Prayers for Humanitarians

How can we pray for the people who bring vital health care, food, and other forms of assistance where it is most needed?

We’ prepared a powerpoint with images and prayers to help pray:

  • in thanksgiving for their work
  • for strength as they deal with difficult situations
  • for safety, especially in conflict zones.

Download the powerpoint slides here: Prayers for Humanitarians

Prayers for Week of 12 May

  • CCOW News
  • ‘God saw that it was good’
  • Ebola
  • After the Cyclones
  • World Fair Trade Day
  • This Week’s Readings



These are exciting times. We’re planning a follow-up to our 2018 conference on supporting refugees, putting together proposals to network churches around Fair Trade and local environmental action, and preparing more prayer materials for the coming months.

But we need more capacity if we’re to do both ongoing and new work – and so in addition to fundraising for our normal costs, we are hoping to raise £7,000 towards a new part-time post. We’re holding a sponsored walk on  Saturday, 1 June in the Windrush Valley (details here … walkers and sponsors welcome!) Pray that this will be well supported and also for funding from trusts, churches and individuals.

‘God saw that it was good’

One of the most striking moments in the recent event where Greta Thunberg spoke alongside Caroline Lucas and Anna Taylor came when a young woman spoke about politicians being “desensitised … to words like ‘mass extinction’ ‘climate change’ ‘deforestation'” and then asked: “So how do you make them understand quite how desensitised they are to words that they are throwing around?”

It’s a good question – and not just for politicians. Last Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released its ‘Global Assessment’ (summary for policymakers here). The report’s  headline points were:

  • Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’
  • Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’
  • Current global response insufficient;
  • ‘Transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature;
  • Opposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good
  • Most comprehensive assessment of its kind;
  • 1,000,000 species threatened with extinction

For us as human beings, a report like this could force us to acknowledge that our actions represent a threat to the entire web of life on which we depend. And for us as Christians, it could compel us to recognise that we are signally failing in our call to steward the earth and to contibute to the flourishing of what Richard Bauckham calls ‘the community of creation’. The good news is that the report also reminds us that there is still the chance to change – and to take steps that would help  heal the wounds of creation!

But will the report actually have these effects? Or are we so desensitised that news like this will come and go, and we’ll keep on as we are? The report got coverage in some media outlets (eg Guardian, New York Times) – but after a day or two it was supplanted by other stories. What can we do to keep the question of earth’s survival in the public eye and to push towards the action that scientists tell us is needed?

There will be many specific issues to address: the panel’s press release mentions, among others, plastic pollution, which has increased tenfold since 1980; the dumping of “300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities …annually into the world’s waters”; overuse of fertiliser creating marine ‘dead zones’; the impacts of overfishing and intensive farming. Each issue will demand concrete action.

But perhaps the three most crucial things we can do – from which other, practical actions will flow –  are these. Firstly, to re-connect ourselves (and seek to help reconnect others) with the sense of wonder at the miracle of God’s diverse creation, so that we can truly appreciate what we are in danger of losing and can come to love it.  Secondly to reject views that instrumentalise creation as a vehicle for meeting our needs, rather than as something which is precious in its own right. And thirdly to reflect on Bauckham’s idea of a ‘community of creation’, in which all created things exist to praise God … and we are invited to listen to their praise and to, as it were, join the choir.

If you have a few minutes, take the time to read Bauckham’s short sermon ‘The Community of Creation’ and reflect on it. Then ponder … what do you feel called to do to help address the current groaning of the earth? What steps could you take in your own life? How might you add your voice to advocacy by others to enable larger actions to take place?  If you’d like some further inspiration, you might also want to look at Elizabeth’s powerpoint ‘God saw that it was good’.

Please pray:

  • in thanksgiving to God for the majesty and diversity of creation
  • offering praise to God for earth’s beauty
  • asking forgiveness for our part in misusing creation’s gifts
  • giving thanks for Christ’s work to redeem all things
  • that humanity may come fully to appreciate the intrinsic preciousness of the whole creation
  • that the UN report will inspire genuine action to preserve and protect species and ecosystems
  • that God will lay on each person’s heart things that they can do to play a part in protecting the earth

“We are life-savers — we will not be intimidated by this attack. We will strengthen our resolve, and we will fight to finish Ebola.” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus citing comments by health workers in Nord Kivu

During April the WHO released data showing  that the Merck Ebola vaccine which has been administered in North Kivu is protective over 97% of the time. This news  gives hope: furnished with such an effective tool, doctors can potentially contain an outbreak.

But April was also the worst month so far for new cases in North Kivu – 406 were recorded. That single month’s number would, on its own, constitute the fourth largest Ebola outbreak on record anywhere in the world. And the start of May has been equally worrying: 139 new cases (probable and confirmed) recorded in the opening nine days – with more likely unrecorded.

The issues that continue to hamper prevention and treatment efforts are social, political and economic).  Conflicts make some areas hard to reach, disrupting attempts to treat patients and trace their contacts. Many communities are  angered by the priority being given to Ebola when there are so many pressing health and economic needs …and/or see local elites making money from foreign interventions, so resent public health efforts. Various people and groups have promoted unhelpful rumours and conspiracy theories about Ebola  – from a denial that Ebola exists to suggestions that vaccination campaigns are in fact a way of infecting the population or that the disease itself has been introduced for political ends. “The Ebola vaccine isn’t poison” …”Ebola isn’t a tool to reduce the population density in Beni and Lubero,” a Congolese group recently tweeted, trying to counter some of the disinformation and get correct information to the public.

Given these issues, there has been not only a reluctance to engage with public health programmes, but also violence directed at health workers and health facilities. As of 3 May, there had been “since January … 119 separate attacks on Ebola response workers or operations,  42 direct attacks on health facilities, and 85 health personnel injured or killed” including Cameroonian doctor Richard Mouzoko, who was killed in Butembo in late April. Just this past week, another health worker was killed and violence closed most operations in Butembo.

This is a crucial time: two public health experts pointed out last week that the West African Ebola outbreak “really began to accelerate when daily case counts reached the numbers we are seeing now in the DRC.” It is still possible to contain the epidemic – but there needs to be more funding (the WHO has received only half its requested funds), more vaccine doses – and perhaps a new vaccination strategy – available, better security for the region, community ownership of the public health response, and greater trust among the different parties involved.

Improving the situation is possible. The UK has pledged more funds, and other donors may follow suit. A strategy to vaccinate more people, and supplies of a second vaccine, are due to be coming on stream. The DRC government and the UN mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) have offered their help with security – though there is, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowwledged, a balance between the need for security and the need not to seem to intimidate local communities. New strategies for testing and treatment are more integrated with general healthcare. Churches and faith groups are committed to trying to get correct information to their followers; Tearfund speaks of its partners “producing Ebola prevention songs in local languages for broadcast on the radio and for use by choirs; talks and announcements in church services; and door-to-door sharing.”

Please continue to pray (prayer points a mixture of those from CCOW and those adapted from the Congo Church Association):

  • for all who have lost loved ones in the epidemic, especially children who have been left vulnerable. Pray that children who have lost parents will be taken into families and not stigmatised.
  • for survivors as they seek to recover from the mental and physical trauma of the illness … and for people indirectly affected
  • in thanksgiving for the courage and dedication of Congolese and foreign health workers, who are continuing their efforts despite facing personal danger. Pray for protection for them, and for them to have safe access to affected communities.
  • in thanksgiving for work being done by Christian agencies and church leaders to provide correct information about Ebola and to support those affected by it. Pray that this work will be effective.
  • for greater funding for WHO efforts
  • for all who are seeking to build stability and trust in the region generally, and to increase trust in the Ebola response
  • for those in other cities and countries who are undertaking vaccination programmes and other preventative measures to reduce the risk of a wider spread.
  • for ongoing health education in schools, churches, markets, via radio programmes and posters: pray that the message would get through, and cultural practices and beliefs and fear would not hinder the prevention and treatment of Ebola.

Further Reading:   CCOW has a page about the outbreak, with information, links and prayer points. It’s also worth following @HelenBranswell and @DrMikeRyan on Twitter.

After the Cyclones

“I have witnessed this pain of displacement. I have seen young children traumatised. I have heard people repeatedly say ‘It happened in the night’ and they are scared at the moment in some villages to sleep at night just in case Cyclone Idai comes again.  I have seen the makeshift homes that people live in at the moment. I have seen the agricultural areas destroyed and water everywhere…So Cyclone Idai is indeed a humanitarian crisis that once again lies bare the fundamental injustice of climate change.”  Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

“‘I’m trying to fix my house but I can’t afford to fix it properly. I don’t even have the money for any food for the family. I have a bag of rice from my employers, they gave it to us when they heard about the house, but that’s all we eat. We can’t buy fish like we used to. I just don’t have the money” Gomez Salgado Tome, Mozambique

The past six weeks have seen a series of devastating tropical cyclones. First was Idai, which caused catastrophic flooding in Malawi, southern Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. Then came Category 4 strength Kenneth, which hit northern Mozambique. Over 240,000 people were affected by its storm-caused damage, which included the partial or total destruction of over 43,000 houses. In some cases, whole villages were wiped out: in one island community, only three buildings were left standing.

Just over a week later, on 4 May, another strong Category 4 cyclone, Fani, struck in Odisha, India, cutting a destructive swathe across parts of northeast India and Bangladesh, affecting 100,000 hectares of agricultural land and uprooting more than a million trees. Despite a massive evacuation, Fani killed 64 people in Odisha State and thirteen in Bangladesh.

What happens now? While the areas affected have disappeared from the headlines, their concerns haven’t ended. With Idai and Kenneth, survivors will face for some time lack of shelter, the threat of water-borne disease, as water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed, and food insecurity, as tens of thousands of hectares of crops were ruined. Throughout Mozambique, the UN estimates that about 1.85 million people need humanitarian aid, and the World Bank has estimated the costs of rebuilding at $2 billion.

The difficulty for Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, is that the government simply doesn’t have the money needed for rebuilding. The Mozambican government has, therefore, had to seek external funding. The World Bank has offered $350 million in grants to Mozambique, as well as grants for Malawi and Zimbabwe. The IMF, meanwhile, has provided $118.2 million in funds from its Rapid Credit Facility – but in the form of a loan, not a grant. This is profoundly worrying; while the loan conditions are generous (zero interest at present), Mozambique has historically been negatively impacted by its international debts. Will any new loans tip it into a cycle of debt again? The IMF itself acknowledged that most assistance to Mozambique would have to be in the form of grants “to ensure debt sustainability”.

There is a strong argument that countries like Mozambique should, in fact, receive substantial grant funding as a matter of climate justice.

Category 4 strength Kenneth was one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones to hit mainland Africa and the furthest north to have reached hurricane-level intensity.  Scientists say that the intensity of its rains and the impact of its storm surge are likely to have been increased by climate change, and the stalling that concentrated the rains may be part of a climate-related pattern.

But Mozambique’s carbon footprint per person is tiny  – about 1% of the US’s or 2.5% of the UK’s by some calculations. Its people are not responsible for climate change – but they are suffering the consequences. Should they then be left to bear the costs ?

Various mechanisms exist that are helping countries with limited economic resources cope with climate impacts:

But for some time, developing countries have also been pushing for funding via the ‘loss and damage’ mechanism – money which would help address climate impacts that are beyond the capacity of countries to address through adaptation. Developed countries have been nervous about the concept of  ‘loss and damage’, as they fear that it would lead to their being held liable for climate-related damage and open them to  claims for compensation. Instead they have favoured market-based solutions, such as increased access to insurance. But market-based solutions still often throw financial responsibility onto the people who are potentially going to suffer climate impacts – and some developing countries and environmental/development organisations are pushing for a loss and damage fund, financed perhaps by taxes on fossil fuel use or production, to which developing countries would have access.

Please pray:

  • for all who continue to suffer because of the recent cyclones
  • for churches, agencies, governments and all who are working to provide relief and recovery services to those affected by the three cyclones
  • in thanksgiving for the UK’s commitment to giving 0.7% GNI to the aid budget. Pray for continued support for the policy and for a right use of the aid money.
  • for proper funding to help developing countries recover from both slow-onset and extreme weather disasters
  • for wisdom for all who are preparing negotiations around loss and damage at the next UN climate talks.

World Fair Trade Day

 “I believe beautiful things are better when the people who make them are well-paid. Fairtrade has lifted quality and equality among smallholder coffee farmers in Tanzania.”
Anna Eliuze Bwambo AMCOS

“To me, fair trade means co-operating and collaborating for justice, fairness and equality for producers, farmers and handcrafters.  It is about recognising and truly valuing those who produce many of the goods we enjoy and affording them the dignity and income they deserve.”
Sally Seddon, Volunteer Engagement Manager, Shared Interest

Saturday, 11 May, was World Fair Trade Day –  a reminder to celebrate the work of Fair Trade Enterprises around the world. The quotes above were among those gathered by TWIN Trading, one of the oldest Fair Trade organisations in the UK, which asked the people it works with what Fair Trade means to them..

The World Fair Trade Day theme for 2019 is ‘Fair Trade Innovates’ – and the focus is on ways in which Fair Trade is innovating to find solutions to issues like inequality, climate impacts, and the need to produce goods sustainably. Find out more at the World Fair Trade Organization’s excellent new website.

Over the coming week, could you pray for the Fair Trade movement? The prayer below may be helpful – we also have many more resources on our website:

Dear Lord, we ask your blessing on all who are involved with Fairtrade, lifting before you:

  • producers as they grow their crops and craft their works. Bless them, we pray, in their endeavours and grant them wisdom and discernment as they make decisions about how to use the benefits of Fairtrade.
  • people who transport Fairtrade goods to market. Grant, we pray, that they, too, may be fairly treated.
  • those who import and retail Fairtrade goods. Grant them, we pray, a genuine commitment to fairer trade for all.
  • all of us who shop where Fairtrade goods are for sale. Grant us an understanding of the impact of our choices.

We ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Further Reading:  ‘4 Ways Fair Trade is a Christian value”

This Week’s Readings
  Acts 9:36-43  •  Psalm 23  •  Revelation 7:9-17  •  John 10:22-30

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
John 10:27 – 30

Image: Minster Lovell Hall  (cropped). Credit: Hugh Llewellyn, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

This email was sent to you by Christian Concern for One World.(CCOW), The Rectory, Church End, Blewbury OX11 9QH. You received it because you have asked to receive our prayer emails.

If you find our resources helpful, please consider donating to CCOW online or by cheque or standing order.

Congo Church Association – Prayer points for Anglican churches

Anglican churches continue to serve the people [of the DRC] in all manner of ways and make Jesus known:

  • through education in primary and secondary schools, nursing, dentistry and theological colleges, universities
  • Mothers’ Union groups: Bible study, prayer, care for victims of rape and sexual violence, skills-training
  • outreach including Football for peace initiatives
  • care for orphans, widows and street children
  • hosting displaced people who have lost their homes
  • through healthcare: hospitals, health centres and community health care.

A verse to pray over our friends in DRC: Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you (them) with all joy and peace as you (they) trust in him, so that you (they) may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Praying for the DRC and South Sudan

This page was originally created when Pope Francis called all Christians and people of good will to pray and fast for peace for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan on Friday, 23rd February. His call was welcomed by the Anglican Communion and others. To help people participate, we collected some prayer resources, which you can download below.

These prayer resources are, on the whole, not specific to the Day of Prayer but can help us to pray for peace in these countries in an ongoing way. Please do use them at any time which is appropriate for you and your church.


Image: South Sudan, UN Photo/JC McIlwaine, 23 August 2014, Bentiu, South Sudan under Creative Commons License.

Resources for praying with and for South Sudan

Links to Further Materials for the Day of Prayer for the DRC and South Sudan

    The World Council of Churches has issued:

  • The Anglican Communion has issued a press release that focuses on the welcome for the Day of Prayer from world church leaders. This includes quotes from the Archishop of the Anglican Church of Congo and a prayer from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. They’ve also issued a statement and prayer points from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • CAFOD: Prayer for DR Congo and South Sudan
  • The Canadian Religious Conference has on its website links to a helpful collection of prayers and intercessions for the Day of Prayer. It looks as if some of these may be prayers that are being used in Rome on the day itself.
  • Caritas has issued a statement on the current situation in the DRC, which asks people to join the Day of Prayer and gives background material.
  • CMS’s prayer bulletin for this week will focus on the DRC and South Sudan: it will be able to be found here.
  • Pax Christi has a collection of materials including prayers, stories from South Sudan, background papers, videos and more.
  • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has a selection of prayers

‘The Contemplative Gaze’, Christian Unity, Yemen, Martin Luther King, Jr: 14 to 20 Jan 2018

In this email:

  • Peace Sunday – The ‘Contemplative Gaze’, Migration and Peace
  • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18 to 25 January)
  • Short Notes: Yemen; Martin Luther King, Jr Day

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9, from the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this Sunday) Lord, help us  always to be open to your voice.

Peace Sunday – The ‘Contemplative Gaze’, Migration and Peace

“All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue for the future. Some consider this a threat. For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.”

Pope Francis

Using materials from Pax Christi, many Roman Catholic churches celebrate ‘Peace Sunday’ this weekend. It’s an occasion to highlight the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace (1 January). This year, Pope Francis’ message focuses on migrants and refugees as people who are in search of peace and who offer opportunities for peacebuilding to the countries in which they arrive. The 14th of January is also the Catholic church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees – a helpful concurrence.

The Pope’s message comes at a disheartening time: political leaders and news media in many countries have stirred up hostility against migrants and refugees; one hundred ninety-two people have already drowned in the Mediterranean this January; conditions in Greek camps such as Moria remain inhumane; migrants and refugees are sent back  to Libya and its detention centres, despite a known risk of abuse, enslavement and violence; the US has removed Temporary Protected Status from 200,000 Salvadorans; and repatriations to some of the world’s most dangerous countries (Afghanistan – from Europe and Pakistan, Somalia, Myanmar) continue apace.

Pope Francis’ message acknowledges and names the complex realities of today’s situation – large numbers of people fleeing conflicts, hunger, environmental degradation, oppression and poverty; difficulties in finding safe passage; the challenges of managing new situations in a way that respects the needs of all people and communities;  the possibility that not all people seeking sanctuary are people of good will; the rise of people who foment fear of migrants; and the resultant devaluation of some people’s human dignity.

The Pope calls on Christians, however, not to give into fear, but to respond in the first instance by exercising what he calls ‘the contemplative gaze’. This is a phrase which appears frequently in his work.* It signifies a way of looking at the world which is shaped by contemplative prayer, time spent with “our eyes fixed on Jesus.” One who is shaped by such openness to the self-giving God begins to see God’s presence in all that is created – and thus to value all aspects of creation not for how they can be used for our benefit, but because, beloved and precious in themselves, they reflect, each in their own way, the Creator: “For the contemplative, everything speaks of the Most High!” (Vultum Dei quaerere 10)

The ‘contemplative gaze’ Pope Francis says (going on to quote his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI) recognizes that all of us “belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth.”  It sees in the places where we live not simply the issues highlighted by the news but “God dwelling in [the] houses, in [the] streets and squares… fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice.” It sees in those who change their place of residence people who “bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures.” It recognises “the creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice of the countless individuals, families and communities around the world who open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.” And it “should also guide the discernment of those responsible for the public good, and encourage them to pursue policies of welcome, ‘within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good’– bearing in mind, that is, the needs of all members of the human family and the welfare of each.”

The Pope calls all Christians – and all countries – to offer migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking “an opportunity to find the peace they seek” by implementing a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” General definitions of the four areas of action follow: for example, “‘Welcoming’ calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights.”

The Vatican messages are not given in isolation. This year, following on from the UN General Assembly’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the international community is due to negotiate two Global Compacts, one for migration and one on refugees. The Vatican has prepared material that translates the Pope’s theological imperatives and general tenets into “Twenty Action Points, policy points specifically intended as a contribution to the process of preparing the Compacts. The points repay study and are profoundly useful for advocacy.

But it is no accident that the Pope focuses his World Peace Day message on the call for the ‘contemplative gaze’  Solutions to the questions posed by today’s mobile and conflicted world will not originate in the details of policy – though getting the policy details right matters hugely and must, in the coming days and weeks, be a topic of prayer. What is first needed is a conversion of the heart – a willingness to see with eyes that have grown accustomed to looking at God. It’s a conversion which brings with it love and joy and ensures that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” (Laudato Si 12). In this lies hope – for migrants, refugees, and all people.

Please pray:

  • for safety for migrants and refugees in difficult and dangerous situations
  • for migrants and refugees, that they may find peace amidst the many changes in their lives
  • for people in host communities, that they too may find peace amidst the many changes in their lives
  • that leaders may be guided by the ‘contemplative gaze’ as they seek to discern the common good
  • in thanksgiving for Christ’s offer of self-revelation to those who seek Him
  • in thanksgiving for Christ’s transforming love, which creates opportunities for peacebuilding amidst change and conflict
  • that all Christians – and all people – may see the beauty and dignity of each human being, and treasure the gift God has given us in other people

For Further Reading

  • *See Douglas E Christie, “Becoming painfully aware: Spirituality and solidarity in Laudato Si'”published in The Theological and Ecological Vision of Laudato Si’: Everything is Connected, ed Vincent J Miller (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).
  • Rowan Williams speaking to the Synod of Bishops in Rome on the relationship between contemplation and evangelisation.

For Action
Sign the CAFOD ‘Share the journey’ petition, asking the Government “to make global commitments which place the human dignity of people on the move at their heart.” Or take a more specific online action – such as Amnesty’s on Libyan refugees.

Donate to organisations that are working to protect refugees and migrants. Last week, for example, we published links for supporting appeals to assist the  Rohingya.

Are you interested in finding out more about how churches locally are helping to welcome refugees? Take a look at our new pages on refugees and forced migration to see the location of local groups, case studies of how they work, and opportunities to engage with them. If you’d like more information, contact our Churches Refugee Networking Officer, Joanna Schüder.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18 to 25 January)

Each year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’s international materials come from Christians in a particular region, who choose the Biblical passage that forms the week’s theme and who develop the theme in prayers and reflections.

This year, the region is the Caribbean, and the Biblical passage they have chosen is Exodus 15: 1-21, the Song of Moses and Miriam following the crossing of the Red Sea.

Why this passage? The organisers note the historical context:

“The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation … [which] attempted to strip subjugated peoples of their inalienable rights: their identity, their human dignity, their freedom and their self-determination”

But while “Christian missionary activity in the region, with the exception of a few outstanding examples, was closely tied to this dehumanizing system and in many ways rationalized it and reinforced it,” nonetheless, those who were enslaved encountered the liberating power of God. The same Bible that colonisers used “to justify their subjugation of a people in bondage [became] in the hands of the enslaved … an inspiration, an assurance that God was on their side, and that God would lead them into freedom.”

“Today Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of the saving action of God which brings freedom. For this reason the choice of the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21), as the motif of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 was considered a most appropriate one.”

The choice of passage, however, is more than a reflection on God’s liberating work in the past.  The authors name current threats – such as injustice, poverty, violence, addictions, and unjust economic structures – that still keep people in bondage and imperil human dignity. Their reflections outline a theological response to these threats, discuss the ways in which God is working through the churches to heal people and societies, and call on God for help – that God’s power may once more be seen in the redemption of God’s people.

From the 18th to the 25th, please consider using the materials for daily reflection (either the international version  or the UK version).Pray for the unity of all Christians, and pray that all people enslaved by oppression, poverty, injustice and sin may be liberated by God’s righteous power.

Prayer from the materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
(Main text from the international version; responses from the UK version)

God of the Exodus, you led your people through the Red Sea and redeemed them. Be with us now and free us from all forms of slavery and from everything that obscures human dignity.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.

God of abundance, in your goodness, you provide for all our needs. Be with us now, help us to rise above selfishness and greed and give us the courage to be agents of justice in the world.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.

God of love, you created us in your image and have redeemed us in Christ. Be with us now, empower us to love our neighbour and to welcome the stranger.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.

God of peace, you remain faithful to your covenant with us even when we we wander from you, and in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Be with us now and put a new spirit and a new heart within us that we may reject violence and instead be servants of your peace.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.

God of glory, you are all-powerful, yet in Jesus you chose to make your home in a human family, and in the waters of Baptism have adopted us as your children. Be with us now and help us to remain faithful to our family commitments and our communal responsibilities, and to strengthen the bonds of communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.

God, One in Three Persons, in Christ you have made us one with you and with one another. Be with us now and by the power and consolation of the Holy Spirit, free us from the self-centredness, arrogance and fear that prevent us from striving towards the full visible unity of your Church.
Lead us by your hand, that we may live.


Short Notes: Yemen; Martin Luther King, Jr Day

  • Yemen
    Please continue to keep the people of Yemen in your prayers. Looking at the latest humanitarian updates, please give thanks that shipments of fuel and food have been allowed to come into Yemen’s Red Sea ports and pray that the ports are allowed to remain open. Pray for all affected by the cholera epidemic and the diphtheria outbreak – and for all working against the odds to maintain public health services.The UN has accused Iran of violating the UN’s arms embargo in Yemen, and has also criticised the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes, which have killed numerous civilians. Concerned by the coalition airstrikes, Norway has recently suspended its arms sales to the UAE over concerns that the arms could be used in Yemen. Give thanks for Norway’s decision to use the precautionary principle and pray that countries everywhere may seek justice and a stable peace for the Yemeni people.At a time when we hear so much that is a cause for sorrow, it’s good to be reminded by Yemeni journalist Afrah Nasser that there are also causes for hope. Read her story on coffee entrepreneur Hussein Ahmed and pray for the well being of all who are working to build up rather than to tear down.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr Day
    The US will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr Day on Monday. To mark the occasion, below are one of Martin Luther King Jr’s most well-known reflections and two of his sermons. Please pray for racial justice. Pray, too, that by God’s grace churches may be places where people from diverse races and ethnic backgrounds can come together, genuinely listen to each other’s thoughts and experiences, recognise and repent of their own prejudices, rejoice in each other as brothers and sisters, and work together for justice and mutual love.

2018 Dates for Prayer and Action, One Small Step, Short Notes: 7 to 13 January 2018

In this email:

  • Dates for Prayer and Action 2018
  • One Small Step: Diana’s Story
  • Short Notes: Cholera Outbreak, Christmas in Mosul, South Sudan, Rohingya Repatriation, Meltdown and Spectre

Whether you celebrated with the readings for Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ or the Orthodox Christmas this Sunday, we hope that it was joyful! And we pray that this year will be full of opportunities to see Christ more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Dates for Prayer and Action 2018

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only son ….” John 3:16

Throughout Christmas and Epiphany, we’re reminded of the many ways that the wider world is engaged in the story of Christ’s Incarnation. Christmas is anything but private. >Mary, Joseph and their new baby boy find themselves interacting in unexpected ways with creation itself, marginalised shepherds, foreigners seeking truth, a hostile governing power, and servants of God in the temple. The heavens show God’s glory; outsiders are invited in to worship; political powers are shaken; the quiet, hidden faithful rejoice at what God has revealed to them.
As servants of the Incarnate Christ, we’re called today to pray for and serve the world to which he came and of which we are a part. As we seek to help our churches – and ourselves – live out this calling, we give thanks for those who provide resources to help us. Some of those resources are gathered in the attached list of dates for prayer and action. We pray that God will guide and bless the prayer and work that they inspire.

One Small Step: Diana’s Story

As ever, for the New Year, there’s a lot being written about New Year’s resolutions … much of it focusing on why we do or don’t follow through on them. There’s lots of good advice about the need to set achievable goals and to take simple steps to change our habits.

Even doing that, though, can be harder than it looks. We need to have a sense that what we are doing will genuinely make a difference. And sometimes we can get stymied as we consider how we’ll work out the practicalities – figuring out not only what we want to do, but also how we can do it without spending more time, money or effort than we feel we can afford.

For many of us, when practical changes do take place, it’s often because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way. Sometimes they might be doing something we’ve half thought about, but their example shows that a theory can be a lived reality, and their practice can help us turn our idea into a practical proposition. Sometimes they may have an insight about what to do and how to do it that would never have occurred to us. Either way, their story can help us to a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Christ – and how we can do it in specific ways.

With this is mind we at CCOW want to share stories of change – the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage others on their journeys.  Appropriately enough, in a week when the scale of waste caused by single-use coffee cups is much in the news (did you know that around 500,000 coffee cups are littered every day in the UK?!), the first of our ‘One Small Step’ series starts with a reusable coffee cup. We hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by the story, and please pray:

  • that the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on disposable coffee cups (very readable, and fascinating – and here’s a summary, too) will lead to real change in the industry and in people’s consumption patterns
  • that stories like Diana’s will inspire people to make a switch to reusable cups – and that they in turn will inspire others, creating a critical mass and shifting norms
  • that this will be part of a larger effort to reduce the unsustainable amounts of waste that are contaminating our environment

Action Point: If you’re looking for reviews of reusable cups to decide which one you want, here are some suggestions and reviews from The Independent, Friends of the Earth, and Wirecutter.

Short Notes: Cholera Outbreak, Christmas in Mosul, South Sudan, Rohingya Repatriation, Meltdown and Spectre

  • We’ve had a prayer request relating to a cholera outbreak affecting Lusaka and other parts of Zambia. The outbreak is reported to have caused 50 deaths in the country; schools are closed, and churches are either restricting their services or, in some cases, not holding services to avoid spreading the disease.Please pray for all affected directly through illness or death of loved ones and for all affected indirectly, especially students and those with particular pastoral needs. Pray for all working to contain the epidemic and for the success of the forthcoming vaccination programme.
  • Read this article quoting the Chaldean Patriarch – and give thanks for the celebrations of Christmas that took place in Mosul and other parts of Iraq this year, as well as for the wide support for them.
  • The South Sudanese ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on 24 December, has reportedly been violated by all sides. The US, UK, and Norway – the troika that supported negotiations leading to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord – have called for an end to violence and threatened sanctions against those who violate the ceasefire.Please pray for all parties to observe the ceasefire, and for it to be a step towards a lasting and just peace in South Sudan. Pray for all affected by the conflict, and all working to provide short and long-term assistance.
  • There are very grave concerns about the proposed repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, for which the Myanmar government has been preparing  and which it says is ‘on track’ to begin in a little under two weeks. In actuality, Rohingya have been continuing to arrive in Bangladesh; the conditions for repatriated Rohingya are worrying; and the level of trauma experienced by  refugees – many of them minors – makes them fearful of returning. Agencies such as the International Crisis Group have expressed their worries.Please pray that the UN and international community will take steps to ensure that no repatriations take place that would put people at risk. Pray for those who are uncertain about their future – that God will give them calm and time to heal. And pray for all who are working to ensure a long-term outcome that gives justice and peace to the Rohingya people.Action Point: Donate to a Rohingya Crisis Appeal, such as those run by CAFODChristian Aid, or Tearfund.
  • First a public service announcement relating to Meltdown and Spectre: if you haven’t already applied the relevant updates to your computer’s and phone’s operating systems, checked your system’s vulnerability with Intel’s detection tools, updated with the requisite firmware, and taken steps to protect your computer and phone browsers – please do!  (Email us if you’d like links)More broadly, the discovery of these weaknesses reminds us of the vulnerability of the networks on which we increasingly depend. Pray for all who are working to find ways to mitigate the risks from Meltdown and Spectre. Pray that the vulnerabilities aren’t exploited in harmful ways. And pray that this may be a reminder to us all to think about the technology we use and how we use it, rather than just taking it for granted.

Action to End Violence against Women and Girls

CCOW has brought together materials for prayer, study and action to end violence against women and girls. This builds on our older resources for the 16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence.

Download it here.

16 Days, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Act/Watch/Read: 19 to 25 Nov 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • 16 Days of Activism
  • Prayer for Zimbabwe
  • Yemen
  • To Act … Watch … Read
  • Events

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.