In this week’s email:

  • Remembrance Sunday – Resources
  • Remembrance: Victims of Terrorist Attacks
  • US Elections, the 16 Days, and the White Ribbon Campaign

Because most churches will use special Remembrance Sunday readings this week, few will use the Revised Common Lectionary readings. Do take a look at them, though: their theme is that whatever happens, it is God who is in control – who has the power to judge and to save.

Remembrance Sunday – Resources

If you’re looking for materials for worship or reflection, here are some suggestions (with additions to the previously published list):

Remembrance – Victims of Terrorist Attacks

Remembrance Sunday focuses on those members of the armed forces who have fallen in wars – but we’re conscious that this Sunday also marks the 1st anniversary of the Paris Bataclan attacks – and so wanted to remember the victims of terrorism as well.

This Sunday, November 13, is Remembrance Sunday. It also marks the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were murdered.

Like many people, I (Elizabeth) remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. It was 6 am on the morning of the 14th in a church hall in Banstead, Surrey where 40 of us had spent the first night of our Pilgrimage from London to Paris (ahead of the climate talks). The sense of shock was palpable that morning and remained as a sobering and sad backdrop to the whole pilgrimage.

As the pilgrimage progressed and as we drew closer to Paris, we saw our French hosts increasingly affected by the events of the 13th – becoming more fearful or angry or defiant, their stories of personal connections with the victims steadily increasing. Most striking was encountering some people who said they were now just waiting for the next atrocity… for whom a heightened state of anxiety was their new normal… who had to some degree accepted this as the new reality. The terrorists killed and maimed where they struck – but the attacks also cast long shadows. Perhaps this should not have surprised me; after all, it was not the first such incident in France last year. But it brought home the reality that the impacts of terrorism, and its victims, are found way beyond the immediate time and place of an attack.

This past year has seen a distressingly high number of terrorist attacks across the world… so many that it is easy to forget earlier attacks as new ones briefly make headline news. Many never even made it into the news. But each atrocity has brought ongoing devastation and untold loss. In this time of remembrance, perhaps we might take time to bring some of them to mind and gently lift their victims before God.

In chronological order (this list is by no means complete):

November 13th Paris, France: 130 people killed in coordinated attacks across the city.

January 7th Zilten, Libya: 47 recruits killed near a police station.

January 15th Ougadougou, Burkina Faso: 30 killed at a hotel.

February 9th Dikwa, Nigeria: over 60 people killed by suicide bombers in a refugee camp.

February 28th Baghdad, Iraq: 70 killed in a mobile phone market.

March 13th Ankara, Turkey: 37 killed in a car bombing.

March 22nd Brussels, Belgium: 32 people killed in coordinated attacks on the airport and underground.

March 25th Iskandariya, Iraq: 41 people killed at a football match.

March 27th Easter Sunday, Lahore, Pakistan: 72 killed at a park, including 29 children.

April 19th Kabul, Afghanistan: 64 killed in a suicide car bomb and shooting.

June 12th Orlando, USA: 49 shot and killed and 53 injured at a nightclub.

June 28th Istanbul, Turkey: 49 killed at Ataturk Airport.

July 1st and 2nd Dhaka, Bangladesh : 24 killed in a restaurant.

July 3rd Baghdad, Iraq: 292 killed by a suicide truck bomb.

July 4th three locations in Saudi Arabia, including 4 deaths caused by a suicide bomber at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

July 14th Bastille Day Nice, France: 84 people killed and 202 injured.

July 19th – 25th various places in Germany: four attacks including 9 deaths at a shopping mall in Munich.

September 2nd Davao, Philippines: at least 15 killed by a car bomb at a night market.

September 18th Ndomete, Central African Republic: at least 26 civilians killed by rebels.

October 6th Tazalit, Niger: more than 20 killed at the Malian refugee camp.

There have also been innumerable other atrocities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The human stories behind such statistics were movingly captured by the New York Times earlier in the year. Originally intending to track every individual killed in terrorist attacks throughout the whole of March, the paper “scaled back to two weeks, for fear of being overwhelmed”. But that still meant 247 people – the victims of eight attacks in six countries. The paper investigated every one, “to reveal the humanity lost… to see what connections or distinctions we might find among the victims, but also to deepen understanding of the ripple effects of the terrorism that has come to define our days”. The dead, they found, came from 26 nations; they ranged in age from not even being born to 84; 44 were under 18 years old; they included Christians, Jews, at least one Hindu and atheists – though most were Muslims; they left 1,168 immediate surviving relatives; siblings, spouses, parents and children died together; and the victims came from widely divergent backgrounds, professions and life experience.

How do we pray in the face of such evil? Perhaps the psalms of lament and anger (such as psalms 13, 35 and 94) might help us join the universal, timeless cry of anguish in the face of unspeakable suffering and the heedless destruction of all that is dear. Perhaps we might simply sit in silence and weep with those who weep, allowing the Spirit to “intercede for us with groans too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Perhaps we might use some of the contemporary prayers and litanies of lament written in the face of terrorism; examples can be found here and here.

US Elections, the Sixteen Days and the White Ribbon Campaign

We will be looking at the US elections in greater depth next week. But in the meantime, please pray for the new President-elect, his advisors and all elected officials as they seek to prepare for holding office. Pray that they and those who are leaving office will be given wisdom and discernment as they go about their business and arrange the transitions. And pray that God will guide and direct all residents of the US – and all of us – in our responses to the results.

This week we had wanted particularly to flag up – in the hopes that people will pray and prepare to act – the forthcoming 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (25 November – 10 December) and White Ribbon Day (25th November).

It is unfortunate, but also unavoidable, that the election and concerns about gender-based violence are linked. In the aftermath of the election, members of groups whom Donald Trump disparaged during the election campaign have been reporting an increase in verbal and physical abuse in locations around the US. One wrote an account of a conversation with a stranger which ended with the stranger suggesting that she was “the type of girl” that Donald Trump should grope “to shut your mouth.” The woman recounts that the man involved used Trump’s terminology to describe the action. She then states: “When I was outside, tears welled up in my eyes. Not because some drunk guy said demeaning things to me, but because the words that came from his mouth are the exact quotes of the man America elected as President of the United States.”

She is not alone. The fact that the US has elected a man who boasted of – and whom many women have credibly accused of – sexual assault is a source of concern and pain to many men and women both in the US and across the world. “I’d watched the country I love elect a man whose words suggest that he believes my daughters and I are objects to be grabbed and graded,” one American author wrote.  An author on a UK political site noted: “His success sends a message that you can boast about abusing women’s bodily integrity and still become the most powerful man in the world. … His language and his actions have given sexists and misogynists not only comfort, but legitimacy.”

At this time, therefore, it is more important than ever for men and women to pray and act both for an end to sexual violence and, more generally, for respect throughout the world of the God-given dignity of all people.

Could your church plan to keep these concerns in your prayers during the 16 Days? Information and resources are available from the Anglican Communion, The Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA), The Methodist Church (2015 resources, but still useful), The Mothers’ Union and Restored.

Could you take the occasion of White Ribbon Day to encourage the men in your congregation to engage with the White Ribbon campaign, pledging not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women?

The negative is not the inevitable. May the God who created, loves and redeems men and women guide and direct us in showing how we should form, maintain and promote right relationships. Your kingdom come, O Lord. Your will be done.

Please pray:

  • that the spotlight the election has shone on these issues may lead to greater determination among churches and the world at large to tackle violence against women – and all gender-based violence
  • that we will work to send the clear message that whatever the powerful may do or say, gender-based violence is not permissible in any context
  • that people will recognise the kind of language and actions that provide an atmosphere within which violence can flourish – and will challenge them as well
  • for a renewal of popular culture so that portrayals of women and men may reflect their God-given dignity and model right relationship
  • that God will guide the Mothers’ Union, Women in Black, the White Ribbon Campaign, Restored and others in their campaigns to end violence against women – and to celebrate the positive potential of right relationships.
  • for healing and support for all women and men who have suffered physical, sexual or verbal abuse