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Media Releases
From the Eastern Orthodox Bishops

Heads of the Eastern Christian Churches

In Australia and New Zealand

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”  (Matthew 5:11)

We, The Bishops and Representatives of the Eastern Churches in NSW- Australia who are gathered today, Friday 23rd of August 2013 in the Office of the Coptic Orthodox Church Diocese of Sydney, are following closely the unfortunate incidents occurring in the Middle East. We have been witnessing the wide spread targeted attacks on churches and Christians over the past few years, and which sadly have escalated to levels unknown till now.

We express our total rejection of all kinds of violence and we are deeply concerned by the spread of armed groups and dark malicious forces which are brutally attacking public entities and churches; terrorizing the civilians and destroying our original homelands. These attacks by the extremists and fanatics are unprecedented. We condemn these actions which stand against the basic notions of freedom of religion, morals, and human rights.

From Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

Australian churches gear up for the International Day of Peace: a global day of action and prayer for peace

Each year, on 21 September churches across Australia and the world mark the International Day of Peace through prayer and action. Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council for Churches in Australia (NCCA) is inviting churches to join this year’s action to call on our political leaders to invest in direct peace-building projects and keep their promises on the amount they spend on overseas aid.

Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Act for Peace says:  “We are bringing churches together because we know that they, and their congregations, are an influential voice in Australian public life - and this is our big moment to put peace and aid on the national agenda. We’re very encouraged by the response so far with events busily being planned in churches across the country.”
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

The Reverend Dr Mike Semmler from the Lutheran Church in Australia was commissioned as the President of the Natiosemmler-m-2006_2nal Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) last week. The service took place on Sunday 7th July, in St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, East Melbourne. Dr Semmler is the 7th President of the NCCA, following Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville.

Dr Semmler has been the National President of the Lutheran Church for the past 13 years as he enters retirement in his own church he embraces the leadership of the NCCA with great enthusiasm.
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

Today over 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide commence Holy Week as they prepare to celebrate the greatest feast of the Christian calendar - Easter.

Many Orthodox Christians continue to observe the Julian calendar and this year Easter Sunday will be celebrated on May 5. Western Christians observe the newer Gregorian calendar where Easter was celebrated on March 30.

This year in Jerusalem, even though the two dates for Easter are separated by 5 weeks both the Eastern and Western churches will celebrate according to the Orthodox calendar. The Jerusalem Heads of Church agreed last year to celebrate together.
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and the whole ecumenical community is horrified at the news that two archbishops from Aleppo, Syria were abducted and their driver killed earlier this week.

“Churches around the world are concerned for the safety of Archbishop Mar Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Boulos Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, who were intercepted by armed men as they travelled from Turkish border areas where they were undertaking humanitarian work.” said Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary.
Thursday, 18 April 2013 16:58

Job’s not done yet in Burma:

From Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

Job’s not done yet in Burma: pioneering aid worker Jack Dunford MBE

to send message to Australians on upcoming visit 

Humanitarian and refugee advocate Jack Dunford, who has helped hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees over the past 30 years, will be in Australia on April 22 and 23 and is available for interview.

Mr Dunford stepped down this year as head of The Border Consortium, which continues to provide food, shelter and other assistance to 130,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand and leads assistance to and research on many thousands displaced people in eastern Burma/Myanmar.

Tuesday, 09 April 2013 09:22

Tensions reach new climax in Egypt

from the National Council of Churches in Australia

Tensions are reaching a new climax in Egypt as Christians are attacked at the St Marks Cathedral in Cairo whilst burying their dead.

Religious tensions in Egypt regularly appear in the news. In recent years attacks have taken place with churches bombed as worshippers attend Christmas services or welcome in the New Year. Coptic clergy are regularly reported missing or arrested and now violent attacks during funeral services.

“The safety of Coptic Christians is of increasing concern” said the Reverend Tara Curlewis, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA). “These latest attacks have taken place inside the St Marks Cathedral Complex which also contains the Papal residence of Pope Tawadros II. These attacks strike people when they are most vulnerable and at the place where they should feel safest. Attacking the Cathedral complex is actually attacking the Church and all it stands for.”

From the National Council of Churches in Australia

Australians are being encouraged this year to reflect on the message of hope and new life in the Easter story. In a joint statement, Australian church leaders have highlighted how the Easter message provides much-needed good news when brokenness in the world and in our own lives can threaten to overwhelm.

The Rev. Keith Jobberns from Australian Baptist Ministries said the story of Jesus’ transforming love provides an antidote to the sense of anxiety, fear and depression that often appears to pervade society.

“Most of us experience negative emotional responses to the plethora of human and environmental abuse that floods our media, and whether it gears us into angry social action or immobilises us with powerless depression, we are impacted,” he said.
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

Easter is running into the unexpected

"The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. ...
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; "
(John 20:4,5, 8)

The first century events that are recalled at Easter are filled with people being met by the unexpected. Jesus repeatedly surprised people with the unexpected, talking to the outcast and healing the sick. These events started to open people’s eyes to see Jesus as one who transforms situations. Then when he raised his friend Lazarus to life it pointed to what was to come. That first Easter morning as the disciples went to the tomb to grieve for their friend they ran up the path into the unexpected. The grave clothes lay there and Jesus was not.

Today we also encounter the unexpected yet as people of faith we know how often that leads to situations being transformed. Easter reminds us that when all hope appears lost the unexpected happens.

From Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

Australian peace and conflict agency urges UN: Don’t miss historic opportunity to reduce armed violence

United Nations negotiations to agree on an Arms Trade Treaty, starting today, could result in fewer deaths from armed violence and stop the flow of arms that fuel conflicts in countries like Syria, according to Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
Thursday, 14 March 2013 08:32

Humble man welcomed as 266th Pope

The announcement early this morning that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina has been elected the 266th pope for the Roman Catholic Church has been welcomed by the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA).  He has taken the pontifical name of Francis I.

Born December 17 1936 in Buenos Aires he entered the Society of Jesus in 1958, ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. Bergoglio has a master’s degree in chemistry, a licentiate in philosophy and has taught literature and psychology.

As cardinal he has served in several administrative positions in the Roman Curia including, the Congregation of Clergy, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregations for Institute of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has written to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity assuring that it will uphold the Roman Catholic Church in prayer at this time as the news of the resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is received by the world.

The Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary said “It is with surprise that we hear the news from the Holy Father recognising that both his poor health and concern for the leadership of the Church has led to the announcement that he will  retire from office on 28 February. This is a time to uphold the Pope’s health in prayer and also the Conclave as it convenes to elect the next Pontiff.”

from Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia

International aid agency Act for Peace’s support of communities in Fiji has helped them to be better prepared for the worst tropical cyclone to hit Fiji in 20 years. Communities have been assisted as part of the Pacific Community-focused Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction (PCIDRR) program to develop disaster action plans and minimise harm to people and property.

Act for Peace’s Anthony Blake, who has been running the program in Fiji for four years, says, “Communities in the north, areas we have visited as recently as last week, after first training them in 2010, have evacuated well ahead of time with food and supplies. This is a great result, and an early indication that communities are better off now than they would have been if we were not able to work with them to develop response plans. We hope — and expect — similar responses from other communities we have assisted in Fiji.”

from the National Council of Churches in Australia

Discovering God with us

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4.4-5)

Christmas is a time to rejoice and look at the world with fresh eyes. We see signs all around that remind us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Nativity scenes are seen at community carol services, school plays and in churches. These signs help us discover God with us.

After hearing the message of the angels on the hills outside Bethlehem the shepherds responded;

“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

They discovered not only that the Lord is near but that God in Jesus was there embracing the frailty of humanity. The Christmas message is discovering God with us and in Jesus’ life we see God’s love and desire for justice and peace.

The National Council of Churches in Australia wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and our prayer is for justice and peace to fill the world. 

The Reverend Tara Curlewis, 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.)

from the National Council of Churches in Australia

The Reverend Harvey L Perkins who is remembered by the National Council of Churches in Australian (NCCA) as a “devoted ecumenist” died on 25 November in Canberra.

Harvey Perkins was the sixth general secretary of the Australian Council of Churches (ACC) (1956-1967). He is remembered for the way he identified the major issues confronting the Australian churches in the mid 1960’s as the need for more Christian presence beyond the institutional structures of the Churches. For Perkins it was essential that the Australian Churches find new ways of both communicating the gospel and living a life that authenticated its message. In his 1967 report to the ACC he said "This constant struggle does not mean that we are changing the faith we confess. We are appropriating it, relating it, bringing out the emphases required for our situation.

"New situations and new issues require new expressions of the same faith.”
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