Forty women leaders from Australia’s leading church denominations and Christian organisations have joined together for an historic visit to Canberra today, addressing in part the shocking levels of violence toward women and children in the Pacific while asking elected leaders to reinforce partnership efforts with the Australian and Pacific church.
With every mainline denomination represented, the cohort is the largest delegation of female Christian leaders to travel to the Parliament. Their unified effort—coordinated through the efforts of Micah Australia—comes in part from the gravity of the Pacific situation where nearly 87 percent of children and 1 in 4 adolescent girls across eight countries experience physical violence regularly while 1 in 10 experience sexual violence, according to a recent report from Australia’s leading aid and development NGO’s.
The leaders met with Senior Ministers and Members of Parliament from both political parties, advocating for policies supporting and protecting vulnerable women and children in the Pacific, while also encouraging continual leadership around Australia’s commitment to advocacy for a just world.
“If we’re to heed the call to love and care for our neighbour, we cannot ignore the desperate situations many women and children in the Pacific are facing,” said Kate Harrison Brennan, CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries.
“With our unified voice, we hope our meetings encourage our representatives to continue exhibiting compassionate leadership but also to keep crucial issues of justice, like poverty elimination, community development, care for refugees and other concerns on their agenda.”
The delegation includes representatives from Hillsong Church, Baptist Church, Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Uniting Church, The Salvation Army, Churches of Christ, Bible Society, Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Adventist Church, Australian Christian Churches (ACC) and more.
“Since over 90 percent of the Pacific are Christian, we’re compelled to speak up for justice as well as emphasise the importance of churches as critical and integral partners for empowering women,” said Rev. Dr Seforosa Carroll, Theological Researcher and Church Partnerships (Pacific) at UnitingWorld, (Uniting Church).
“It’s essential for us to ensure our government’s ‘Pacific Step Up’ policies reflect the voices and needs of the vulnerable and marginalised in the Pacific, and that women are given a seat and have a voice at the table.”
As important as the Pacific Step Up is, the cohort of Christian women leaders also appealed to government leaders to make sure its commitment there does not come at the cost of ‘stepping down’ elsewhere in the world.
Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah, who will lead Micah’s annual conference, Voices for Justice, again this year in December in Canberra, also sees this as a unique opportunity both to address cultural divisions and to unite Christian leaders who are influencing the country’s ministries.
“Too often, the church in Australia is known for advocating for our own rights, rather than the rights of the marginalised,” said Mr Costello. “These women, many of them on the front lines of social justice issues in our nation, have come to Canberra to advocate solely for the needs of others. What a great example they are setting for the church and our leaders.”
In addition to the advocacy work for justice issues, the women leaders brought a Christian perspective to the nation’s leaders around a number of concerns for the vulnerable across Australia and committed to praying for the officials in their leadership roles.
“What an honour to be a part of this significant moment for our nation,” said Harrison Brennan. “Every major church denomination is represented here today, showing our leaders that Christians are at our best when we are unified, when together we give voice to the vulnerable and advocate together for God’s justice in the world.”