Praying for each other: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
In communities, we always fare far better when members find a place of commonality and then build on those shared values as they move forward and take responsibility for building a more just world. This holds true for communities of all sizes, ranging from the family to the parish to the world.
Each year, from January 18-25, Christians from around the world join together as believers in Christ to pray for unity using a relevant global theme. This year’s theme, Justice and only justice shall you pursue (Deuteronomy 16:18-20), was prepared by Christians from Indonesia. Here is an excerpt from the resources from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity that sets the context for this year’s theme:
With a population of 265 million, 86% of whom are reckoned to be Muslim, Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population of any country. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christian from various traditions. In terms of both population and the vast extension of the country Indonesia is the biggest nation in South East Asia. It has more than 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages and yet is united in its plurality by one national language Bahasa Indonesia. The nation is founded on five principles called Pancasila, with the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Across the diversity of ethnicity, language and religion, Indonesians have lived by the principle of gotong royong which is to live in solidarity and by collaboration. This means sharing in all aspects of life, work, grief and festivities, and regarding all Indonesians as brothers and sisters.
This always fragile harmony is today threatened in new ways. Much of the economic growth that Indonesia has experienced in recent decades has been built on a system that has competition at its heart. This is in stark contrast to the collaboration of gotong royong. Corruption is experienced in many forms. It infects politics and business, often with devastating consequences for the environment. In particular, corruption undermines justice and the implementation of law. Too often those who are supposed to promote justice and protect the weak do the opposite. As a consequence, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened; and so a country rich in resources has the scandal of many people living in poverty. As a traditional Indonesian saying goes, “A mouse dies of hunger in the barn full of rice.” (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20180621_week-prayer-2019_en.html)
One of the aspects of this week that I find most focusing is that each day is marked by a piece of scripture that challenges us to look at various aspects of our lives through the lens of the theme. Our own Canadian Council of Churches has also created resources for our schools and parishes that reflect our context. Whether you use the Canadian or international resources to guide you in your reflection and prayer this year, I hope that you get a deep sense of that commonality of the belief in justice that we share not only with other Christians, but with so many other faiths in our common home.