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Jubilee theology lived out in Papua and Nepal

In Nepal and the Papua province of Indonesia, two committed young leaders are heading up organisations that are bringing hope and transformation to the communities they work with.

Established in 2016, Yasera is one of the younger of Tearfund’s partner organisations, while the Welfare Association for Children Tikapur (WACT) in Nepal has been a Tearfund partner for more than 20 years. Tearfund’s Phil Lindsay spoke with Ajay Sharma, executive director of WACT, and Heidy Tamboto, executive director of Yasera, about how they see Jubilee theology being lived out through the work of their organisations.

Doing a ‘God-sized work’ in Papua

Tearfund’s partner Yasera is helping families to flourish and also building the capacity of the local church, says executive director Heidy Tamboto.

In 2017 we started working with Tearfund Australia on our project Papua Family Strengthening. Our vision is to create healthy, self-sufficient and flourishing families in Indonesia, by empowering the local communities. So we are empowering local communities to transform the vulnerable families in their area: physically, socially, mentally and also, of course, spiritually.

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Photo: Halle Project

This area is very patriarchal, where if you're older, you are more in charge. And then if you're a man, of course, you are in charge of everything. And women here are the ones that work in the field, in their garden.

That’s one of the aspects of power that we work in. Papua is very complex; it's not only about gender issues, but also about tribes. There are so many suspicions between non-Papuans and Papuans. Also, sometimes knowledge itself is an area of power imbalance. For example, the ones that are more educated have more power in terms of decision-making in the village.

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Photo: Halle Project

The relationship among people who are living in poverty I think is very disempowering. For example, among family members when they are living in poverty, the relationship in the family itself can be sometimes oppressive. And when there is no peace in the family, that also creates a very fractured relationship in the family itself. When there is no peace in the family they cannot also see that they are actually a potential God's Creation. And that makes people who are living in poverty feel even more powerless. And eventually the poverty gets worse because of that.

We help the church to be the peacemaker, to fulfil the great commandments and great commission in their communities. We also work with the local churches to bring reconciliation to broken families that live in poverty, so that they can build peace within their marriages, their families, among community members. So the community can live peacefully – they are flourishing like that.

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Sam and Lena. Photo: Halle Project

Through the Papua Family Strengthening project we are building the capacity of the local church. We are also helping the church to be able to understand wrong beliefs in the community, to be able to contribute to the transformation of the community that they are in.

We also work with selected “agents of change”, to help them empower families.* So, we give livelihood training, health training, conflict resolution training, for families and for communities, to these agents. And then these agents will distribute the message to families in the community.

I believe that the work that we are doing here in Papua: we can call that a God-sized work. It's a very difficult work, because bringing peace, bringing shalom, reconciliation, into this area is difficult.

So please pray that God's shalom is always in the area, is always in Papua, is among the team and their families, is among the families that we are serving, is among the pastors and their families.

Because we believe that once there is shalom in our house, then we can see things clearer, then we can see changes and transformation happen. So, one is about the transformation, or the shalom here, and also about the transformation that the families will have, because of what we are doing, so they can see, they can experience, that true transformation from God.

* These "agents of change" are church volunteers who are trained by Yasera to facilitate teaching sessions to families on maternal and child health, agricultural livelihoods, and communication skills for family conflict resolution.

Challenging power imbalances in Nepal

The work of the Welfare Association for Children Tikapur (WACT), one of Tearfund’s partners in Nepal, is about resetting relationships and challenging imbalances in power, says its executive director Ajay Sharma.

We work in the area of transformational development – we reach out to marginalised and vulnerable community members and initiate a process of empowerment. The empowerment process enables them to respond to their own development needs and progress towards fullness of life, and gives them the opportunity and the platforms to respond to the development of their communities as well.

We focus on several highly vulnerable groups, which includes women from marginalised families, single women, women with disabilities, women from Dalit castes, which are socially excluded castes, women from socially marginalised groups, such as from Muslim communities, women who are former bonded labourers, women and men who are landless.

When we say that people are marginalised, vulnerable and poor, it relates to the existing and underlying social issues, which include social injustices, inequalities, exclusion of certain groups, having no access to services, having no power base to claim those services or their rights. The transformational development that we do is all about resetting power dynamics and relationships.

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Women at an event in December 2020 organised by a Self-Help Group network in Tikapur, Nepal, as part of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

The power dynamic in our society is about gender inequalities and discrimination, exclusion. What our work does, it empowers women, individually and collectively, to question those inequalities, identify the issues, analyse them and look for ways to overcome and reset those gender imbalances – to reset and progress, or transform, to a more equitable society, within their families as well.

We also work with marginalised communities, who are economically poor and excluded. So, in Jubilee terms, what our process does is help to empower them from a state of poverty, from a state of lack of opportunities, to a state where they have some access to those resources, and they are able to progress.

The biggest challenge for the project is going and sharing the information about our process. But as we communicate with people, as we start engaging with them, then they start to get involved in the process.

The most important thing is, that process should be led by the people themselves. We are there merely to facilitate, we cannot lead it.

The most important thing is, that process should be led by the people themselves. We are there merely to facilitate, we cannot lead it. So sometimes, in some groups, it happens quickly; we get results quickly. But in some communities, it's very difficult. Something that works in one community and group doesn't work in a different community. So, we have to keep learning, we have to keep innovating. We have to keep trying.

When it comes to the real transformation, it only comes when those power issues, those social injustices, those underlying issues are understood, questioned and start to change within the communities and within the families, individually, and as a community as a whole.

Last week I was talking with our staff, and they agreed. They said: “Yes, just one or two persons, just one or two persons are enough.” And usually, there are such people in every group, in every neighbourhood, in every community.

These are edited extracts from interviews conducted by Phil Lindsay, from Tearfund’s international programs team, with Ajay Sharma and Heidy Tamboto.