• World Water Day - An interview with Tagolyn Kabekabe
• Short Notes: Tunisia, Disaster Risk Reduction, Nigerian Elections, Lahore Bombings, Yemen
Many churches celebrate the 5th Sunday of Lent as Passion Sunday, and therefore the Revised Common Lectionary readings offer perspectives on Christ's sacrifice on the cross. As we read in the news about people suffering because of violence, please continue to bring them in prayer to Christ, recalling how he suffered human violence and suffering in the Passion ... and overcame it in the power of the Resurrection.
World Water Day - An interview with Tagolyn Kabekabe
Elizabeth Perry wrote this last week. The destruction on Vanuatu made it impossible for her to continue her journey, and she is back in the UK. She asks that we pray for all recovering from the storm on all the Pacific Islands - prayer points are below. Please also read the attached interview; it is exceptionally powerful and brings home the constant issues climate change is creating in vulnerable Pacific communities.
As I write, Cyclone Pam is wreaking destruction in Vanuatu, an archipelago in the South Pacific. We’re waiting for an assessment of the damage, but with wind gusts of over 300km/hr recorded, 9 inches of rain falling in 24 hours and tidal surges, no one is expecting good news. I have a particular and selfish reason for my interest – I’m supposed to be there right now, visiting students on the Anglican Alliance’s Agents of Change course. Instead I have had to remain in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, where rain continues to hammer down. The island I’m on, Guadalcanal, caught the edge of Cyclone Pam this past week and I experienced for myself in small measure the strong winds, disruption and flooding it caused – an experience that has brought into sharper focus the words of Tagolyn Kabekabe, the Anglican Alliance’s Pacific Facilitator, who earlier this week told me about some of the water-related challenges people living in the Pacific region face.
Among other things Tagolyn describes the particular stresses changed rainfall patterns place on atoll communities dependent on rainfall for their water supply, unusual tide patterns that have far-reaching impacts on the ecosystem, whole communities facing relocation because of rising sea levels and the impacts of excess or salt water on food security. But most striking (for me) was how the challenges interrelate and have further impacts. As Tagolyn says, ‘a lot of these things are connected’.
This Sunday, 22 March, is World Water Day. As you celebrate it, please pray:
• for the Pacific islands and all communities whose access to water is threatened by climate change and environmental degradation. Pray for their work to adapt to what is happening, that they may be protected from storms and that all countries may take rapid action to reduce carbon emissions, so as to prevent more severe climate impacts.
• For the people of all the Pacific Islands affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam, and especially for Vanuatu. Pray for all who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods and for those who are working to recover and to help others in their recovery.
• in thanksgiving for "God’s life-giving gift" of oceans and all forms of water ... and for the appreciation which Pacific islanders show for it. Pray that all people may genuinely appreciate water and not take it for granted.
• that we may all understand the interconnectedness of life on earth, each others' ways of relating to the earth, and the ways in which our decisions impact others ... and that when we understand our neighbours' needs, we may show our love through changed behaviours.
Further prayer points and prayers for Vanuatu are available from CAFOD, The Melanesian Mission, Mothers' Union, Tearfund.
Short Notes: Tunisia, Disaster Risk Reduction, Nigerian Elections, Lahore Bombings, Yemen
This week gunmen stormed the Bardo Museum in Tunis taking hostages and killing 19 tourists. During the rescue operation, two gunmen and a security guard also died. Two or three attackers are believed to have escaped.
To date Tunisia has been the most successful Arab Spring nation. Managing to avoid the significant violence seen in Egypt and Libya, Tunisia saw its first democratically elected President, Beji Caid Essebsi, take office in December. But there are fears that now security concerns could mean a crack-down on individual freedoms and a loss of some of the hard won democratic gains made since 2011. As Islamic State voiced their support for Tuesday's killings, there are also concerns about the effect of violence and unrest in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq on Tunisia. An estimated two to three thousand Tunisians are fighting with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, with another fifteen hundred estimated to be fighting in Libya. Some are returning home to Tunisia, but there is no clear strategy for preventing further terrorist activity, or for rehabilitating those who have been radicalized back into society. It is believed that some returning fighters are being tortured in detention rather than being submitted to a clear judicial process.
Alongside these difficulties are basic economic issues. After a recession in 2011, Tunisia is still working towards a robust economy. Tourism has played a role in increasing Tunisia’s income in recent years, but negative press in light of this weeks attack may hamper this progress.
Please pray for Tunisia:
• For those who lost family and friends in the attack in Tunis.
• In thanksgiving that despite intense political difficulties and disagreements, Tunisia has managed to avoid the violence which has engulfed other nations. Pray that this continues.
• That Tunisians who have been fighting with militant groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya will return home and begin a new life.
• For wisdom for political leaders as they seek to deal with issues of neighbouring conflicts and economic difficulties.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Last week we asked you to pray for the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Negotiations at the conference became quite contentious, as poorer countries which are facing major climate impacts - as is the case with Vanuatu - pressed for substantive targets, acknowledgement of developed countries' historic responsibility for climate change, language on technology transfer, and "additional and predictable" finance for meeting the challenge of disasters.
Many of these requests closely parallel developing-country asks at the climate talks - and the response was not encouraging. The Conference did, in the end, adopt the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015 - 2030. The document sets out learning from previous agreements and contains targets for reducing mortality, numbers affected, economic losses, and infrastructure damage from disasters, and enhancing planning, international cooperation, and access to early warning systems and information. But there are issues: the framework's targets are extremely vague; the US has refused to endorse the section on technology transfer; and support is designed to be "adequate and sustainable," rather than additional, meaning that it may well come at the expense of other development support.
Please pray that the agreement, though weaker than desired, will indeed lead to substantial positive change for each of its targets; that technology transfer will enable countries better to prepare for and respond to disasters; and that poorer countries will receive the funding they need. Pray, too, that the difficulties in the negotiations will not negatively affect the preparations for Paris.
Nigeria is due to hold its postponed presidential election on Saturday, 28 March (BBC Election Guide). While the armed forces of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger have apparently succeeded in retaking considerable territory held by Boko Haram (the election delays were justified on the grounds that the military needed time for operations against Boko Haram), there is still considerable insecurity in some areas, and tensions are high across the country with reference to the election itself.
• that voters will have the opportunity to vote in peace and freedom
• that by God's grace there may be an outcome that the population as a whole are willing to accept as fair and the will of the people
• that those elected will have a heart for good government and seeking the welfare of the whole nation
The need for prayer is such that there are many prayer resources available. You might want to use:
• Aid to the Church in Need’s guide for a worldwide week of prayer (from 7 to 14 February)
• The list of prayers compiled by the Anglican Diocese of Guildford, which is linked with Nigeria (includes prayers from the UK and from Nigeria)
• Prayers from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, which is at the heart of the Boko Haram attacks
• Prayers in the Pentecostal tradition
Please pray for all affected by last Sunday's bombings of two Christian churches in Youhanabad, a settlement in Lahore (coverage: Express Tribune)
• for comfort and healing for those injured in the attacks, and for the families and friends of those who died or were injured - including a three-year-old girl who lost both her parents
• for the families and friends of two men, believed to be innocent, who were murdered by a vengeful mob that thought them to be linked to the bombings
• for the Christian community of Youhanabad as a whole, fearful of further violence, including reprisals for the two murdered men. Pray that they and those affected by the mob violence may be able to forgive, and that mutual respect may take the place of emnity between Christians and their neighbours.
Pray more generally that the government of Pakistan - which has been poor at protecting threatened religious and ethnic minorities - may improve in this area. Pray also for a change of heart among the militant groups who target minority communities.
Twin bombings of Shia mosques in Sanaa killed at least 137 people and wounded hundreds more. (Coverage: Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters) Pray for comfort and healing for those affected personally by the attacks - and more broadly for justice, peace and stability within Yemen as a whole.