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Media Releases

It is with deep sorrow that news of the death of His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas, supreme spiritual leader of the Syrian Orthodox Church, is received in Australia. The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA)gives thanks for the life and leadership of Patriarch Zakka Iwas.

Patriarch Zakka Iwas was born in Mosel Iraq 21 April 1933 and died 21 March 2014 in Germany. Although he had been battling illness for some time his death has taken the church by surprise. He was enthroned in Damascus in 1980 as the supreme spiritual head of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East.

"We thank God for his life, witness and leadership that has given stability during the unrest in Syria." said NCCA general secretary Rev Tara Curlewis.

God with us

“A young woman is with child, and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

The birth of any child fills the parents, family and friends with awe and wonder. It is truly an amazing event. Often the name chosen for the newborn is of special significance, it may be a traditional family name or connect with someone special, it may be chosen for its meaning and with a hope that shapes the future of the young life.

At Christmas Christians recall the birth of one born long ago in Bethlehem, the scriptures pointed to this child and proclaimed that the child would be called Immanuel.  This name means “God with us”.  The real significance of Jesus’ birth is that he is born as we are and he is the Son of God with us.

In the early years Jesus’ life was threatened, his family sought asylum in Egypt until it was safe to return home, clearly Jesus as God with us knows the experience of those seeking asylum in another land.   He knows the experience of the poor and the homeless.  Jesus is God with us in all life’s experiences.

May we in Australia know and see “God with us”.

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

Australians from across the country came together on Saturday to send a strong message to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to stop cuts to overseas aid on the United Nations International Day of Peace, 21 September. Act for Peace, the International aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, coordinated the national action.

Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Act for Peace says:  “On International Day of Peace we saw an overwhelming display of support for overseas aid that helps save lives. Communities took to the streets to collect signatures, held inter-faith forums and special church services to mark the day and encourage people to sign the petition calling on our government to stop cuts to the aid budget and invest in peace-building projects.”
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

At this crucial time, the people of Syria and the Middle East need peace not war. Weapons or military action can not bring peace to Syria is the firm conviction of Middle Eastern Church leaders meeting this week in Amman, Jordan.

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) expresses concern for the people of Syria and condemns the use of chemical weapons. “This crime needs to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.” said the Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary. “External military intervention will only increase the suffering of the people and increase the risk of escalating sectarian violence”
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.
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