Churches in Australian respond to fire crisis

Photo: Victoria Emergency Ministries/WCC
Photo: Victoria Emergency Ministries/WCC

Red and smoky skies at night and in the morning looming in four Australian states indicate a catastrophe of biblical proportions as killer fires engulf towns and communities, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded.

Churches have been at the forefront among the responders in both their prayers and deeds as Australians in four states including New South Wales and Victoria reel under flames, with thousands fleeing in the first days of a new decade.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, wrote pastoral letter to Australian churches. "Together with you, WCC member churches around the world are praying for respite from the heat and the flames, for the protection and encouragement of all those fighting the advancing fires, for the preservation of peoples' lives and properties, and of the unique wildlife and environment threatened with destruction."

Bishop Philip Huggins is president of the National Council of Churches in Australia, said in a message to the WCC that many people of faith are involved in helping in all kinds of practical ways.

The World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches are ecumenical partners supported by the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment, which enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations.

"Harder to discuss yet is the anger. Hotter, dryer summers are exactly what have been expected. Political ineptitude has left us more vulnerable than might have been the case," rued Huggins.

In 2019, Australia topped its charts for average and maximum temperatures as well as the lowest annual rainfall across the country. The conditions contributed to the unprecedented fires impacting many corners of the country.

Emily Evans of the Uniting Church in Australia and a member of the WCC Executive Committee said Australia is in a national crisis.

Australian churches and members through front-line ecumenical organizations were on the ground.

Churches are also encouraged their members to provide direct financial support to official appeals.

Davies praised the work of Anglican Aid, which continued its drought and bushfire appeal, and the work of Anglicare's Disaster Recovery Response.

Teams of trained Anglicare volunteers are giving practical aid such as helping prepare meals, providing clothing, bedding and towels for showers, and helping with displaced pets.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference extended its national prayer campaign for drought as historically dry conditions continue to affect most parts of Australia.

The Bishops Conference initiated the prayer campaign held during November 2019 but decided it should run indefinitely until drought conditions ease.

Global news media showed scenes of Australia ravaged by the worst wildfires seen in decades, with large swathes of the country destroyed since the annual fire season began in September.

excerpt from a story by Peter Kenny, freelance journalist based in Geneva.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund apportionment at 100 percent.