Berlin Guerrero (pictured) will be familiar to many Uniting Church members and others more broadly involved in social justice advocacy.
In 2007, the then-United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) pastor was abducted by armed men at a memorial service for a friend who was assassinated in 2006.
Heavily involved in social justice activities in the Philippines, Pastor Guerrero had caught the ire of corrupt officials looking to stamp out opposition, particularly from those critical of government and the ruling elite.
Many Uniting Church members joined UCCP members taking part in the campaign to free Pastor Guerrero through letter writing actions and lobbying activities calling for his immediate release.
Mr Guerrero was ultimately held captive, and tortured, for 15 months before being released from trumped-up charges of sedition and murder.
Although he was officially free, his safety was not assured.
So, when he was offered sanctuary with the Uniting Church in Australia, he and his family made the difficult decision to live apart.
Mr Guerrero has since been reunited with his family in Australia.
Most recently he has been working with the Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit on various campaigns at the UCA synod office in Melbourne, while undertaking ministry training within the Uniting Church.
This week marks a significant milestone in the now-Rev Guerrero’s journey. He was ordained as a Uniting Church minister.
Social justice officer with the JIM unit Jill Ruzbacky said the journey of her colleague and friend is emblematic of the UCA and UCCP partnership.
“It was an absolute privilege to be part of Berlin’s ordination,” Ms Ruzbacky said.
“Working closely with Berlin and his family has been a very practical and meaningful expression of the partnership between our two Churches.
“To have been part of his journey from those initial conversations in the Philippines about coming to Australia, right through until his ordination has been an incredible privilege.
“I thank Berlin and his family for allowing us to be part of what has been a very special journey, and of course that journey is just beginning.”