Refugees, Brexit and Trade, Christian Unity, Peace Sunday

  • Praying for Refugees

  • Brexit and the Trade Bill

  • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

  • Short Notes: Peace Sunday, Coming Up

  • This Week’s Readings

Praying for Refugees – Saturday

On Saturday 26th January, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm at St Clement’s Church in Oxford, CCOW will be offering ‘A time of reflection and refreshment: Praying for refugees, asylum seekers and all walking alongside’. The event will include prayer stations, reflections, shared prayers and a shared lunch.

If you haven’t already signed up, please email Joanna to do so.  We hope that Christians from different traditions and with different experiences will join us. All are welcome. Book by Thursday.

Brexit and the Trade Bill

It has been a tumultuous week in the Brexit debates. To find prayers for the nation and its leaders, you may wish to look at:

As we consider, this week, the themes of unity and pursuing justice, we are conscious of the many ways in which decisions around Brexit could have an impact on justice issues. Decisions about tariffs, for example, could have a substantial negative impact on small farmers here and developing country producers who currently export to the UK. And because trade agreements also cover regulatory frameworks, the way we approach trading relationships could affect labour rights, protection for the environment, food standards, and chemical safety standards in the UK, with impacts also on our trading partners.

In light of this, please pray as the  Trade Bill comes to the House of Lords this week. While the withdrawal of the Bill from Commons business in the coming weeks means that this Bill may not, in fact, be the one that comes to a final vote, the discussions around it still matter, as they are an opportunity to draw out central principles of trade justice that need to be included. Pray for:

  • wisdom for the Lords as they discuss vital issues relating to Brexit and trade
  • a willingness to look at the social and environmental impacts of economic decisions
  • wisdom and a sense of peace for those who engage in international trade, as they face uncertainty around their future

For more information, see our Resources on Trade and Brexit page, which has links to materials explaining the issues. Given the sheer volume of misunderstandings about trade and Parliament’s options, we would particularly commend following on Twitter David Henig (@davidhenigUK), Dmitry Grozoubinski (@DmitryOpines), and Peter Ungphakorn (@CoppetainPU) – all of them former trade negotiators committed to explaining clearly how trade agreements work; Helen Dennis (@HelenDennisDevt) at the Fairtrade Foundation and Liz May (@LizMay12) at Traidcraft Exchange, looking at impacts on developing countries; and @Brigid_Fowler, at the Hansard Society, an expert on parliamentary procedure.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.” As we reflect on the theme chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we’ve been calling to mind churches’ work for justice around the world. For each day of the coming week,  we’re providing a short prayer note relating to the daily focus, with a llink to the excellent materials provided by Indonesian Christians.

Sunday:  Theme – “The Lord is gracious and merciful to all” … God’s mercy to all people

“In various ways, [members of the Indonesian churches] work together … women of different communities in the Kebayoran area of Jakarta, for instance, work together to provide very cheap lunch packs to the becak (rickshaw) drivers, low income families, and the homeless.”

Pray for churches and Christian groups that are living out Christ’s love in their interactions with people whom others marginalise. Pray especially for those Christians who witness to God’s gracious and merciful love for all while themselves facing marginalisation or danger because of their faith.

Among these, pray for churches and Christian groups in the UK and in countries around the world which, like the Indonesian churches, offer a welcome and practical assistance to people who are on low incomes or without adequate housing. Give thanks for the many churches and Christian groups who undertake activities such as running community food projects, opening as winter shelters, providing support for refugees, and lobbying for fairer social and economic policies in solidarity with peole in poverty. If your church isn’t already involved in any such activities, pray to discern whether you might be called to action; the links above will take you to sources of inspiration and information.

Monday: Theme – “Be content with what you have” … justice in distribution of resources

“The PGI [Communion of Churches in Indonesia] member churches share the conviction that greed is the root cause of the four different but interrelated issues [poverty, injustice, radicalism and environmental degradation]. Therefore PGI promotes the so-called ‘spiritualitas keugaharian’ or ‘spirituality of moderation’.” Pray for the churches in Indonesia and around the world who work to combat greed and its consequences, and to offer an alternative of joyful moderation.

In the UK, pray for endeavours like Green Christians’ ‘Joy in Enough’ programme, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility’s ‘using ethical investment to close the gap’ ( creating fairer pay structures), and the Joint Public Issues Team’s work on poverty and inequality. If you’re not already working for justice in this area and feel called to do so, consider whether these or other resources or opportunities relating to your own experience might be offering something with which to engage.

Tuesday: Theme – “To bring good news to the poor”… combattting exploitation of people in poverty

“The prophet Amos criticized traders who practiced deceit  and exploited  the poor  in order to gain maximum profit. Amos also underlined how God observes their wrongdoing and will never forget it. God listens to the cries of victims of injustice and never forsakes those who are exploited and treated unjustly.”

Pray for Christians around the world who are seeking to end exploitation by providing fairly paid work, fairly priced housing, and fair access to credit for people who are trying to escape poverty. Pray especially for:

  • Traidcraft’s team in the UK as it reshapes the organisation in order to make it sustainable.
  • Traidcraft’s  Christian producer partners (and all its producer partners) worldwide who are providing opportunities for good employment, and who will be seeking new markets. You might want to use the prayers from Asha Handicrafts which are on our website.
  • Housing Justice in the UK  and church housing initiatives globally.
  • Credit unions, savings groups, and microcredit institutions serving poor communities, especially those formed by churches, either alone or working ecumenically

Wednesday: Theme – “The Lord of Hosts is His name”… care for creation

“Many people have been driven by  greed  to exploit creation beyond its capacity. In the name of development, forests are  cleared and pollution destroys land, air, rivers and seas, rendering agriculture impossible, making fresh water unobtainable and causing animals to die. In this context it is useful to remember that  after  his resurrection, Jesus commissioned  the disciples to proclaim the good news ‘to the whole creation’. No  part  of  creation is outside God’s plan to make all things new. And so  conversion  is  needed from a tendency to exploit to an attitude  that values and  reconciles  us with creation.”

Pray for Christians around the world who are seeking to care for creation, especially:

  • The churches in Indonesia, as they come together “to promote eco-friendly churches, and to take a stand against environmental abuses”
  • all who are inspiring people to see the beauty of creation and to appreciate the wonder of God’s gift to us
  • all who are taking steps – whether small, beginning steps or larger ones – to live more sustainably. Pray too for programmes like Eco Church and LiveSimply that offer support in living joyfully and sustainably
  • all – such as Rene Pamplona and Sister Susan Bolanio in the Philippines  – who are environmental defenders in places where opposing exploitation and protecting natural resources can be dangerous
  • all around the world who are seeking to influence their governments to have stronger environmental policies, especially, at this time of regulatory rollback in the US and Brazil, those in US networks like Creation Justice Ministries, the Evangelical Environmental Network and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and those working in Brazil for environmental justice

Thursday: Theme – “Woman, great is your faith” … fighting trafficking and exploitation of women

“In recent years churches in Indonesia have taken common action against human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children. Their efforts, and those of people of other faiths, are all the more urgent since the number of victims in some parts of their country is increasing daily.
As Christians unite in prayer and study of the Scriptures, truly listening for God’s voice, they can discover that God also speaks today through the cries of the most abused in society. It is when  they hear God’s  call together  that  they are  inspired to join in common action against the scourge of human trafficking and of other evils.”

Pray for all – men and women – who are affected by the evils of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Pray for Christian initiatives to end these scourges, including:

  • The Clewer Initiative, a project helping Church of England churches and wider church networks “to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care”
  • International Justice Mission,  which seeks to rescue people from slavery, press for the conviction of slave owners, and address the situations that engender slavery
  • Medaille Trust, “a charity founded by groups of [Catholic] Religious congregations … to work against the evils of human trafficking in response to the plight of thousands of people who are being trafficked into the UK each year”
  • Stop the Traffik, a global movement seeking “to unite people around the world by inspiring, informing, equipping and mobilising communities to know what trafficking is, know how to identify it and how to respond, and know how to protect themselves and others”

Could your church take a look at the “7 Ps” – principles for churches taking action to tackle trafficking?

Friday: Theme – “The Lord is my light and my salvation” … A unified church working for justice

“Day by day, year by year, and especially during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christians join together for common prayer, professing their common baptismal faith, listening for God’s voice in the Scriptures and praying together of unity in Christ’s body. In doing so, they recognise that the Holy Trinity is the source of all unity and that Jesus is the light of the world, who promises the light of life to those who follow him. The many injustices in the world frequently sadden or anger them. But they do not lose hope, they move to action. Because the Lord is their light and their salvation and the stronghold of their lives, they do not fear.”

Please pray:

Short Notes

Peace Sunday

“”One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations… today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.”

This Sunday, 20 January, is Peace Sunday, with the theme ‘Good politics is at the service of peace’. At a time when so much in politics worldwide turns to conflict more than peace, please pray for God to transform the politics of hatred into a politics of love and peace. Each person will have a particular situation that they wish to pray for. We’d ask your prayers at present for people working on a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, those working to create peace and justice following the disputed election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, those seeking freedom for minority ethnic and religious groups in China and Myanmar, and those seeking a politics of love, justice and righteousness amidst the divisions in the United States.

Coming Up

Next Sunday is both World Leprosy Day and Holocaust Memorial Day. Click on the links for materials.

This Week’s Readings

Revised Common Lectionary Readings – Isaiah 62:1-5  •  Psalm 36:5-10  •  1 Corinthians 12:1-11  •  John 2:1-11

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”

1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

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Climate Justice Event, God Speed the Plough, Week of Christian Unity

In this week’s email

  • Climate Justice Event

  • God Speed the Plough

  • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

  • Short Note: Praying for Refugees

  • This Week’s Readings

Climate Justice Event

Where did the recent UN climate talks make progress? What still needs to be done? What is the UK’s role in fighting climate change and promoting climate justice?

This Friday evening at the North Oxford Association, leading climate expert Professor Myles Allen and Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran will be discussing ‘What now for Climate Justice?’ in an event sponsored by the FairPlay Climate Justice campaign. Details here: recommended highly!

 

God Speed the Plough

This Sunday and Monday have been marked by many churches as Plough Sunday and Plough Monday – traditionally the time when ploughs were blessed before the new year’s work began in the fields.

This week, therefore, we’re praying especially for farmers.

We’d ask, firstly, for your prayers for those farmers affected by extreme weather events – whether drought, flood, extreme temperatures, or extreme storms. The recent Christian Aid report, ‘Counting the Cost’, looks at ten extreme weather disasters around the world in 2018, each of which had estimated costs to those affected of more than 1 billion US dollars. Many of those impacts were felt by farmers: drought in Argentina meant that soybean harvests were down 31% year on year; heat and drought in Western Australia damaged wheat crops; Typhoon Mangkhut caused an estimated 644 million dollars of damage to agriculture and infrastructure in the Philippines.  The agricultural damage from Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence in the US have been estimated as being in the billions, of which $1.3 billion was from Michael and $1.1 billion was an estimate for Florence’s damage in North Caroline alone.

For some, these losses will take years to overcome. Farmers in Dominica, many of whom lost not just crops but also equipment, housing, and access to transport when Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, are still working on recovery. When we asked a staff member at the National Development Foundation of Dominica, which is helping them,  what we should pray for, the response was simply: “Generally, you could say everything.” For some farmers caught up in disasters, losses may never fully be recovered: if, for example, a small farmer in some countries loses cattle, that may mean that his or her children lose their chance at education or marriage, reducing the family’s chances of economic well being over the longer term.

As you pray for farmers in areas most affected by extreme weather, please also pray for those facing difficulties because of issues around international trade and government support. In the US, the trade war with China has reduced some farmers’ ability to sell their crops; in addition, the current government shutdown has disrupted federal farm payments, as well as access to government data and financial services. As a result, some farmers, especially small farmers and/or those in vulnerable sectors, are under threat.

In the UK, uncertainty around the impacts of Brexit are leaving many farmers unclear about their farms’ future viability. For example, some farms in the UK depend for their profitability on the single farm payment.  Brexit would mean changes to the system of farm payments, and the UK Government has promised to match the total payment amounts only until 2022, leaving open the possibility of serious cuts thereafter. In addition, farmers who sell produce into the European market aren’t certain whether they will be able to do so on similar terms: Welsh lamb farmers are anxious  for example, that in a “no deal” scenario, maybe 90% of their export markets could be threatened, while opportunities to enter new markets remain unclear. Charities that work with farmers, such as the Farming Community Network, are reporting increased levels of stress.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins this Friday, 18th January and goes through next Saturday, 25th January.  The materials for the week have been prepared by Christians in Indonesia and focus on the theme ‘‘Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue…’ (taken from Deuteronomy 16)

The introduction to the materials prepared by CTBI (very slightly modified from those prepared in Indonesia) notes: “Our prayers for Christian unity are offered within a context of a world where corruption, greed and injustice bring about inequality and division. We ourselves are often complicit in injustice, and yet called together to form a united witness for justice and to be a means of Christ’s healing grace for a fractured world.”

The materials, which include readings, reflections and prayers for each day, as well as a full ecumenical service, look at hard issues relating to current economic systems, corruption, environmental degradation, radicalisation, and the ways “those who are supposed to promote justice and protect the weak fail to do so.” But they also offer hope, based on the fact that “a common Christian response to such a reality whilst acknowledging our own complicity, heeds Jesus’s prayer “that they all may be one”, and enables us to combat injustice.”

“Indonesian Christians,” they say,”speak of the need to repent of the injustice that causes division, but also believe in the power of Christ to forgive and heal. They speak of finding themselves united under the cross of Christ, calling both for his grace to end injustice and for his mercy for the sin which has caused division.” It’s a powerful call – and the materials on offer can help us engage with it. Please pray:

  • for the country of Indonesia and especially for the Christians within it
  • that many people will use the materials prepared for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
  • that God will use our prayers for unity to unite us more closely in Christ

Short Note

Praying for Refugees

We’re preparing for our January 26th time of prayer for refugees, asylum seekers, and those walking alongside them. Please do contact Joanna if you are intending to come – and let others know about it. Please also pray for the preparations, and that the time of prayer is a blessing.

 

This Week’s Readings

Revised Common Lectionary Readings – Isaiah 43:1-7 • Psalm 29 • Acts 8:14-17 • Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

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Troubled Waters, God’s Gifts and Our Response, Nobel Peace Prize, China and Religion – 7/10/18

  • Troubled Waters

  • God’s gifts and our response

  • Nobel Peace Prize

  • Short Note: China and Religion

  • This Week’s Readings

Troubled Waters

We start this week by praying for the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. We remember also the many recovering from recent tropical cyclones and from floods in Nigeria and Kerala. Please pray and give for relief and recovery; there is a page with links here.

Not all disasters are climate related. But we know that climate change is making some types of extreme weather more frequent and more severe. The new 1.5 degree report from the IPCC calls us to take immediate and drastic action. For an aid to prayer on climate impacts and climate action, take a look at Elizabeth’s powerful new video meditation ‘Troubled Waters’, prepared  for the Anglican Alliance and CCOW.

God’s gifts and our response

As Christians, we recognise that we are all recipients of God’s gifts. By God’s grace, we all have access to the gift of Salvation and the gifts of the Spirit, freely given. We also have access to God’s material gifts in creation. The extent of that access, however, varies. For some of us, the amount of resource available to us may not be enough – or may be just barely  enough – to cover the genuine necessities of daily life. For others of us, there may be quite a lot of resources to which we have access and, in some cases, over which we exert control – perhaps far beyond what’s involved in meeting our basic needs.

It’s an important part of being a disciple to reflect with thanksgiving on God’s goodness in offering so many gifts – and how we can best respond. Looking specifically at the material gifts in creation, how do we understand our relationship to them? How does our understanding work itself out in our practice? Over the coming weeks, our prayer email will be offering some reflections on these questions – beginning with some general thoughts and then looking at specific areas for prayer and practical action. Inherently, these will be tasters. not full explorations, of the questions involved. But in each case, we’ll also have links to further explorations, if you want to delve deeper.

We’d encourage you to seek out, if you haven’t already, a few people with whom you can discuss your thoughts in these areas. One of the findings of the recent Good Money Week poll is that we as a society are very uncomfortable discussing our finances with our peers – in fact, people would generally rather discuss almost anything else! This isn’t really a surprise. Our society tends to regard ‘personal’ resource use as simply ‘personal’ – our own business. We’re encouraged in this by pressures all around us that want us to focus on  our wants, our needs, our lives so that they can sell us their products and keep us from looking too closely at the issues behind them.

But because we believe that God is the source and ‘owner’ of all things, and that having created the world in love, God longs for us to show love – to God, each other and the whole created order, we can’t take that view.  I can’t talk about ‘my’ money or ‘my’ property or assess ‘my’ needs on the basis of what is good for me alone. I have to regard myself as accountable to God and my neighbour (in the widest sense) for the way I relate to God’s blessings.And that’s something that requires honest self-assessment, study – but also the perspective of others, especially others who may have different types of knowledge, different  views or experience of living with access to different amounts of resource.

We look forward to exploring these questions – and hearing from you about your responses.  To start, please pray:

  • in thanksgiving to God for the gifts of creation and redemption
  • that God will open our hearts and our minds as we consider God’s gifts in creation and our relationship with all that shares our ‘common home’

Nobel Peace Prize

“We think that if their voice can be heard, the world ha[s] to take responsibility about what is happening to women. We have the responsibility to draw the line and never accept that women can be destroyed in the way that is happening today. We can change hate by love.” Dennis Mukwege, interviewed by Bill Gates and his team

“[The Nobel Peace Prize] means a lot, not just for me but for all of these women in Iraq and in all the world … it wasn’t easy for me to go out and … speak about what happened to me … I thought that … women who are suffering sexual violence in conflict that their voice, their cries will not be heard, and for those small communities that are being persecuted in many corners of the world that their cries will not be heard. But this prize tells me that their voices are being heard … and … will be a voice for all the women that are suffering from sexual violence in conflict in every place … I hope … it will help bring justice for those women that suffered from sexual violence … and hopefully prevent similar acts like that.”  Nadia Murad, interview upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

This year the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Dr Mukwege is the founder and director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, which is managed by the Communauté des Eglises de Pentecôte en Afrique Centrale (Pentecostal Churches in Central Africa) and which specialises in treating women who have suffered from sexual violence. He i also a co-founder of the City of Joy centre.

Eastern Congo has been an area of conflict for many years, and both Congolese security forces and other non-state armed groups – have used rape as a weapon of war. Hundreds of thousands of women (and, though less frequently, men) have suffered. Panzi Hospital has treated more than 50,000 women survivors, many of whom were raped and tortured in ways that left them with serious medical injuries. Panzi’s work, however, isn’t simply medical: as the Panzi Foundation explains, it has a “five-pillar holistic healing model [which]  includes physical care, psychosocial support, community reintegration services, legal assistance, and education and advocacy to address the root causes of violence.” All women are assigned a social assistant who helps with support beyond medical issues. Those who are unable to return home because of medical issues, continued conflict or stigma can make use of Maison Dorcas, which offers housing, meals, ongoing therapeutic care, and access to an array of training programmes. A legal clinic helps them pursue justice – attacking the culture of impunity that perpetuates sexual violence. And Panzi’s advocacy project helps to educate communities to addres the root causes of violence. Dr Mukwege himself has been tireless in advocacy, despite the fact that his push for accountability and justice has made him the target of threats and acts of violence.

Nadia Murad is a Yazidi woman whose village was attacked by IS. The attackers murdered the men and older women, including six of her brothers and her mother, and took her and other young women to Mosul to be used in sex slavery. Claimed by an IS judge, she was repeatedly raped and beaten. Eventually, she was able to escape the home of her captor and was enabled to flee Iraq by a sympathetic stranger. Having found safety in Germany, she decided, despite the difficulty of doing so, to speak out about what happened to her. By speaking, she hopes to get justice for her community and to prevent further episodes of genocide and sexual violence. She has founded an initiative to rebuild communities devastated by conflict and has addressed audiences around the world, from Yazidi communities in Iraq to the UN General Assembly (video), telling her story and calling for the prosecution of IS militants, an end to religious persecution, and the rebuilding of her area. She called her autobiography ‘The Last Girl’ – as she says “more than anything, I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”

This Nobel Prize recognises both the pain that sexual violence in conflict inflicts and the courage with which survivors and their allies are working to end it. As we come before  Christ,  please pray:

  • for healing of body and mind for all who have experienced sexual violence – and that each person, male or female, who experiences sexual violence may know the depth of God’s love for them
  • in thanksgiving for the courage of survivors like Nadia Murad and the women of Panzi Hospital, who are willing to speak about their pain in order to make a better future for others
  • in thanksgiving for the way Dr Mukwege and the Panzi hospital staff manifest God’s love through practical care – and for the courage he shows in advocacy against violence despite the continued risk to himself. We pray for protection for him and for all those threatened because of their work on accountability for sexual violence.
  • for an end to sexual violence in conflict

Short Note

China and Religion

China’s increasing repression of non-state-sanctioned religion is a serious concern. This is currently most notable in the case of the Uighur (or Uyghur) Muslims of Xinjiang: China is estimated to be holding more than a million in internment camps for ‘education’ with some two million more “undergoing some form of coercive re-education or indoctrination.” Accounts from people who have experienced the camps speak of torture and detail the pressures on those detained to renounce their faith and culture. The government’s policies, which have created fear among Uighur communities throughout (and beyond) China, also include intense surveillance and have been described as ‘cultural genocide’.

China’s repression is not restricted to the Uighur Muslims; numerous religious groups are experiencing pressure. These include Christians, especially those belonging to churches outside the state system. Since the entry into force of new Regulations on Religious Affairs this past February, prominent independent churches have seen their pastors fined or imprisoned and their members questioned and harrassed; some have been closedIn Henan province, Catholic and Protestant churches have been forced to display signs banning children from worship, and some church buildings have been destroyed. Moreover, the Chinese government clearly intends further intrusions: Christian Solidarity Worldwide has noted that, following the Communist Party’s taking on direct oversight of religious affairs, “the state-sanctioned China Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement launched a five year plan to ‘Sinicize’ Christianity, which reportedly includes plans to write a ‘secular’ version of the Bible, revise other religious materials, and include teaching on socialism and patriotism alongside religious study.” A new draft regulation on disseminating religious materials also appeared in September; this would require people to apply for a license to send such materials via “texts, pictures, audio and video, etc. through Internet sites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools, and live webcasts”

Please pray that God may transform the situation in China, asking God to change the hearts of those in power, to bring true comfort to all who are suffering, and to endow church leaders and Christians generally  with wisdom, strong faith and courage. Pray that Christians in China will be able to be a blessing to those around them, despite the pressures that they face.

This Week’s Readings

Revised Common Lectionary Readings – Job 1:1, 2:1-10 and Psalm 26  •  Genesis 2:18-24 and Psalm 8  •  Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12  •  Mark 10:2-16

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Hebrews 1:1-3

Weekly Prayer Email: 15 -21 July 2018 – UK Trade and Brexit

UK Trade and Brexit

The US President’s pronouncement on Theresa May’s Brexit plans – “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made” – dominated the headlines late Thursday and early Friday, taking many aback and leading to something of an exercise in damage limitation over the subsequent period of his official visit.

But while the statement was unusual in breaking diplomatic sensitivities – and distinctively Trumpian in tone – it was also quite coherent with US trade policy priorities, and is worth taking seriously as a reminder of some of the challenges that the UK faces as it makes choices about trade post-Brexit.

What lies behind Trump’s statement? To begin with, while tariff wars have recently dominated the headlines, the United States’ primary objectives in trade with the EU have, for many years, related not to tariffs but to regulation and specifically to what the US Trade Representative’s most recent report characterises as “costly EU regulatory barriers to U.S. exports.”

What are these regulatory barriers? The first mentioned by the USTR are ‘technical’ and ‘sanitary and phytosanitary’ regulations. Some of these may involve areas where negotiations could be productive; there are regulations on both sides which could be streamlined or harmonised. But some of them are designed to protect vital aspects of health, animal welfare, and the environment. In agriculture, these include regulations that ban agricultural goods produced involving practices not permitted in the EU – such as the oft-cited hormone-injected beef and chlorinated chicken – as well as agricultural products that have higher levels of chemical residues than the EU permits. In other areas, they involve such things as using the precautionary principle to evaluate chemical safety and establishing the kinds of chemicals that can, for example, be used in cosmetics.

The US’s complaint is not simply that the EU adopts these regulatory standards for its own use; it’s that the EU standards, because of the bloc’s trading power, influence standards globally and that the EU (it argues) “encourag[es] trade agreement partners to adopt EU standards and to exclude products manufactured to different U.S. and other international standards.” The US, in short, wants its standards to be the norm, and the EU is standing in the way.

From a US trade policy perspective, Brexit provides a great opportunity. If the UK could be separated from the EU standards and brought closer to the US, it would not only increase the market for relevant US exports to the UK but also weaken the EU’s capacity as a global standard setter and strengthen the US’s capacity.

The Government’s recently-released White Paper, however, seeks to avoid a hard border for Northern Ireland and to avert damage to ‘just-in-time’ processes and integrated supply chains connecting EU and British manufacturing. To do this, it has to avoid insofar as is possible inspections at borders. Divergence in regulatory frameworks necessitates border inspections to ensure that goods comply with the standards of the area they are entering. The White Paper therefore envisages that its proposed ‘association agreement’ with the EU will include a “free trade area for goods, including agri-food” underpinned by a common rule book, with the UK committing in advance to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods, as necessary for frictionless trade at the borders.

In the sense that it retains valuable regulatory protections, avoids a hard border and protects manufacturing and the UK/EU goods trade, aligning with the EU’s regulations offers several positives – and trade policy experts feel there is a case for it both politically and economically. But there are also several political difficulties with the way that this is done in the White Paper. Most importantly from a domestic perspective, its approach leaves the UK as a ‘rule taker’ rather than a ‘rule maker’ with respect to trade in goods, needing to harmonise with the EU without having input into the way its regulations are created, and unable, as Trump implied, to negotiate separate regulations for trade in goods with third parties.

Donald Trump’s intervention was intended to reinforce the US position and, at a time when Theresa May appears vulnerable, to strengthen the hand of those in the UK who dislike the White Paper and who favour a hard Brexit. And even if his approach was subsequently tempered, it has sent a clear signal – and provided ammunition for those who see him as an ally.

Donald Trump and pro-Brexit politicians, however, are not the only people who are unhappy about the White Paper. For many UK politicians – not simply those who saw Brexit as an opportunity to ‘take back control’ – this is an unacceptable compromise. Lord Mandelson, a strong Remain advocate and a former EU trade commissioner, has come out against it.  Other large countries seeking concessions are also likely to make their opinions known: India has explained what it feels are barriers to trade (as with the US, there is a focus on health and safety regulations for food and chemicals) though trade experts generally feel that the likelihood of a UK-India agreement is low anyway.

And on the EU side, theWhite Paper crosses one of the EU’s major red lines – the separation of the four freedoms (freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and people). While, therefore, EU governments have cautiously welcomed the paper as a starting point for negotiations, there is little likelihood that the EU would accept the proposals as they stand. EU member states, moreover, have agendas of their own – particularly where the UK’s services industries are concerned.

Where, then, does the government turn? Pressures are likely to increase. While the EU is moving forward on a number of significant free trade agreements – this week alone, officials discussed the implementation of one with Canada,  the signing of one with Japan, and progress in one with Australia – the UK is feeling increasingly vulnerable. There is a gradually increasing sense that it would be hard to get a favourable deal with new large markets on terms that would be politically acceptable in the UK … and at the same time an awareness that the kind of deep relationship with the EU which would avoid disruption to EU trade will most likely itself require politically sensitive concessions.

How then do we pray? For ourselves, we’re framing a response in terms of Micah 6:8:

  • Do justly
    The vital question in all of this is”What are we actually seeking?” It’s not enough to say “trade deals” or “freedom” – trade deals are a means to an end, not an end in themselves, and “freedom” can be used well or badly. We need to have an ethical framework that provides the narrative within which different options – with all their complexities – are considered and weighed, and that corresponds to our vision of a just society. We pray:

      • that as it considers different trading arrangements the UK will place a priority on promoting those that maintain or strengthen our ability to care for creation, protect human dignity, and promote economic justice
      • in thanksgiving that the UK has committed to one aspect of trade justice, honouring the Everything But Arms agreements that, under EU rules, it has with the world’s Least Developed Countries

     

  • Love kindness
    We’re all conscious that superficial characterisations and mis-characterisations, the trivialisation of others’ points of view, and ad hominem attacks have become the norm in discussions around trade and Brexit both in people’s comments and in much of our media and social media. In a situation where so much is at stake and there is so much complexity, we pray:

      • for an end to all that demeans our public discussion of ideas and issues
      • that Christians – regardless of their political point of view – will be willing to champion standards in public discourse
      • that the Church (and others) will create opportunities for people who are prepared to discuss the issues to come together in conversation

     

  • Walk humbly
    Humility involves self-knowledge; a willingness to acknowledge one’s true place as both a fallible part of creation and the recipient of God’s grace and gifts; an awareness of others’ gifts, failings, needs and concerns; and a respect for reality beyond oneself.As the Brexit trade negotiations continue, pray that

    • the societies and governments involved will be honest about their own strengths and weaknesses, avoiding both pride and arrogance on the one hand and underestimation of gifts on the other
    • all of us will seek out people whose expertise (through practical experience and/or study) can help to give as full a picture as possible of the options and the issues at stake
    • those who have been unwilling to engage with the complex political and economic realities of international trade negotiations and their impacts will move towards a positive and constructive engagement

 

This week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings remind us that being someone who is committed to seeking God’s will and speaking as God commands will often involve peril. Pray for all whom God is calling to speak hard words, especially when they are doing so to people with power.

Refugee Week, Working Together for Refugees, Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees: 17 to 23 June

In this email:

  • Refugee Week 
  • Working Together for Refugees
  • Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees

One theme of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings is God’s use of what is seemingly small and insignificant to do great things for God’s Kingdom. It’s a reminder that all of us, however apparently small or great, are made in the image and likeness of God and can be the source of great blessings by God’s grace. As we approach Refugee Week, how can we promote this sense of the preciousness and potential for blessing in each person?

Refugee Week

Refugee Week takes place from the 18th to the 24th of this month – and our email pieces this week have positive stories to tell about work that is happening locally and about a conference held at the UN looking at faith responses to refugees.

We need positive stories since it often feels that, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, recently said, we are moving “backwards to an era of contempt for the rights of people who have been forced to flee or leave their homes because the threats they face are more dangerous even than the perils of their voyage.” In recent stories from Europe alone, Italy and Malta refused to admit the SS Aquarius rescue ship; a report stated that French police mistreat child refugees; measures were proposed that could criminalise helping migrants seek asylum in Hungary;  and Caroline Lucas spoke of the psychological impact of the UK’s use of  indefinite detention.  And there are many more examples from other countries.

Please pray fervently for the safety and well-being of all who have been forced to flee their homes. We would also encourage you also to show your concern for refugees by coming to some of the varied local events celebrating Refugee Week.

Working Together for Refugees

Only about 0.2% of the world’s refugees are hosted by the UK, according to UN statistics, and the Thames Valley has become home to only a small proportion of those. But our area has a long history of welcoming people seeking asylum and continues to do so, including, since 2015, through the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

Many Christians and others of goodwill across the Thames Valley have felt moved to assistrefugees, both those overseas and those on our doorstep. CCOW is helping network these churches, groups and individuals, and to connect and resource those who are interested in joining them. If you’d like to know more about the groups we work with, or explore some of the resources we offer, see our webpage.

A major step in bringing people together was “Partnerships of Hope – Working Together for Refugees”, organised by CCOW at New Road Baptist Church in Oxford on 21st April 2018. Around 100 people took part, all active in supporting refugees or interested in doing so. During the day’s talks, workshops and networking times, the harsh realities faced by refugees and the frustrations and challenges experienced by those wanting to help were voiced. But the atmosphere of the day was extremely positive, as we also heard and learned from many examples of good practice and great achievements for and by refugees. You can read the summary of the day here.

Among the themes emerging from “Partnerships of Hope” was a desire for more networking opportunities, ongoing communication between the different groups supporting refugees and more effective external communication. In response, we are planning a day in the Autumn, kindly facilitated by Jillian Moody, media consultant, for the groups to think through communications strategies. We’re also thinking of networking local churches engaged in assisting refugees, by creating an online forum and organising a retreat day.

Please pray

  • for people who have come here as refugees. Pray that they would be made welcome and receive whatever help they need as they integrate into the UK
  • for local groups and organisations seeking to walk alongside refugees, for adequate funds and volunteers and good communications
  • for a greater culture of welcome and celebration of diversity in the UK
  • for more local churches and individuals to engage with topics relating to refugees and forced migration, and to get involved
  • for wisdom and direction for CCOW’s ongoing work around refugees and forced migration

Action Point: Please contact Joanna if you are interested in any aspect of our work around refugees.

Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees  

This is less about subtle negotiations of words and phrases, and more fully about real people’s lives.”

Revd. Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance


In September this year, two major new compacts on migration and refugees will be presented for adoption by member states at the United Nations General Assembly. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be the first global agreement negotiated under the auspices of the UN that addresses ‘all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner’. The complementary Global Compact on Refugees seeks to establish a wide-ranging and more equitable global response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations. It is hoped that this response will better support both refugees and the communities that host them.

Both compacts will have involved almost two years of consultations and negotiations following the New York Declaration in December 2016.

Ahead of the latest round of consultations on the compacts, Caritas Internationalis and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN recently co-hosted an interfaith conference at the United Nations in New York. Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders brought different perspectives to the question of how the global community can achieve effective international cooperation and shared responsibility to alleviate the suffering and build hope for millions of refugees and migrants. The voices of migrants and refugees were also heard. Reverend Rachel Carnegie, the co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, was invited to offer the concluding remarks at this significant event.

We’ve excerpted some of the discussions here; you can read a fuller summary involving all the participants on our website.

Faith based organisations not only relevant but crucial

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN, who chaired the session, described how faith-based organisations provide so much of the infrastructure for the immediate and long term support for refugees and migrants. He talked of a person-centred, holistic approach, helping refugees and migrants to achieve their full potential while enriching their new societies through the exchange of talents and culture. “Even when [a migrant] is of a different faith, many know of the reputation of faith based organisations to extend care to anyone in need, because of the principles of charity, mercy and solidarity flowing from that faith. Faith based organisations start not from political or economic perspectives, but from the affirmation of the human dignity of all people before all else. This person-centred approach, while not unique to faith based organisations, is at the heart of all their work. It also inspires a more holistic approach to caring for the migrant and their families, rather than addressing migration simply as a political or economic problem. Faith based organisations typically address the needs of every person as an individual in communion with others and the common good of all society.”

After outlining the wide range of practical responses of faith based organisations in the care of migrants, Archbishop Auza said, “During negotiations towards the global compacts there has been discussion on the role of faith based organisations. Some have questioned their relevance but as today’s event hopes to show, we are not only relevant but crucial to help migrants and refugees and also to the work of states in caring for them. The pivotal part they play in welcoming, protecting, promoting, integrating and sharing the journey of migrants and refugees should be noted and lifted up as an example for all of civil society and receive explicit reference in the global compacts.”

There must have been a refugee or migrant in all our pasts

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the President of Caritas Internationalis and the Archbishop of Manila, reflected on the guiding principles set out by Pope Francis – the four verbs that articulate our shared responsibility – to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees at all stages of their journey. He reflected on his own family history of migration, and said,

“We invite everyone here never to forget that in our families, clans or peoples there must have been a migrant or a refugee some time, somewhere. In their name the God of Israel calls us to love the stranger, but will we remember or choose to forget? …. Christians believe that Jesus migrated from the condition of being God’s glorious son to that of being a lowly human being. As a baby he became a refugee in Egypt with his parents to escape the ire of Herod. He praised outsiders in his stories, like the Good Samaritan, and presented strangers as models of faith, such as the woman of Samaria at the well, the grateful Samaritan healed of leprosy, the persistent Syro-Phoenician mother, the Roman centurion who cared for his servant and believed his word, and to cap it all, Jesus identified himself with strangers. ‘When I was a stranger, you made me welcome’ (Matthew 25) declaring that what we do, or fail to do, to strangers we do, or fail to do, for him.

For Christians a stranger has a human face – the face of Jesus”.

To turn one’s back on migrants is to turn one’s back on God himself

Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, spoke about the duty of a society to its own citizens, alongside its obligation to maximalise human dignity and freedom for all – preventing exploitation, and enabling safe and secure passage for people on the move – as well as ensuring decent living and social conditions for refugees and migrants. As did Cardinal Tagle, Rabbi Rosen reflected on the Biblical mandate to care for the “stranger” and the centrality of the experience of migration to the Biblical narrative.

“We are commanded not only to love our neighbour in the Bible, but also specifically to love and empathise with others who seek to dwell in our community…. The Hebrew word ‘ger’ that is commonly translated as stranger is better translated in terms of the meaning in Hebrew as sojourner. … As it is written in Leviticus and Exodus, ‘for you know the soul of the sojourner for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’. The ancient Jewish sages point out that our historical sojourner experience is referred to more than anything else in the Hebrew Bible, some 36 times, precisely in order to serve as inspiration for our moral conduct.

“Not for nothing does the history of Biblical salvation begin with a story of a migrant, Abraham, who leaves his birth place in Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s Iraq, for a better future for himself and his family, to contribute to a better future for humanity…. The orientating event of Biblical sacred history is the emigration experience, being delivered from persecution and journeying towards a better future in a promised land.

“To turn one’s back on another in need, but especially those whose very existence is vulnerable, most dramatically evidenced in the plight of refugees and migrants, and especially the children among them, is to turn one’s back on God himself.”


Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves

Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, spoke of faith communities as bridge builders. He talked of the need to re-humanise the other, through encounter, reflecting in particular on the responsibility to care for young people on the move seeking safer lives, better opportunities, futures of hope.

“Most people want to reside and prosper in the land of their birth. This is natural. Yet to do so they require safety, food security, economic opportunity, freedom from environmental distress and prospects for their children’s future. Forced migration is the result of war, poverty and environmental degradation and climate change that compel people to leave their homelands. Because of these factors we are currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. And the face of the migrant is increasingly a youthful face. For the first time in history, half of all refugees are children and youths and one in every 200 children in the world today is a refugee.

“ ‘Otherness’ is another item connected to migration. It is a perception based on our territory. The imagined ‘other’ is often part of a narrative in which the definition of oneself comes with limits and borders… Speaking about identity or even multiple identities remains a taboo in many societies because it goes against the grand narrative of many nation states that base the concept of national identity on this grand national narrative. However, globalization continues to challenge the ethno-national model and exposes us to ethnic, religious and cultural otherness to a degree never before seen in the history of the world…. Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves – with the many layers of identity that make a person unique.

“We must continue to think that we are bridge builders rather than the builders of walls. And we must bring hope and peace to this world that it needs more and more today.”

A key theme running through the session was the importance of bringing a human face to the statistics of migration and to acknowledge all that migrants and refugees contribute to their new societies.

The moment I was on my feet, I wanted to help and give back

A refugee from Iraq shared his own story. He spoke of how before the Iraq war of 2003 his family had lived a very comfortable life in Iraq. After the war, as people were being kidnapped and killed his family resisted moving, determined to stay in their home country. Even when his family was robbed at gunpoint in their home, his parents still would not leave the country. ‘Leaving the country – for anyone it’s a big decision’, he said. ‘It’s really, really hard’.

Another year later, in 2006, he was kidnapped and a ransom demanded. For 9 days he was tortured. On his release the family was told they would be killed should they be seen again in Baghdad, at which point they finally decided to flee the country. Leaving with hardly anything, they went first to Syria where their passports were stamped ‘not allowed to work’ on entry. ‘Imagine starting a new life somewhere you can’t work’, he said. ‘How’s that going to work?’

With the family’s life savings completely used up, the family applied to the UN for refugee status and after two years of vetting the family was given the opportunity to move to the US.

‘We’re very grateful that we’re here, but it’s not easy. Being a refugee in a new country with new language, new everything – I almost felt that I was in a different world’. Watching his parents, ‘the strongest two people in my life’, struggle with the challenges of their new life – worrying about how they would find work, provide food and pay their bills – motivated him to work three jobs along with his college studies so he could help his family. ‘The moment that I felt I was on my feet, the first thing that came to my mind was that I wanted to help and give back to the community. I’ve been working for a charity since 2012 helping immigrants, refugees and people from here just helping whoever needs help. I am just one example out of millions.’

Representatives from various member states of the UN attended the session and were warm in their appreciation for the faith perspective and contribution to inform the upcoming negotiations. Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the UN, said, ‘As a member state of this organisation, I am very happy and glad that I came. It is not every day that you see such an inclusive panel… A better world is possible, we all know that, but it has to take a lot of understanding from our part… This has been very clarifying for me… we thank you for giving us a very clear vision. My delegates and I are going into the next stage of negotiations with the four points you have mentioned very clearly: welcome, promote, protect and integrate’.

Ambassador Saint Hilaire of Haiti also expressed his gratitude for all the panel were doing. ‘Your actions are very inspiring to us as member states, he said. ‘You are making the difference. Thank you so much’.

Keep the image of a migrant or refugee actively present in our minds

In her concluding reflections, Revd. Rachel Carnegie appealed to all to ‘keep the image of a migrant or refugee known personally to us actively present in our minds as the discussions move forward’.

And she articulated four key challenges for the journey ahead:

  1. How can we make the Global Compacts a vision of hope, of humanity and our common good?
  2. How can we make them stronger in upholding the dignity of migrants and refugees?
  3. How can we overcome our internal barriers and become inclusive societies in an interconnected world?
  4. How can we renew, as the United Nations of the world’s peoples, our commitment for peace, solidarity and justice?

Please pray:

  • that the ongoing negotiations around the global compacts will result in documents that genuinely offer a vision of hope, humanity and our common good.
  • for all who are working to assure recogntion at local, national and international level of the dignity of migrants and refugees
  • in thanksgiving for the work people of faith are doing to promote the dignity of migrants and refugees      

‘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.

CCOW Prayer Email: World AIDS Day, Advent Resources 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Advent Resources for Prayer and Action
  • World AIDS Day: Children and the ‘Right to Health’
  • To Do … To Watch … To Read
  • Events

Advent Resources for Prayer and Action

New Lectionary-Based Prayer Resources

He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors.

Luke 1:52 -55

The songs of Zechariah and Mary in the opening chapter of Luke’s gospel are profound declarations of God’s ongoing story of love for the world and its people. These glorious prayers precede the Christmas birth narrative and reflect many of the great themes of Advent: the songs look both back and forward – back to God’s covenant with Abraham and forward to God’s unfolding salvation; they are full of waiting and watching – waiting for God’s purposes to be revealed, watching for the Lord’s coming; they are about now and not yet – singing of an upside down kingdom, which is both here now and still to come; and they are shot through with the confident hope that light will overcome darkness.

During Advent we will be offering four reflections that develop these themes, based on the Sunday readings set in the Revised Common Lectionary. Each week, a short written reflection will be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation of images and selected verses from the set passages.

The four reflections show a progression through the season of Advent: the first, for example, focuses on longing and lament; the next on promise and preparation; the last on revelation and response.

We hope you will find these reflections helpful for both personal prayer and in church services: we will be bringing the prayer email out on a Friday so that they are available for Sunday service planning.

A Challenge

This Sunday the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel is Matthew 25:31-46. Christ in glory separates the ‘sheep’ from the ‘goats’, inviting into the Kingdom those who fed the hungry, gave drink to those who thirsted, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and visited those who were sick or in prison.

“But when did we see you?” both groups ask Jesus. He responds “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

During Advent, we often talk about being prepared so that we recognise the Messiah when He comes. What Christ reminds us is that we are called to see Him every day in the people around us. So as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ seen as a vulnerable baby in the manger, our Advent Challenge will call us to see and serve Christ by following his command to serve Him in His brothers and sisters.

Each week of Advent we’ll take one of the areas mentioned in this week’s Gospel and tweet (@ccowinfo) daily suggestions for living it out. We’ll retweet other people’s suggestions, too – so please follow and send us your thoughts!

 

World AIDS Day: Children and the ‘Right to Health’

This Friday we mark World AIDS Day.

The theme that UNAIDS has picked for this year is ‘Right to Health’. What is the ‘right to health’? In his World AIDS Day statement, UNAIDS Executive Director Michael Sidibé uses the definition from the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”  The UNAIDS 2017 Report gives a detailed and rich history of the concept in various international agreements  – which involves guaranteeing access “to the information, services and conditions [including social and economic conditions] that we need to be healthy and to stay healthy” and within that making sure that healthcare is accessible, available, acceptable (treating all with dignity) and of good quality.

In the UNAIDS report, Sidibé notes the strong role that people living with AIDS have played in promoting this right: “The AIDS response,” he says, “has been a pioneer in the expansion of the right to health. Its hallmark has been giving a voice to people living with HIV and giving affected communities and civil society the means to demand their right to health. People took to the streets, demanded access to life-saving  medicines and for prices to be brought down. They demanded confidentiality and treatment with dignity and without discrimination …They became part of the solution, at the forefront of service delivery.”

The report recognises, however, that some groups living with HIV and AIDS still do not have access to the information, services and conditions that would qualify them as enjoying their full rights. A poor family in a rural area, for example, may have no means of receiving vital information about HIV testing, live at a distance from the nearest clinic – and hence be hesitant to go for testing or treatment, be unable to access medication even if they can attend the clinic, lack sufficient income for nutritious food,  be in an area without ready access to proper sanitation, and fear knowing their status because of their community’s stigmatising of people living with HIV.

Among those who often have difficulty accessing their rights are children and young people. Because of the considerable successes in breaking mother-to-child transmission, we tend to hear less about children living with HIV and AIDS.  The reduction in transmissions is cause for rejoicing. In the report, Chip Lyons,  President and Chief Executive Officer of the Elizabeth
Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), notes that since 2010, “the number of new paediatric infections has been reduced by 53% in the 21 priority countries.” The latest UNAIDS data show that overall, new infections among children have decreased by 47%.

But the successes don’t cover all children. According to UNAIDS,  2.1 million children (aged 0 to 14) globally are living with HIV.  Dependent on adults for access to both testing and treatment, many receive neither: in 2016, AIDS charity CABSA and the WCC state, “only 43 percent of HIV-exposed infants received the recommended diagnostic test within the first two months of life.” Unsurprisingly, only the same percentage of children are receiving proper treatment. “Without treatment,” CABSA and the WCC note, “half of children with HIV will die by their second birthday.”

For young people, the situation is equally critical. Young women between 15 and 24 account for 20% of all new HIV infections; young men in the same age group account for about 14%. These figures reflect economic and social vulnerabilities and – clearly – gender imbalances.

In recognition of the particular difficulties faced by children and young people, this year’s CABSA World AIDS Day service, produced in conjunction with the WCC, focuses on prayer for and with children and adolescents.

Please join in praying for a world in which “no child is born with HIV, children and adolescents stay free from HIV, and those who are living with HIV will have their rights fulfilled.”
You might wish to use this prayer, adapted from the service:

Gracious loving Father,
Today we pray for the 5 million children who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the HIV epidemic.
We pray for those living with, or affected by, HIV and for their loved ones.
We pray to receive strength and courage to fight injustice and inequalities and to work so that HIV testing and treatment are accessible to all, including those living in poor settings.
Forgive us, Lord, if we do not always stand up against a system that perpetuates injustice. Show us how we can serve your children.
If we are to see a day when there are zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new HIV infections and zero discrimination, guide us, oh Lord, to work together to ensure that the practical
efforts, political will and financial commitments continue.
As we give thanks for what has been achieved, we commit ourselves anew to doing all we can to make sure that no one is left behind.
Amen

To Do … To Watch … To 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 Do:
    • A simple 16 Days action from the Mothers’ Union: “link hands with one another to represent our unity in ending gender based violence; reach out hands to represent our connection with those around the world affected by, or campaigning against gender-based violence; and lift hands up, as a sign of prayer for an end to gender-based violence.” A way to engage churches or small groups in prayer around an issue many find difficult – could you try it?
    • Sign the Hope for the Middle East petition, calling on the UN Secretary General to use his good offices to secure legal rights for all citizens in Syria and Iraq, ensure dignified living conditions for the displaced, and identify and equip religious leaders and faith-based organisations to play a constructive role in reconciling and rebuilding after conflict

  • To Watch:
    • Two videos from Carbon Brief
      • a href=”http://bit.ly/2i6ncQt”>Transcription and video clips of an interview with evangelical climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
      • Three need-to-knows from the recent UN climate talks in Bonn

  • To Read:

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.

Yemen

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.

Events
Please do take a look at our calendar, which lists a variety of relevant events both locally and nationally.

Trading out of Poverty, Freedom Sunday, Food Justice: 15 – 21 October 2017

Trading Out of Poverty

This week, we celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October).

A few weeks ago, I (Maranda) had the privilege of visiting Fair Trade producers in Swaziland.

Swaziland is a beautiful country, a little larger than Northern Ireland and a little smaller than Wales. It’s landlocked, surrounded largely by South Africa, but sharing more than half its eastern border with Mozambique. The western side of the country contains mountains which gradually shift into the Middleveld of rolling hills; the eastern side is a lowland plain leading, on the border with Mozambique, to the Lebombo Plateau.

Though beautiful, however, Swaziland faces many development challenges. While the size of its economy makes it  nominally a lower middle income country, the distribution of wealth is unequal, and as of 2010, 42% of its population lived on less than $1.90 a day. Work is hard to find: unemployment is over 25% for the whole workforce and over 50% for young people. And health-related issues – and their impacts – are serious: UNAIDS lists Swaziland’s adult HIV prevalence as the world’s highest at 27.2%; and the World Food Programme estimates that over a quarter of all children are stunted because of malnutrition and 45% of children are orphaned or vulnerable.

In short, pro-poor development is essential, and exploring options that can deliver it is vital. One possibility for farmers is Fairtrade – the production of commodities certified with the FAIRTRADE Mark – and three sugar producers in Swaziland are Fairtrade certified. We are focusing, however, on Swaziland’s manufactured goods and crafts, and so I was looking at Swazi groups that are, or are working towards becoming, Fair Trade Organizations as defined by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)’s ’10 Principles of Fair Trade’.

For Fair Trade Organizations, of which the best known in the UK is Traidcraft, it’s not so much a question of setting standards for the production of individual products, but of ensuring that everything the relevant business does is done according to Fair Trade principles – starting with the fact that “poverty reduction through trade forms a key part of the organisation’s aims” and “the organisation supports marginalised small producers…[and] seeks to enable them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership.”

What can organisations working to these principles, whether certified as yet by the WFTO or not, contribute to human flourishing in situations such as Swaziland’s? Here are five initial reflections:

There are enormous reserves of artisanal skill within Swaziland – and great pride in the work people do. Fair Trade builds on and enhances that.

Much of the work produced by both individual artisans and groups is truly beautiful: Swaziland’s Fair Trade products are not a ‘charity buy’ but are worth purchasing because of their quality. People connected in different ways with Fair Trade emphasised the businesses’ role in giving skilled creative people an outlet, recognising the artistic merit of what they are doing. That recognition was in itself important.

Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT), a Fair Trade business network, is helping individuals and groups overcome the initial obstacles to making a fair income from the goods they produce.

SWIFT is a member-based association which aims to make Swaziland a leading supplier of “world class, ethically produced products resulting in the upliftment of communities throughout the country.” To that end, it provides training and support services to individuals and groups starting or growing Fair Trade businesses. At entry level, it’s helping ‘Level 1’ members, artisans still involved in very small-scale production, to develop sustainable business models, an understanding of the quality control needed to sell their goods formally, and access to local and wider markets. This involves a range of services in addition to in-class training: for example, SWIFT takes artisans to trade shows so that they can see the markets they’re trying to enter, and all SWIFT members are able to display information on the SWIFT website and to sell their goods at SWIFT’s store. Thanks to funding from Comic Relief via the Shared Interest Foundation, some artisans have also received seed funding to improve their manufacturing or retail capacity.

SWIFT states that 25 new businesses have been established since 2011.

Larger Fair Trade enterprises are also reaching some of the people who are often the most marginalised, enabling them to gain an income.

There are numerous examples of this among SWIFT members at ‘Level 2’ (larger, formally registered businesses) and ‘Level 3’ (the largest, export-ready businesses). For example, ‘Level 2’ member Amarasti offers rural women the chance to do embroidery work at home, enabling them to earn a living while caring for family members. The women pick up piece work, take it away, and then return the finished work to the organisation’s base. The work is highly skilled: Amarasti has recently been able to fulfill an order for a large retailer that demanded high standards of workmanship and uniformity.

‘Level 3’ member Eswatini Kitchen, meanwhile, buys produce for its jams and chutneys from local small producers – while the carved wooden spoons that form part of their gift sets are carved by disabled people in remote communities. In another instance, Traidcraft has written about the grandmothers growing chilli peppers for Level 3 member Black Mamba, and the difference that Fair Trade has made to them and their community.

While what has happened so far is encouraging, there is scope for far more.

It’s inspiring to hear people talk about the difference Fair Trade has made in their lives – and we’ll be sharing some more of that with you over the months to come. But one thing that emerged from conversations was that there is the capacity for much more. True, for some individuals and organisations, the orders they are receiving match their current ability to deliver. But others have the capacity to export new lines or significantly larger amounts of already available products. Especially for those businesses that have relatively large permanent workforces, expanding the volume of orders is crucial to maintaining stability … and to perhaps being able to increase the number of staff they can hire.

Eradicating poverty is a shared enterprise

What we do matters.

Early on in the conversations with Eswatini Kitchens, I’d confessed to a fondness for their lime pickle and Swazi fire. As we entered their honey processing facility, one of the staff turned to me and asked, “How do you eat the lime pickle?” In that moment, the connection between my daily life at home in my kitchen and what I was seeing in rural Swaziland came together with a sudden clarity.

In reality, those connections between our lives and the lives of other people around the world happen all the time, every day. We just don’t see them. But as we know, the products we buy and the energy we use and the things we support politically and the way we pray matter. And if we can help ourselves and others to see the choices we make in our homes and gardens and schools and churches and and workplaces for what they really are – choices that affect local and global neighbours – we can begin to try to choose a way of life that works to end poverty, to reduce inequality, to seek the restoration of creation.

That’s not a new thought for our supporters. But it’s a thought worth holding onto – and sharing and praying about – this next Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Please pray:

  • for work people are doing around the world to help themselves and others overcome poverty in all its dimensions
  • that all people may be able to access the resources and freedoms they need to flourish
  • that all people may understand the deep interconnection that links us with each other – and seek to act in ways that benefit neighbours near and far
  • in thanksgiving for the work of Fair Trade businesses and networks in Swaziland and around the world
  • that the Fair Trade vision of a more just, sustainable world may continue to inspire action for good in Swaziland and elsewhere

Short Notes: Freedom Sunday, Food Justice

Freedom Sunday
The 18th of October is observed as ‘Anti-Trafficking Day’ – a time to resolve to pray and act on behalf of the millions of people who are trafficked and/or trapped in forms of modern slavery. The Clewer Initiative is asking churches particularly to think about how we may be connected to people who have been trafficked or enslaved, either through the goods we purchased or through what’s happening in our own communities. The Initiative has produced a wide range of excellent resources, ranging from a collect, full ecumenical service and materials for individual prayer times to simple-to-print posters alerting people to the signs that someone may be enslaved – and how to respond. They’re heartily recommended.

Some churches will be using these resources this Sunday or next Sunday, as they’re close to the 18th. It’s a busy week, though, and The Clewer Initiative stresses that the resources can be used at any time during the year. Please pray:

  • for an end to human trafficking and modern slavery
  • that our churches may be aware of the issue and may offer appropriate support to help people who have been trafficked and/or enslaved
  • in thanksgiving for organisations seeking to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, to end these practices, and to protect those who have already been harmed by them

And please consider introducing these (or other) resources into your church’s worship at some time in the coming year.

Food Justice

Let us share in this bread of life that God gave to us this day. Remember those who hunger and thirst on their journey in search of shelter.
Response: As we eat a piece of this bread, we commit to stand in solidarity with those who are hungry and stateless. We pray earnestly that God may use us as instruments to eradicate homelessness and hunger. Amen.

World Food Day is on Monday the 16th; the UN theme for this year is “Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”

The choice of theme reflects a recognition that the factors forcing people to leave their homes are not only conflict, persecution and political instability but also “hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization is calling on the global community to invest in rural development, “creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods” as well as providing “increased food security … better access to social protection, reduced conflict over natural resources and solutions to environmental degradation and climate change.”

“By investing in rural development,” the organisation notes, “the international community can also harness migration’s potential to support development and build the resilience of displaced and host communities.”

The World Council of Churches and Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is inviting churches to celebrate the Churches’ Week of Action on Food around World Food Day (week of 15 to 22 October) and has adopted the UN theme. As part of marking World Food Day and the Week of Action, could you perhaps use the prayer above, taken from this year’s WCC-EAA prayer resources, to signal your (and your family’s, or home group’s, or church’s) commitment to food justice? Please also pray:

  • for all who have been forced to leave their homes because of food insecurity and hunger
  • for greater investment in ecologically and socially sustainable rural development