God’s gifts and our response
Nobel Peace Prize
Short Note: China and Religion
This Week’s Readings
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
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 closed. In 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.”