“I attended my first workshop in December 2018 with Rev James Bhagwan from Fiji, who opened the Bible to show how gender equality is part of God’s plan for us,” Dorothy remembers. “It was incredibly eye opening. I had never seen it before, and it had certainly never been taught in theological college.”
Pastor Dorothy is the Gender Equality Theology Minister with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu in a part of the world where women have never experienced what it means to live to their full potential. Men are the traditional gatekeepers of power and authority, and women have often been regarded as possessions, to be disciplined in whatever way a man chooses.
More than 60% of women in the Pacific have experienced violence at the hands of a man. With 98% of people in the Pacific identifying as Christian, the Church has a powerful voice and significant influence to lead. It’s begun to speak for the rights of women and girls, and to encourage men and boys to understand the way that gender justice sets people everywhere free to live life to the full.
“The gospel is relevant for every aspect of life. Jesus is a very practical saviour for humanity, a man of justice and compassion."
“The work we do is critical and allows me to help all different groups of people–clergy, administrators, congregations and children– to understand how equality between men and women is part of the Biblical story,” Pastor Dorothy says. “We work together to make practical changes like stopping family violence and giving women opportunities to lead in our homes, families, churches, communities and nation.” The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu is actively evangelistic, and has oversight of schools and colleges, as well as a theological college to equip its ministers.
Like many Pacific nations, Vanuatu is constantly threatened by natural disasters and their impacts on people’s livelihoods and the wider economy. Alongside the gender justice work, the Presbyterian Church also educates people about the need to be prepared for and actively work against climate-related disasters.
“As a church we draw inspiration from John 10:10 where Jesus says“I have come that you may have life, and life in abundance,” says Pastor Dorothy. “That means the gospel is relevant for every aspect of life. Jesus is a very practical saviour for humanity, a man of justice and compassion.”
Health & Education
The church is concentrating on reaching remote areas of the islands to share God’s love, as well as preparing young people for the future and helping disaster-proof the country. They have oversight of three secondary schools and three rural vocational training centres.
They are also part of the Vanuatu Council of Churches. UnitingWorld supports them in their work for gender equality, training leaders to challenge theological understandings traditionally used to oppress women and legitimate violence; and also in equipping advocates against violence and supporting survivors of abuse.
Pray for Assembly Clerk Pastor Allen Nafuki, Secretary of Mission Pastor Roy Yosif and Finance Secretary Elder Meto Nganga. Pray for courage and vision in their leadership as they collaborate ecumenically with other churches.
As throughout the Pacific, Vanuatu is extremely vulnerable to climaterelated disasters. COVID-19 has decimated tourism and the cyclone season every year destroys lives and livelihoods. Pray for the disaster preparation work that is being led by the church, and that Australia and other wealthy countries will take more decisive action on climate change.
3. Women and Children
Pray for the women and men who are leading the church and community in changing the plight of women. Elder Cindy Vanuaroro leads the Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union, Elder Martha Yamsiu Kaluatman leads the gender advocacy and Pastor Nippy Aiong, Christian Education Director, leads the theological teaching of gender equality.
We can all do simple things to stand with our Partners and show support:
- Decide to wear black on Thursdays. Join the World Council of Churches “Thursdays in Black” Campaign to show your support for a world without violence against women. Read more here: www.unitingworld.org.au/uniting-against-violence