- Red Hand Day
- Loving God and Neighbour in a Globalised World
- Short Notes: Syria, Zika, Taiwan Earthquake
The Revised Common Lectionary texts for this Sunday focus on the Transfiguration, when the glory of Christ was revealed to some of His disciples. In the reading from Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit."
This week, can we take time to meditate on and give thanks for the glory of God in Christ ... and to pray for the Spirit to shape us in Christ's image?
Red Hand Day
Red Hand Day (12 February) is a time to pray and campaign for an end to the use of child soldiers. The organisations supporting the initiative advocate for a comprehensive response to the continued misuse of child soldiers, including: laws to be implemented in all countries banning the use of any soldiers (including in reserves or non-combatant roles) under the age of 18; punishment of those responsible for using child soldiers at the International Criminal Courts; protection, assistance and asylum for those who have been child soldiers; a ban on weapons exports to countries where child soldiers are used; and peace education in schools. This approach aims to both prevent children being used as soldiers and to rehabilitate and gain a measure of justice for those who have been forced to fight.
While it is difficult to estimate the numbers of children involved in fighting in armed conflicts, it is clear that many conflicts including those in Afghanistan, Yemen, DRC and Nigeria continue to see thousands drawn in to committing violent acts, and that increases in violence in some of these areas are also seeing the numbers of child soldiers begin to rise again. Last year, for example, Yemen saw the numbers of children joining the Houthi rebels double. Human Rights Watch estimates that up to 1/3rd of fighters in Yemen (on all sides) are children. Most of these are teenagers but some children as young as 7 have also been seen to be working as soldiers. Children continue to work for the Yemen government forces, despite laws passed in 2014 prohibiting their use.
This week the death of a 10 year old Afghan boy, fighting alongside the Afghan Local Police and the video of a boy carrying out an Islamic State beheading have witnessed also to the presence of child soldiers in some of the most intractable conflicts of recent years. Whilst some children are forced or coerced into joining an armed group (such as those in South Sudan), in many cases, experiences of conflict (the loss of family members, the destruction of their homes or a lack of shelter, food and water) leave children so desperate, that armed groups appear to be the best option available.
Please pray for child soldiers:
- For permanent and lasting peace in the many countries where children are drawn into violence.
- That work to implement effective laws preventing the recruitment of child soldiers will continue and be successful, and that governments will enforce the laws which exist.
- For those children living through conflict who may begin to see violence as the only option. Pray that they will be helped to see other choices and will be brought safely out of conflict.
Loving God and Neighbour in a Globalised World
Fasting and penitence are two of the great themes of Lent, which starts next Wednesday, February 10th. The prayer that some churches use for Ash Wednesday asks that our hearts might be renewed as we re-turn to God and seek forgiveness:
Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.
In The Blue Mountains of China, Mennonite author Rudy Wiebe says, “In a Jesus society, you repent not by feeling bad but by thinking different." This statement has echoes of the redefinition of fasting found in Isaiah 58:
“…on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
During Lent, we will be offering a series of reflections exploring how we might repent and fast in this spirit. How might we think differently, tread lightly, show restraint or act positively - in our everyday lives and choices - to express our love of God, of our global neighbours and God’s world?
Our series begins next week with a reflection on our impact on the liberty of others, to coincide with Freedom Sunday on February 14th. In other weeks we will look at areas such as the world’s resources, the climate, wildlife and biodiversity, livelihoods and oppression.
We hope you will find these reflections helpful as we journey together through Lent and find new ways of living out our love of God and neighbour in a globalised world.
Short Notes: Syria, Zika, Taiwan
Please pray for all in Taiwan who have been affected by the recent earthquake and especially for those who have lost loved ones or homes. Pray that rescue and rebuilding efforts may be effective.
- The recent Russian and Syrian-government offensive around Aleppo is widely thought to be designed to break the moderate opposition, leaving the Assad government as the only alternative to radical Islamists. The UN Secretary-General has blamed it for the failure of the latest round of peace talks, and aid agencies fear its humanitarian impact. Please pray for those in the city and region, as well as for the tens of thousands who have fled towards Turkey. Pray that diplomatic meetings in Munich this week will help to re-establish the peace talks, negotiate a ceasefire, and assist the providers of humanitarian relief.
- The WHO has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern relating to clusters of microcephaly and neurological disorders that appear to be connected to the Zika virus. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is related to dengue, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. It was confirmed in the Americas in May 2015 and has since spread rapidly; the WHO estimates that there will be 3 to 4 million cases there in the next 12 months. The disease is often asymptomatic, but appears to affect the foetuses of some pregnant women who contract it: it is associated with clusters of children born with microcephaly, or significantly smaller than usual heads.
Le Monde calls the disease "the new scourge of poor mothers," for people living in poverty are at greater risk: less likely to have means of preventing mosquito bites and more likely to be in areas where insects breed. According to Le Monde, a Brazilian newspaper reported that 70% of the country's mothers with children suffering from microcephaly are living in extreme poverty.
Please pray for assistance for the mothers and children who have been affected. Give thanks for efforts to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds and to raise awareness of the need for preventive action, and pray that they will be effective. Give thanks that the WHO has moved quickly, and pray that this releases funding for innovative research on vaccines, diagnosis and treatment.