This week's prayers:
- Climate Developments
- World Youth Day
- In Brief: Conflicts and Peacemakers
"Lord, teach us to pray." The Revised Common Lectionary readings this week show Christ instructing his disciples in prayer. He gives them the Lord's Prayer - and also encourages them to persevere, knowing that God loves to give us good gifts. A huge encouragement to all His followers ... then and now.
Recent weeks have seen some encouraging evidence of climate action at national and international level:
- Germany has begun the process of ratifying the Paris Agreement and has pledged to ratify in 2016, joining France, which has already ratified it.
- Parliament passed the fifth carbon budget, which commits us to cutting carbon emissions by 57% by 2032. This may not be enough to meet our Paris commitments, but it is a significant step. Government also reaffirmed its commitment to ratification of the Paris Agreement - and while the merger of the erstwhile Department of Energy and Climate Change into the new Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is controversial, the appointments made as Secretary of State for BEIS (Greg Clark) and Climate Minister (Nick Hurd) are encouraging.
- World leaders in Vienna continued talks towards an agreement on 'phasing down' hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases. It's been suggested that "an ambitious phase down could reduce global warming by .9°F by the end of the century."
There's also been encouraging news at more local levels:
- Cities, many of which are leading the way on climate action, continue to set ambitious targets. This week, for example, Oslo City Council voted to reduce its emissions by 95% (over 1990 levels) by 2030.
- Evidence is emerging that lifestyle changes really can make a difference. One recent study showed that each vehicle used for one-way car sharing could reduce emissions by nearly 13 metric tons a year: in Seattle, such a car-sharing scheme reduced the city's emissions by 9,000 metric tons in 2015.
- The first phase of the Tearfund/Christian Aid campaign to help Christians and churches switch to green energy resulted in over 400 churches registering to switch - and the agencies have held a second phase to encourage more to join in.
- We've been very encouraged by hearing about the results of Hope for the Future's work with churches and MPs. You won't generally see press releases about what Hope for the Future do, as they work quietly behind the scenes to build positive relationships for climate action, but they are doing some very fine work.
These positive developments need to be reinforced by even more action - for the change that is already happening is sobering. The month of June saw record heat for land and oceans - the fourteenth consecutive month to do so. Indeed, the World Meteorological Organization this week released a press statement highlighting the extreme changes in our climate:
- temperatures in January to June 2016 were estimated at 1.05 degrees (NOAA) and 1.3 degrees (NASA) warmer than in the pre-industrial era
- the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been above 400 parts per million all year and there was a "surprising increase" in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in June
- Arctic sea ice is at near record lows for late July, and June sea ice hit a record low (as it had in five of six months in the first half of 2016)
- there has been unprecedented coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef (very powerful video)
All this is large scale. But as the press statement came out, temperatures in Basra, Iraq, hit 53.9 degrees - the highest temperature ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere. In other parts of the Middle East, the combination of high temperatures and high humidity meant that the 'heat index' (how hot air really feels) exceeded the limits of the scale designed to measure them. Journalists recalled a study that had suggested that failing to limit emissions could leave portions of the Middle East uninhabitable.
Taking the opportunity to recommit ourselves to care for creation and for each other, please pray:
- in thanksgiving for actions taken to increase social and environmental sustainability and reduce emissions
- for wisdom and discernment for those deciding the future of the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear plant project
- for wisdom and discernment for those shaping the new Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy
- for those who are preparing a UN Summit on 21 September, at which countries will be invited to deposit their instruments of ratification for the Paris Agreement. Please pray that as many countries as possible will participate.
- that we will be encouraged by initiatives such as car-sharing clubs, the Big Church Switch and Hope for the Future. Pray that we will understand the power that we have to make a difference - and will seize the opportunity to work for the common good.
- for people affected by the extreme heat in the Middle East and especially for those whose working and/or living conditions leave them unable to escape the heat
World Youth Day
You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words? Pope Francis, Message for WYD
This week from 25 to 31 July more than 335,000 young Catholics (and companions) from around the world will gather for World Youth Day in Krakow. The theme is "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7) and participants will spend time in pilgrimage, worship, prayer, sharing and learning, exploring God's mercy and the mercy we are called to show.
The official pilgrim prayer begins:
God, merciful Father,
in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.
We entrust to you in a special way
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent,
forgiveness to those who have done wrong
and joy to those who are unhappy.
Allow the spark of merciful love
that you have enkindled within us
become a fire that can transform hearts
and renew the face of the earth.
Might you use it in your services or private prayers at some point in the next week? At a time where there is so much concern about the pressures on young people, it's a beautiful way for all of us to pray together in hope. There's also a lovely theme song - another helpful aid to prayer.
In Brief: Conflicts and Peacemakers
Please hold in your prayers ....
the continued peace talks in Yemen. Pray also for a long overdue consideration by the Foreign Office of whether the Saudi-led coalition has observed international human rights law ... and more broadly for honesty about the human rights implications of government support to foreign parties
- those affected by the two attacks in Germany this week, especially the families of the young people who were killed in Munich.
- the people of Turkey, in the turbulent times surrounding last week's attempted coup
- those affected by the conflict in South Sudan. Pray that the ceasefire continues to hold and for those affected by the food crisis which the recent fighting and looting has exacerbated, as this account from a Tearfund partner shows. Pray for those who have fled the fighting (Lutheran World Federation, ACT Alliance) and for the host areas receiving them. Pray for wisdom and safety for all people involved in peacemaking and for the work and witness of the churches.
- the people affected by today's bombing in Kabul (BBC, Al Jazeera), which has been claimed by the Islamic State. Pray that this does not inflame tensions among ethnic groups in the country or inspire further Shia/Sunni violence. Pray for encouragement for those who seek to build up respect for justice, peace and the dignity of all people in Afghanistan - people like the Art Lords. Pray for Christians in Afghanistan.