  

Mr Mundine also commented that the release of the report in the midst of uncertain economic times is a reminder of the need to provide relief for the poor.  “It is important that we do not lose momentum for continued social, economic and cultural development.  We know that when times are tough, it’s the poor who suffer most.  While it’s great to give surety to the financial system, we also need to address underlying structural weaknesses in our economic system and pay more attention to ending poverty, in particular for Indigenous people”.

Bishop Greg agreed and said, “We need to attend to the anxiety of the time but also give support to those who need it most”. 

“Implementing these recommendations will go a long way to ensuring that the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Indigenous people are listened to.  We urge the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to work together to develop a proper and just implementation of the intervention measures,” Mr Mundine concluded.

For further comment: Mr Graeme Mundine 0419238788
Bishop Greg Thompson 0407 285 701
For more information on Make Indigenous Poverty History www.makeindigenouspovertyhistory.org