Story UPDATE re donations – January 19, 2022
UnitingWorld, the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, has launched an appeal for donations to provide urgent support to affected communities in Tonga.
Uniting World says: “Your support will help our partner the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT), who will be providing emergency assistance and supplies to people affected by the disaster.
“In the longer term, your gift will support recovery and rebuilding once the full extent of the disaster is known.”
Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) President the Rev. Sharon Hollis and Chair of the church’s Tongan National Conference (TNC) the Rev. Feke Kamitoni have been encouraging people to pray for Tonga after it was hit by a tsunami late on January 15.
Mata Havea Hiliau, Moderator-elect of the Uniting Church NSW and ACT, also prayed live on Facebook on January 16, urging people to light a candle of hope and pray without ceasing for Tonga following the eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai which triggered the tsunami.
Kippax Uniting Church minister, the Rev. Karyl Davison, said the UCA was asking people to donate via Uniting World – which already works with its partner organisation, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga to support people “on the ground” – as this will ensure donations provide the most appropriate assistance possible.
Details of the appeal will be posted soon on the Uniting World website – www.unitingworld.com.au
The call to prayer from the Uniting Church leaders acknowledged that, while communication lines had been down since the tsunami, Tongan communities in Australia and across the world had maintained a prayer vigil each day as they awaited news from family in Tonga.
The leaders also noted that many parts of Tonga remained covered in ash and people had been left without power since the tsunami hit and that the disaster had also had an impact on Fiji and other Pacific Islands where the full extent of damage was still unknown.
“I encourage all Uniting Church members to join in prayer for the people of Tonga and across the Pacific who have been impacted by the tsunami,” said Ms Hollis.
“We pray for people’s safety, for those whose homes have been lost or damaged and all those anxiously awaiting news of loved ones.”
“I also encourage members of the Uniting Church to be in touch with people they know in the Tongan-Australian community to offer them support at this very stressful time as they wait for news of friends and family.”
Mr Kamitoni said not being able to contact family to check on their safety had caused a great amount of stress and anxiety for the Tongan community in Australia.
“Our main concern is not knowing what has happened to our loved ones in Tonga,” he said.
“Many in our community are in contact with family in Tonga every week. But to see the volcano eruption and tsunami on the news and suddenly be cut off from one another is very frightening.”
Since the tsunami hit, the Tongan community across Australia have rallied together. An online prayer vigil was hosted by Pasifika TV and Radio. Uniting Church Tongan members, including former TNC Chair the Rev. Jason Kioa, have played a role in the broadcast.
Local communities across the country are gathering, in most cases online, bringing people together to support one another and to pray for families and the people of Tonga.
“Churches have become a point of contact and connection for the Tongan community during this frightening time. While we cannot talk to our families and friends, we are constantly praying for them.”
Mr Kamitoni said many elderly members of the community were concerned about siblings and relatives and there were many seasonal workers living in Australia worried about their children and families.
“On behalf of the TNC and the wider Tongan community in Australia, I extend our appreciation for the thoughts and prayers everyone has given to Tonga and our people.”
Ms Hollis encouraged the Australian Government to do all it could to aid the recovery efforts now and in the months ahead.
UnitingWorld was also ready to support the UC’s partners in Tonga and across the Pacific once needs have been assessed, she said.