In this week’s prayer email:
- 16 Days of Activism
- Prayer for Zimbabwe
- To Act … Watch … Read
We live in uncertain times …. but as this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings make clear, that’s nothing new. At times of uncertainty, there is a risk of fear, and of paralysis. It’s easy to feel that we can’t do much, so we won’t do anything. But the Gospel message reminds us that God has given us gifts, and that we’re called to use them in a spirit of trust and love. What gifts can we use this week in the service of God and neighbour?
16 Days of Activism
Saturday, November 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the beginning of the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. CCOW’s guide to online resources for the 16 Days is attached: we hope they are helpful.
Prayer for Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwean Defense Forces’ action against Robert Mugabe’s government has brought both hope and uncertainty to many Zimbabweans. (Coverage and analysis: Independent – Zimbabwe, BBC, New York Times, Daily Maverick – South Africa, Independent – South Africa, Daily Nation – Kenya/AFP) The question facing everyone is: what happens next?
Responding to the situation, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, which includes the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Catholic Church Conference, UDACIZA, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, have issued a statement and a call to prayer (both are videos).
In the statement, the churches cite Jesus’ comment to Jerusalem “You did not recognise the time of your opportunity – or Kairos – from God” Luke 19:44 – and call on the country to see the current situation as Zimbabwe’s Kairos moment.
“While the changes have been rapid in the last few days,” they say, “the real deterioration has been visible for everyone to see for a long time, especially during the public political rallies of the ruling party coupled with the deteriorating social [and] economic conditions … We see the current situation not just as a crisis in which we are helpless; we see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation.”
The churches move on to analyse the underlying issues that have caused “loss of trust in the legitimacy of our national processes and institutions”: failure to take the Constitution seriously and to ensure that the system of checks and balances in government functions, a lack of distinction between ruling party and government, relegation of the “priorities of the poor … to charity … without proper commitment to recognising the root causes of their problem,” and a sense that overall “the wheels of democracy have become stuck in the mud of personalised politics.”
“All of us at some point failed to play our roles adequately,” the churches say – and all must work together to find a solution. They make five calls:
- for national prayer,
- for calm and peace at a time where lack of information is feeding concern – “let us not sensationalise the situation”
- for respect of human dignity – “we want to make it clear to [the Zimbabwe Defense Forces] that it is their responsibility to ensure that human dignity and human rights are respected. This is not a time to allow for lawlessness and vindictive or selective application of the law”
- for a transitional government of national unity “that will oversee the smooth transition to a free and fair election”
- for a national dialogue – “we are in a new situation that cannot be resolved without dialogue…a national envisioning process that will capture the aspirations of all sectors of society” They offer the church as a partner in establishing a platform for dialogue.
The call to prayer states: “We have made a call today that every Zimbabwean, wherever they are … and all friends of Zimbabwe, wherever they are, to spare some time from 12 to 2 o’clock every day, just whether they can take five minutes, whether they can take one minute, but that they must come together and say a word of prayer …. We are at that break point where we need God to intervene in a very special way as we go through this very important moment. We are calling therefore that everyone goes before God in prayer that God may intervene in the healing of our land.”
The Anglican Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, has also sent a description of the situation as of the 16th and has offered points for prayer. There is also a prayer for Zimbabwe released by a Zimbabwean living in the Community of St Anselm. Whatever prayers you use, please do join in prayer for the country and all its people.
This week, the heads of the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization issued a joint call for the lifting of the blockade on Yemen.
Calling the country ‘the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,’ they noted that “the space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families.”
“More than than 20 million people,” they stated, “including over 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, at least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare and an outbreak of cholera has resulted in more than 900,000 suspected cases.” There are particular concerns around a further increase in cholera, as the blockade on fuel has left major cities without access to clean water.
In addition, levels of hunger are a serious issue, with much of the population facing food crisis or food emergency situations, and the potential for famine. “Some 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from,” the UN agencies stated, “and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children. As supplies run low, food prices rise dramatically, putting thousands more at risk.” The Famine Early Warning System has added: “Yemen continues to face a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in a worst-case scenario in which there is a significant disruption to imports through the ports of Al Hudaydah and Salif and internal trade becomes significantly disrupted. Even in the absence of additional disruptions, populations may begin to move into Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) as worst-affected households begin to exhaust their coping capacity. The recent closure of all maritime ports into Yemen is highly concerning and the resumption of port operations is needed to prevent a severe deterioration in outcomes.”
At the Committee to Protect Journalists awards, Independent Yemeni journalist Afrah Nasser had difficulty keeping from tears as she described the sufferings of her country’s people. “My story might sound dreadful,” she said, “but it’s nothing comparing to what my colleagues suffer in the war in Yemen: intimidation, displacement, forced disappearance, detention, torture, persecution, and even being used as human shields at military checkpoints, being killed in airstrikes or on the battlefield and even getting assassinated. What’s happening to Yemeni journalists gives a glimpse into a suffering our society suffers as a whole. Death has become the norm in every household in Yemen, and yet the blockade imposed on Yemen by all warring sides has also prevented Yemeni’s stories from reaching the world.”
“Yemenis…feel abandoned by world leaders and international media that are not covering their sufferings sufficiently … let’s call for world leaders not to watch with apathy as atrocities are committed in Yemen, let’s use the power of the media in solidarity with the weak”
Pray for an end to the blockade on essential goods and on humanitarian flights to and from Sana’a. Pray for a just political solution to the conflict in Yemen. Lift before God the wider turmoil in the region as struggles for power within Saudi Arabia and between Saudi Arabia and Iran have repercussions for many people within and outside those two countries. Ask God’s comfort for those who suffer and who mourn. Pray for wisdom, courage and strength for those who are seeking to offer humanitarian assistance and to tell Yemeni’s stories to the world. And pray that all world powers, including the UK, press vigourously and vehemently – in both words and actions – for the protection of civilians … and withhold support that could be used to violate human rights and international humanitarian law where credible evidence suggest that it is doing so.
To Act … Watch … Read
Every week we come across a variety of interesting materials on areas related to our work. Links to films or reading materials do not necessarily indicate CCOW’s endorsement of particular media outlets, organisations or positions.
- To Act:
- Would you like to help people in your church order Fair Trade goods for Christmas? CCOW can help you find local sources or organise group Traidcraft orders. Email us for more information.
- A friendly card can be a huge encouragement to someone in difficulty. Could you and/or your church send a Christmas card to someone experiencing injustice or persecution? Action by Christians against Torture has a list of people, with addresses.
- To Watch:
- From COP 23: Tearfund interviews Clare Perry, MP, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, on the role of churches in talking about climate and the UK’s role in fighting climate change
- To Read:
- Psalm 85: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation”
- Pope Francis‘ challenging call to the church in establishing the World Day of the Poor. CAFOD has suggestions for following up his call with prayer and action.
- Save the Children’s “Horrors I Will Never Forget: The stories of Rohingya children” (please keep praying for this situation – and donating to those working to help)
- Economist: “Once considered a boom to democracy, social media have started to look like its nemesis”
- The website for World Toilet Day (19 November) It’s not the easiest topic for prayer and conversation … but sanitation is vital.
Please do take a look at our calendar, which lists a variety of relevant events both locally and nationally.