The Seventh-day Adventist Church was among 21 faith-based organizations represented at a recent meeting with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and other political leaders to look at the challenges of the COVID-19 recovery.
The meeting, held in Canberra, Australia, on February 22, 2021, was aimed at gaining a better understanding of government priorities in a post-COVID Australia, as well as determining strategies and opportunities for greater community support. The faith-based groups, including World Vision, Anglicare, and Wesley Mission, released a joint letter outlining the Church Community Restoration Project, in which they have committed to partnering with the government in the COVID-19 recovery.
Seventh-day Adventist Church representative Michael Worker had the privilege of hosting Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and introducing his segment.
Worker, general secretary of the Australian Union Conference, said it was encouraging “that both sides of politics recognize and acknowledge the contribution of churches and the faith-based organizations that work in health, education, and service to the poor and vulnerable.” Worker added that “they recognize that faith-based organizations are an important part of Australian society and that they are willing to seek opportunities for more partnerships to deliver services.”
The Church Community Restoration Project was initiated by faith-based leaders who were concerned that after an unprecedented year, many Australians would be facing economic, financial, mental, and emotional struggles. Leaders want to emphasize that they are dedicated to community restoration and providing assistance to people in need.
Morrison acknowledged that the church and charity sector makes a significant contribution to the fabric of society in Australia and throughout the Pacific.
Albanese reflected on his personal story and growing up with Christian values such as social justice, equal opportunity, and a fair go, values which he still holds to this day.
Senator Zed Seselja, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, reminded leaders that it was important to support Pacific countries during this time as COVID-19 has adversely impacted them. Even though Australia’s government has committed to additional support for the Pacific, he said he believes that partnering with faith-based charities would be an important part of delivering this support.
Stuart Robert, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Government Services, admitted that the government alone is not able to adequately provide services to those on the ground. Still, by working with faith-based organizations, it would be able to better help the vulnerable.
Chris Watkin, a lecturer at Monash University, introduced a concept called the “social contract,” and he described Christian churches and Christian organizations as an essential element of civil society, providing the glue in the “social contract” — bringing together the government and individuals in assisting those who are struggling.
Morrison ended the meeting by acknowledging how COVID-19 has disrupted many lives and reflected that the world has seen nothing on a global scale of this nature since the Great Depression and World War II.
Worker said the Church Community Restoration Project was an essential first step in the collaboration between the government and faith-based organizations to assist and provide services to those in need.
“As we are urged in 1 Timothy 2:2,” Worker said, “we should continue to pray for those in authority, and as Christians, we have a responsibility to do what we can to advance the kingdom by serving the least of these.”