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First Peoples Assembly of Victoria

(text of media release, 7th June 2022)

Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the democratic voice representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the journey to Treaty – and the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, held a ceremony on June 7th to mark the agreement to establish a key part of the architecture to enable Treaty negotiations.

The agreement to establish an independent Treaty Authority to oversee Treaty negotiations and help resolve disputes was marked with a ceremonial signing at the Assembly’s Chamber Meeting held on Gadubanud Country of the Eastern Maar people in Lorne.

Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said the hard work of the last two years was starting to deliver tangible progress on the journey to Treaty.

“Ours is the oldest living culture on the planet. It’s clear that our lore and law has stood the test of time and I’m overjoyed and very proud to see it being embedded into the very core of the new institutions we’re creating to get Treaty done,” said Aunty Geri.

The Treaty Authority will be led by First Peoples and will sit completely outside of the usual Government bureaucracy and will not report to a Government Minister. However, the legislation tabled in Parliament on Tuesday is required to facilitate its creation – to allow it to employ people, lease an office, etc.

Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the establishment of the Treaty Authority was a positive and strong indication the Victorian Government was willing to do things differently.

“The reality is that since invasion, western systems have by and large inflicted serious harm on our people. If we want Treaty to deliver, if we want it to improve the lives of our people, we have to think outside the colonial system and instead put Aboriginal culture at the heart of all we do. I’m pleased to say this agreement does that,” Mr Stewart said.

The Authority will facilitate and oversee Treaty negotiations in Victoria and help resolve Treaty related disputes – including between Traditional Owners. It will have a funding stream detached from the standard politic cycles.

Authority Members – all of which will be First Peoples – will be appointed by a panel independent of government.

“We’re making great progress toward Treaty here in Victoria and I think there’s a lot of lessons to be drawn from our experiences as the national push for Voice, Treaty and Truth gathers momentum. The key thing is to make sure First Peoples are driving the process,” said Mr Stewart.

A copy of the agreement can be found here
An info sheet about the Treaty Authority can be found here.
Other links and resources can be found here.

Media contact

Adam Pulford | M: 0424 885 387 | E: adamp@firstpeoplesvic.org

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Chaplaincy in public schools

A few days ago, Jane Caro published an opinion piece where she put the case that God should have no place in public schools. Her concluding remarks were, ‘Australia is a secular country. It supports and celebrates citizens of all faiths and none. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion are among our core values. Our public schools must reflect that’.

In response, John Dickson published an open letter to Jane Caro, published on the ABC website, called ‘What’s so offensive about Australia’s public school chaplaincy program?’

In his final paragraph, he writes:

‘Jane, you may have revealed your hand in the final lines of your article, when you write, “Freedom of religion and freedom from religion are among our core [secular] values”. Freedom “from” religion? No, a healthy secular democracy does not exclude religion – from schools or politics or wherever. It simply ensures that religious programs are never imposed, always voluntary, just like the public school chaplaincy program. Anything else seems driven by a personal distaste of religion’.

Rev. Dr John Dickson is an author and historian and a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. His most recent book is Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History. He is the host of the Undeceptions podcast.

An interesting conversation. It’s worth reading both articles.

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Equal Opportunity (Religious Exemptions) Amendment Act 2021


An update in relation to the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Act 2021(the Act), which was passed by the Victorian Government on 3 December 2021.

The majority of reforms under the Act commenced on 14 June 2022, with the exception of amendments to the religious exception in goods and services which will commence on 14 December 2022. The reforms commencing on 14/6 meant that religious organisations and schools cannot discriminate against an employee or school student, or potential employee or student, on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, lawful sexual activity or parental status.

Under the Act, religious organisations and schools will only be able to make employment decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs where these are inherent to the job, such as a religious studies teacher, and the discrimination is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

Under the changes, religious schools can only discriminate based on a student, or potential student’s, religious beliefs or activities where the discrimination is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances and to do so would conform with the school’s doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion, or the discrimination is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of the school’s religion.

Religious bodies can still discriminate based on certain personal characteristics in other circumstances. However, there is a new requirement that the discrimination must be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. There are no changes to religious bodies’ ability to discriminate when ordaining, appointing or training people to be priests or members of a religious order.

For further information, please see the factsheet available at this link https://www.humanrights.vic.gov.au/resources/equal-opportunity-act-religious-exceptions-reforms

Further information on the 14 December 2022 changes to the religious exception in goods and services will be provided at a later date.

If you need further clarification or wish to speak with the DJCS please contact Rachel Burrows on this email address –  consultation@justice.vic.gov.au
(The Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) is where this legislation is being coordinated).

Alternatively you could contact Vivienne Nguyen AM
Chairperson |Victorian Multicultural Commission
Level 3, 1 Macarthur Street, East Melbourne 3002
M: 0448 718 668 E: Vivienne.nguyen@vmc.vic.gov.au
www.multiculturalcommission.vic.gov.au

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Deakin Uni – Pastoral Care Member

Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (Melbourne panel) – Vacancy

Pastoral Care Member

Deakin University’s Human Research Ethics Committee (DUHREC) reviews research projects involving human participants. These projects are from all faculties: Arts and Education; Business and Law; Health; Science, Engineering and Built Environment. Research can include biomedical procedures to classroom learning studies, historical enquiries to health questionnaires.

The role of the Committee is to make sure that the rights of participants are respected and that no human research is approved unless it meets stringent requirements of integrity, justice and fairness.

If you have an interest in research and the time to take part in attending bi-monthly meetings, we have a current vacancy:

Eligibility criteria:

• Pastoral Care member: performs a pastoral care role in a community, for example an Aboriginal elder, a Minister of Religion. (National Statement: 5.1.30 d)

We are looking for members who preferably live or work locally, with a variety of life experience, not specific skills nor a research background.

Please note, membership of the Committee is determined by national guidelines and also includes Chair/Deputy Chair, Professional Carer (e.g. GP/nurse), Researcher, Lawyer and Lay Members.

Committee work is voluntary, however members receive a modest honorarium to cover any out of pocket costs. Lunch and car parking is provided for each meeting attended.

What does membership involve?

Committee members are usually appointed for a term of two years, which may be renewed at the end of the term. You will be/become familiar with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018), (the National Statement) which establishes requirements for Human Research Ethics Committees and sets out the principles by which decisions are made. New members begin by observing a meeting and attending Induction training, then attend bi-monthly meetings (in person) at the Burwood campus of Deakin University (on Monday afternoons). Committee members are provided training on an as-needs basis during meetings as well as invited to attend online training via the Victorian Ethics Network (VEN) throughout the year. Prior to committee meetings, members are asked to read and make recommendations regarding research applications and review the agenda.

Expression of interest

If you are interested in joining DUHREC, please email a one-page expression of interest (EoI) to: research-ethics@deakin.edu.au including how you meet the eligibility criteria (above). Please include a summary of your qualifications, work experience and a statement on why you are interested in joining DUHREC. If you have a current CV, you may wish to attach it.

For further information, please email research-ethics@deakin.edu.au .

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St Anthony of Padua

Monday, 13 June is the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua (2022)

Anthony of Padua (15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231) was a Portuguese Catholic priest, and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy.  

He has become known as the most celebrated of the followers of Francis of Assisi.Noted by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick.

His life story is educative for us all (summarised here by the St Anthony of Padua parish):

Proclaiming the message of God has never been that popular, especially if preachers were taking the message of God to where many actively hated it. During Anthony’s early years, Franciscan missionaries had died at the hands of the Islamic people. At the age of 26, Anthony had given up a peaceful life of prayer and study as an Augustinian to become a Franciscan missionary to the Muslims in Morocco. He had come to the psychological – spiritual conclusion that he had failed God by not being allowed to give up his life as a martyr at the hands of the Muslims.

Somehow, though, Anthony had reached the point in his life where his fellow Franciscans would not even give him a job of washing dishes or sweeping the floors. Early in his life, Anthony had been so sure of what God wanted him to do.

Early life: He was born Fernando de Bouillon on August 15, 1195 in Portugal, a legitimate heir to a noble title and lands. His future seemed to be secure and planned. His family occupied a sumptuous palace near the cathedral in Lisbon. Still, Fernando’s restless quest for God’s call came early and he gave up his inheritance to enter a monastery at age 15, seeking a life of solitude and devotion to God. His new name would be Anthony. His friends however, missed him and knowing he was close by, would stop to visit so much that this became a distraction from his devotions. Two years later he decided he would have to move on to find the kind of life he wanted. At the Abbey of Santa Cruz, his new home, Anthony devoted the next eight years to studying theology and Scripture. He exhibited a remarkable memory and facility for knowledge and it was obvious to everyone that this was the life he was meant to lead.
(It was said of him (Traditionally) that he knew the Bible so well, that if some disaster destroyed all copies of it, they could still recover the Scriptures form what he knew).

Crises of life: When he landed in Morocco it seemed like everything was finally going as he planned it. However, he no sooner got out into the desert than he became so physically ill that he wasn’t even able to get out of bed, let alone walk the street preaching Christ’s message to others. His attempt at missionary work was such a complete failure that the Franciscans ordered him back to Portugal after only four months. Yet Anthony ran into problems there as well. The ship taking him back to Portugal was forced to land in Sicily after a storm. As Anthony recovered his health in Italy, he conceived a new plan. He would go tot he fourth general chapter meeting of the Franciscans and see St. Francis of Assisi. Surely St. Francis would know what he was supposed to do with the rest of his life. Yet Francis, close to death, did not notice Anthony among all the three thousand friars who had come to the chapter. In fact, everyone ignored Anthony – which apparently was not difficult to do because Anthony liked to stick to the background.

Dejected and discouraged, Anthony did not want to return to Portugal that was just a reminder of how wrong all his hopes had gone. Surely there was a place for him in Italy. Still , no one in Italy knew of Anthony’s background in theology and Scripture. That, like Portugal, belonged to Anthony’s past. All they saw was a sick invalid with barely enough strength to get out of bed. So when he volunteered as a kitchen assistant, they turned him down; no one thought he could do the work! What could Anthony do? He felt that he was a failure as a missionary, as a martyr, and now even as a dishwasher.

New hope: He had found one friend however in Father Gratian, the provincial of Bologna. When Anthony begged him for work, Fr. Gratian sent him to a small retreat house in the mountains.

They were ordaining a large group of priests. Again Anthony was hidden in the crowd. As was customary, there was to be a talk at the ordination meal on being a priest. The time came for the talk and no-one stood up to provide for the homily. No one had prepared a talk and no one wanted to talk spontaneously in front of the toughest audience of all – their fellow-priests. Suddenly, as the Tradition goes, Father Gratian turned to Anthony and asked him to speak. Why Anthony? Maybe he guessed there was more to Anthony than the others knew. Maybe Anthony was just handy. Of course Anthony tried to decline the offer; he had no experience or ability. Gratian ordered him to speak out of obedience.

The preacher comes alive: Unable to refuse the direct order Anthony stood up. Nevertheless, as he opened his mouth to stammer out a few words, the Holy Spirit suddenly overwhelmed the frightened priest. The voice that trembled in fear, now trembled with passion. The words that had stumbled now flowed beautifully. All who heard his speech knew they had not only witnessed a miracle but heard a miracle-worker. In that moment his life changed forever. Everyone who had ignored him knew him now as Anthony the preacher. Saint Francis who hadn’t even noticed his existence before, now, appointed him to preach anywhere and everywhere. Expectant crowds replaced his quiet solitude hanging on his words.

Suddenly what head looked like failures or misdirection’s in his life all made sense His study in the Monastery was not a waste of time, but a foundation to preach on the Scripture. His travels to Morocco and Italy was not a disaster but experiences in real life form which to teach. His assignment to the retreat house was not a rejection but a grounding of his spirit in prayer and meditation to sustain him in the Holy Spirit.

Anthony preached to his culture. He probed deeply into each passage to find the key message for Christians. Apparently, he re-discovered that his role in ministry was with his own people. His mission field was not in Morocco, but, in Padua and the surrounding areas. This is a model for all to follow. We ought to be willing to bloom where we are planted as available people for God’s purposes.

Anthony preached to the experiences of people. Anthony was said to have preached peace in a time of feuds, vendettas, and wars, saying to the people — “No more war; no more hatred and bloodshed, but peace. God wills it.” His preaching was direct and forceful with a simple message that was practical. Again, a deep understanding and classical theological training in foundational truths, prepared this preacher for the task at hand, a society where the rich and poor were polarized culturally and economically.

Anthony preached a positive message. In a time when many heretics were teaching things such as that the flesh was evil and only the soul was created by God, Anthony did not indulge in attacks of heretics. He simply, and clearly, spoke of the true beliefs of Christians in such a positive way that he won people back to the Faith.

Despite the chaos of the times, (feuds and vendettas), Anthony had to start preaching out in the fields, because the churches would no longer hold the crowds coming to hear him. Shops and business were reported to have closed their doors when he came to preach and people often slept overnight in churches to be sure to hear him the next day.

Anthony preached without consideration for a person’s position. According to Tradition, when an archbishop asked Anthony to preach at a national council, Anthony did as requested and then turned to the archbishop to say, “And now I have something to say to you…” He went on to tell the archbishop in front of the council how he should change his life.

Padua was the place that Anthony had chosen as his home base after he started preaching. That is where he went after he fell ill in 1231. To find a little solitude in the midst of the clamour for his attention, he built a sort of tree-house where he lived until he became too weak. He asked to be taken back to his monastery to die but he did not make it. At a stop at a convent of Poor Clares, he said, “I behold my God,” and died. It was June 13, 1231 and he was only 35 years old.

During those later years, however, Anthony was to gain such popular recognition for his charismatic preaching that his legend would remain firmly etched into the Tradition of the Church to this day.

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Trinity Sunday

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

That’s it really – it’s as simple as that – we worship, we live, we act in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Yet our human understanding and experience of God – as Creator, Liberator as Father, as Jesus – the Messiah – the Son and as the Wisdom of God, the Life-giver, the Holy Spirit is so limited based on our limited understanding that it has caused divisions in the family of God.

The church has been divided on how we understand the Trinity – on the hierarchy, on the operationality and every other aspect of the Trinity – for 1700 years.

We have churches today who focus only on the Sovereign “Father God as King over everything, or focus only on the name of Jesus, or focus only on the power of the Holy Spirit.

One way of understanding the Trinity comes from the Greek word Perichoresis, being-in-one another, referring to the fact that we exist in relation to one another.

The relationship within the Trinity is divine equality, mutuality and reciprocity – which we as the image of God are to express in our own relationships with each other.

Why is it important we have a Trinitarian understanding of God anyway?

If we only focus on God the Father, a supreme judge and absolute Lord, we are in danger of maintaining a patriarchal thinking that legitimises that might is right, maintains vertical, dominant power relationships.

If we only focus on God the Son, it is easy to reduce Jesus to a charismatic, wonder-working heroic, humanitarian, leader figure or only on sacrificial aspect of the Atonement.

If we only focus on God the Holy Spirit, we can develop an inward looking spirituality – our main relationship is with our inner self – this leads to anarchy and fanaticism (the Spirit blows where and however it wants).

When we lack a trinitarian understanding of God – when we don’t experience God as in communion – in relationship that is based on equality, mutuality and reciprocity –in other words – love – we end up with an oppressive image of God, dominating leaders and pastors, and the danger of chaos – which, because we live in a society – becomes the way our society operates.

But if we place an equal emphasis on the relationship that binds the Trinity together, that flows between them, if we understand God as expressing unity in diversity and equality within the Trinity – we find liberator Father God who hears the cry of the suffering and oppressed today as he did to the Israelites in Egypt. We can follow the expression of love and healing to the weak and outcast by the Son, Jesus who also entered in to solidarity with them, joining us with their suffering. The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, empowers us with the gifts that enable us, on behalf of the community, to boldly undertake a truly prophetic and liberating action.

Ultimately what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday is relationship:
We celebrate God who is relationship.
We celebrate God who is in relationship with us.
We celebrate God who expresses this relationship in love – by being love – by loving.
We celebrate that, as created in the image of God – we are created in relationship.
We are created in and to love.
To be a human being is to be in relationship.
To be a human being is to love.
To be Church/ to be Christian is to be in relationship – to be Church/ to be Christian is to love.

Of course we often struggle with relationships – we often struggle with community also. It’s difficult to express that divine equality, mutuality and reciprocity – in our lives.

In our Gospel reading today (John 16:12-15), we are reminded by Jesus of this relationship within the Trinity. We are also reminded that our faith in a Triune God calls us to orient our life to the practice of love, reorient our relationships to be based on equality, mutuality and reciprocity.

Paul puts it another way (Romans 5:1-5). Jesus as the pathway to enter into a loving relationship with the Triune God and that love is poured into us by the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us that divine grace is ultimately how we experience the relationship with God. Love is the manifestation of the Triune God.

The reading from Proverbs (Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31) reminds us of the existence of the Spirit before the world was created – God Creator, God Word that called forth Creation and God Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep and participated in the act of Creation.

Today’s psalm (Psalm 8) beautifully reminds us of our relationship with both God and the rest of God’s creation.

Let us remember that to be the body of Christ is to be in relationship with the Father and the Spirit.
Let us remember that to be the body of Christ is to be in relationships guided by love, and defined by equality, mutuality and reciprocity.
Let us remember that to be the body of Christ is to be in relationship with all people, and with all creation.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev James Bhagwan, General Secretary, Pacific Council of Churches, on Trinity Sunday 12th June 2022)

“Only a Christian community that is whole, united and unifying, free of dominion and oppression, and only humanity that is whole, united and unifying, free of class domination and dictatorial oppression, can claim to respect the Trinitarian God. This is a world in which human beings are characterised by their social relationships and not by their power or possessions. This is a world in which human beings hold everything in common and share everything except their personal characteristics.” (Jurgen Moltmann)

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Thursdays in Black

Thursdays in Black is a global movement for a world without rape and violence, a project of the World Council of Churches.

In every country, gender-based violence is a tragic reality. This violence is frequently hidden, and victims are often silent, fearing stigma and further violence.

We all have a responsibility to speak out against violence, to ensure that women and men, boys and girls, are safe from rape and violence in homes, schools, work, streets – in all places in our societies.

The campaign is simple but profound. Wear black on Thursdays. Wear a badge to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence. Encourage others to join you.

Often black has been used with negative racial connotations. In this campaign Black is used as a color of resistance and resilience.

Share your Thursdays in Black photos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, using hashtags #ThursdaysinBlack and #WCC!

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Korus Connect


Korus Connect* has this week released the annual review for the last year. Very interesting reading about the diverse and creative work of Korus Connect. Definitely well worth a read!

(*Korus Connect is the name for the Council for Christian Education in Schools).

Korus Connect CEO Dawn Penney

‘The Korus Connect vision is one of supported communities with thriving people – engaged in their local area, collaborating with one another and concerned for the welfare of their neighbours. We desire to see communities that are connected, supported and whole. Korus Connect is advancing and evolving. We are collaborating with others to rebuild, restore and reconnect communities after a tumultuous two years’.

‘This season of uncertainty has enabled chaplains, connectors and SRI (Special Religious Instruction) Instructors to serve as beacons of hope, anchors of peace and models of grace. Their gift of presence has helped move people from isolation to connection, from fear to hope, and from hope to peace’.

‘The Korus Connect team has forged innovative research partnerships to demonstrate how positive community impact, improved well-being and stronger community alliances can be achieved’.

‘In the year ahead, we will continue to develop our support for churches as they seek to re-engage their internal and external communities’.

Korus Connect Facebook page and website
enquiries@korusconnect.org.au
03 9811 0999

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A vision for a just peace

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8-9)

The issues in Israel and Palestine are complex. The history of the lands now known as Palestine and Israel are laden with many layers of stories. These stories are often powerfully felt and told from many different perspectives.

As followers of the Jesus way, we do well to approach with the prophet Micah’s words in mind. We do well if we do not dehumanise either side. We do well to learn more about the issues. We do well to work towards a vision for a just peace, where all people in Palestine and Israel can live with freedom, dignity and security based on international law and human rights.

There are many opportunities to learn more, and ways to respond to issues that give priority to seeking lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel.

Today the VCC Executive Officer Rev Sandy Boyce met with Nell Potter, a returned ‘EA’ (see EAPPI below) and Executive Officer with PIEN (Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network), Jessica Morrison (Executive Officer, APAN), and Rev John Gilmore (President, National Council of Churches).

Jessica Morrison (APAN), Nell Potter (PIEN), Rev Sandy Boyce (VCC), Rev John Gilmore (NCCA)

Sandy, Nell and Jessica are involved in EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel). EAPPI is a World Council of Churches program. In Australia, EAPPI is managed by Act for Peace (the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia).

EAPPI began when local church leaders in Palestine and Israel came together to take action in response to the pain and injustice they were witnessing in their communities. Their vision was a just peace, where all people in Palestine and Israel could live with freedom, dignity and security based on international law and human rights.

EAPPI volunteers deploy to Jerusalem and/or the West Bank, and spend three months living and working alongside both Palestinian families living under military occupation, and Israeli human rights defenders. Through the presence of the volunteers who act as international observers, human rights violations in Palestinian communities are reduced.

Nell also the Executive Officer of Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN). She first visited Palestine in 2017 when she spent three months living in the West Bank on the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Read an article Nell wrote for Anglican Focus.

Jessica has been the Executive Officer of APAN (Australia Palestine Advocacy Network) since 2011 and has a broad understanding of issues effecting Palestinians. She has traveled to Palestine on a number of occasions, including serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She has taught Social Work and been involved in a range of community campaigns and broader movements for peace and social justice. APAN works for an Australian policy that supports Palestinian human rights, justice, and equality.

Sandy has been engaged with the national EAPPI committee since the first volunteers were deployed – Bek Christensen and Aimee Kent. Sandy continues to be involved through the work of the EAPPI Committee and through the recruitment and training program for EAPPI volunteers.

The PIEN website has suggestions for resources and learning more:

For a brief introduction to the socio-political context, we’d recommend the Jewish Voice For Peace (USA) (video) or  a written introduction from Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.  For a theological introduction, we’d recommend the recent short publication The Wall has been broken down.

If you would like some more detailed information about the context of Palestine and Israel, please see our recommendations of  booksvideos, and Palestinian stories

There are church statements from Christian leaders in Palestine and around the world.  There is specific information about Christians in Palestine and the World Council of Churches World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

We would encourage you to listen with a generous spirit and open heart as we seek to understand more about what many people call the holy land.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or would like a speaker, check out the APAN, PIEN and EAPPI (Act for Peace) websites.

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World Oceans Day June 8

2022 theme: Revitalisation – Collective action for the ocean

Sing a new song, for God has done wonderful things! Sing to God all the earth, sing praise and songs of joy! Let the oceans roar and all the creatures that live within it give praise! (Psalm 98 adapted)

The purpose of World Oceans Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

The oceans are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere. The ocean connects, sustains and supports us all. Yet its health is at a tipping point and so is the well-being of all that depends on it. As the past years have shown us, we need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and bring it new life.

The ocean covers over 70% of the planet. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth. The ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world. Not to mention, the ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.

Even though all its benefits, the ocean is now in need of support. With 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. To protect and preserve the ocean and all it sustains, we must create a new balance, rooted in true understanding of the ocean and how humanity relates to it. We must build a connection to the ocean that is inclusive, innovative, and informed by lessons from the past.

What are the issues for us in our land ‘girt by sea’. How do we reflect on our divine role as caretakers of God’s Creation? How might we advocate on behalf of the well-being of the oceans? What might we learn from Aboriginal people about the way they care for the ocean?

In news this week, there is a report about the decision by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) giving Santos approval to drill up to eight wells off the northern beaches of the Tiwi Islands. Munupi senior lawman Dennis Tipakalippa is challenging that decision in the federal court saying he and his community were never consulted about the drilling. ‘We spend a lot of time out in the water – hunting, fishing. We only ever take what we can eat in a day, no more. We respect our homelands, our sea country and it looks after us. Santos should have respected us and consulted in the proper way’. Read more here.

Rev. James Bhagwan, General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), says “the Pacific is on a journey of self-determination, reclaiming itself as a large “liquid continent” and people connected by the ocean. The impact of climate change in the Pacific is profound. Land and sea are bound to culture and a sense of belonging”.

“We understand the ocean does not separate us. It’s what connects us. So we recognise that the ocean is our home and part of who we are. And we have seen terms now develop that are about the Liquid Continent, about the Blue Pacific, or the Blue Continent, recognising that the Ocean is part of who we are. It’s part of our identity”.

“In most traditional Pacific Island cultures, the self does not exist. We exist in community. We exist as part of the natural environment, which is the land, the sea, the sky, and all creation. Our traditional spirituality is a creation-centred spirituality”. (Read more here)

More reading
Pacific people caught in the link between ecological racism and deep-sea mining

Still we rise with hope

Pacific Council of Churches Facebook page

Prayer
Swirling God, who at the dawn of creation swept over the face of the waters, hover over our oceans and all waterways with your blessed presence.
May each droplet of mist and sea be clean and fresh for all life who come in contact with these holy streams.
Bless each cell and molecule of life below the surface of the waters who trust in you and us to create a prosperous world.
Continually nudge us to nurture creation, joining together with humans all over this planet to covenant with one another and celebrate the gifts of water, air, fire, and land that you have given us. Amen.
(Source: Michelle L. Torigian, God goes pop)