WCC statement on the Holy Land

WCC reiterates “constant call for an end to the occupation, and for equal human rights for all” in the Holy Land.

In a public statement focused on the Holy Land, the WCC central committee expressed “deep solidarity with the member churches and Christians of the region in their life and work, keeping the Christian faith and witness in the Holy Land alive and vibrant, as well as with all people in the region.”

The governing body also urged “all member churches and ecumenical partners, members of Jewish and Muslim communities, and all people of good will, to support the member churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land as essential components of the diverse multi-religious and multicultural nature of society in the region, including the Christian presence in the region.”

The central committee welcomed the WCC’s continuing relationships with the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations and the World Jewish Congress, and the opportunities which they provide for dialogue on these issues.

The statement “the government and authorities of Israel to ensure equal human rights for all people living under their responsibility, and to ensure accountability for attacks and violations against Palestinians, against the holy places, churches, Christian communities, Muslims and other groups, and to ensure free access to places of worship and holy sites.”

The central committee also appealed “to all members of the international community and all WCC member churches and ecumenical partners to stand up for international law and to speak out against the looming evictions in Masafer Yatta and other threatened displacements of Palestinian communities in the occupied territories.”

The statement concludes by reiterating “the WCC’s constant call for an end to the occupation, and for equal human rights for all in the region.”

Read the full WCC statement here.

Learn about EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program to Palestine and Israel).

Learn about the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN)

Learn about APAN (Australia Palestine Advocacy Network)


WCC and young people

Emily Evans, a member of the Uniting Church in Australia, has been an active member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee since 2013 when she was elected at the WCC Assembly in Busan, Korea.

Along with others has been actively involved in developing By-laws for the WCC Young People in the Ecumencial Movement Commission (#YPEM). The photo below shows the presentation at the recent WCC Central Committee meeting.

Emily also provided leadership for the election process, by consensus, of the new WCC General Secretary. The WCC uses the consensus procedure pioneered by Dr Jill Tabart, former President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Emily now lives in Darwin but returns to Melbourne to visit family and friends. On her next visit, it would be great to hear more from Emily about engaging and empowering younger adults in the ecumenical movement. Watch this space!

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Asian churches mourn passing of CCA Moderator

A statement from the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) on the passing away of Ephorus (Archbishop) Willem T.P. Simarmata, the Moderator of the CCA on Friday 17th June 2022 at a hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. He was 68 years old.
(Originally published on CCA website)


Archbishop Simarmata was the Ephorus (supreme head) of the largest Protestant church in Indonesia, the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP), from 2012 to 2016.

One of the most prominent leaders of the Asian churches and the modern Asian ecumenical movement, Archbishop Simarmata was elected as the Moderator of the CCA at the 14th General Assembly of the CCA held in 2015, a position in which he has since served with capable and sincere leadership, especially in closely working together with the CCA officers’ team in charting the future of the CCA as well as in shaping key policy decisions ever since the CCA initiated its new programme structure in 2016.

The General Secretary of CCA, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, expressed deep sorrow over the demise of Archbishop Simarmata, and said that the CCA Moderator’s untimely and unexpected death was a great loss to the CCA and the Asian ecumenical movement, especially when the CCA was preparing for its 15th General Assembly which had been postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Recollecting his close and personal association with Archbishop Simarmata, Dr Mathews George Chunakara said, “He was a very fine human being, and was pastoral in his approach. He dealt with everyone in a true spirit of nobility. He personified a charisma in his leadership and with a special grace in him, and he mentored and inspired people, exemplifying the message that dignity and honour are gifts from God.”

The CCA General Secretary added that Archbishop Simarmata consistently stressed the need for following the Christian social call of stewardship and care of creation and also promoted gender equality and the wellbeing of the marginalised and vulnerable groups in his communities.

“His deep commitment and passion enabled him to strive for communal harmony by developing strong interfaith relationships, especially with the Muslim majority in his country, for the common good. This was widely recognised by the people in his country and it was for precisely this reason that he was elected to the country’s parliamentary bodies in recent times,” Dr Mathews George Chunakara further added.

“His illustrious service to Church and the ecumenical movement spanned several decades, his deep spirituality and commitment to ecumenism, as well as his leadership in church and society at various levels will always be cherished and valued by Asian churches,” said Dr Mathews George Chunakara, who started his term as CCA General Secretary not long after Archbishop Simarmata was elected as the new Moderator of CCA in 2015.

Archbishop Simarmata was associated with the CCA since the early 1990s. He was an official delegate to the CCA Assembly held in 1995, and to subsequent CCA Assemblies, as well as many other major ecumenical events.

He had provided leadership in hosting and organising the 50th anniversary of the CCA held in Prapat and Medan in 2007, when he was the General Secretary of his church, the HKBP.

He also served the World Council of Churches (WCC) as a Central Committee member, and the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) as its Moderator. He was the former Chairperson of the North Sumatra region within the Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja Indonesia (PGI), or the Council of Churches in Indonesia, from 2001 to 2011.

Archbishop Simarmata was elected as the Senator to the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD-RI), one of the two parliamentary chambers in Indonesia, from the North Sumatra province.

Archbishop Simarmata was ordained as a pastor in 1983. He obtained a Bachelor’s in Theology from the HKBP Theological Institute in North Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1980, and a Master’s from the Siliman University, Philippines, in 1990, and also had a postgraduate diploma in Mission and Theology from Hanil University in Korea.

The first part of the funeral service will be held at No. 2 Setia Budi, Medan Selayung, Medan, on Monday, 20 June, and his funeral will take place on Tuesday, 21 June 2022, at HKBP Simarmata, Samosir Island, North Sumatra. He is survived by his wife, H. Lersiany Purba, and five children.


WCC urges urgent action on climate change

(18th June 2022)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee, in a statement on climate change, urged consideration by the WCC 11th Assembly and governing bodies “of the establishment of a new Commission on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in order to bring the appropriate focus to this issue in this pivotal period.”

The statement also condemns “the exploitation, degradation and the violation of Creation to satisfy the greed of humanity,” and urges “all member churches and ecumenical partners around the world to give the climate emergency the priority attention that a crisis of such unprecedented and all-encompassing dimensions deserves, both in word and deed, and to amplify their efforts to demand the necessary action by their respective governments within the necessary timeframe to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and to meet historic responsibilities to poorer, more vulnerable nations and communities.”

Among other actions, the WCC governing body also appeals “to all members of the global ecumenical family – churches, organizations, communities, families and individuals – to ’walk the talk’ and to take such actions as they are able in their own contexts, noting in a global context that the action or inaction of one country disproportionately negatively impacts vulnerable countries.”

The statement also encourages “efforts to promote climate-responsible finance in the affairs of all members of the global ecumenical family, by ensuring that through our pension funds, banks and other financial service arrangements we are not complicit in financing climate-destroying fossil fuel industries but are supporting the accelerated development of an economy based on sustainable renewable energy and mutual solidarity.”

Read the full statement here.

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Sr Brigid Arthur AO

Sr Brigid Arthur, an 87-year-old Brigidine nun, asylum seeker advocate and social justice activist, and one of the founders in 2001 of the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project in Melbourne which has helped thousands of refugees has been recognised for her work with an AO (Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia) in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours for “distinguished service to social welfare, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, and to Catholic education”.


And how very appropriate as we approach Refugee Week 2022 (Sunday 19th June to Saturday 25th June), which includes 20 June (World Refugee Day). The 2022 theme is ‘Healing’, a healing that promotes harmony and togetherness in our shared common humanity.

Who are the heroes advocating for refugees and asylum seekers, and working with new arrivals, in your community?

(article below originally published on June 12 in The Age by Carolyn Webb)

When Sister Brigid Arthur was a teacher at schools in Melbourne’s west, from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s, she was moved by the resilience of local immigrant families.

She saw that with help from the community, they could not just survive but thrive.

It’s something she’s seen with many of the thousands of asylum seekers she’s assisted over the past 30 years.

One young woman who came from a war-torn country in 2017 as a teenager, with little education, is now studying for a master’s degree and works in medical research, which was “an amazing turnaround”, Arthur said.

She has been regularly visiting detention centre inmates since 2000, and in 2001 she co-founded the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project.

Thanks to donations and volunteers’ work, the project provides accommodation, food, employment, financial support and help with visa applications.

For the past 20 years, Arthur has also acted as a litigation guardian – someone appointed by a court to represent vulnerable individuals – for minors in immigration detention and in juvenile justice centres.

Recently, she assumed the role for a group of young people seeking a judgment that the former environment minister had a duty of care to young people because of the effects of climate change.

She was also a litigation guardian in cases advocating for the rights of Indigenous minors in prison.

The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project’s motto is from the Gospel of Matthew (25:35): “I was a stranger, and you made me welcome”.

Arthur explains it: “We believe that if you’re going to really be Christian, then you must be kind to the outsiders and the vulnerable people.”

Would she ever retire? She laughs. “I’m happy to work while I can work.”

What motivates her? “A certain stubbornness, probably, that there are a lot of things wrong and while we can do something about them, we shouldn’t give up, we should do it.

“I think I’m motivated by the fact that no one of us, and no one organisation or government, has the right to set up structures and adopt policies that are really cruel and that often don’t recognise that the people who are being victimised by those structures and policies are quite vulnerable and need to be protected and not punished.”


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:


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.


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

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 –
(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:


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: 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 .

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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.