Ripples of WDP 2018
From June 13th - 17th women church leaders participated in the Certificate Course of Ecumenical Formation for Gender Justice. The course was organized by Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India in partnership with Women’s Fellowship of Church of South India and Australian Church Women Inc. Together we sang the song above as we blessed a tree in our vicinity and mother Earth. We danced and celebrated life by affirming ‘All God’s Creation is Very Good.’
World Day Prayer (WDP) 2018 had rippling effects throughout India. Not only did women church leaders commemorate WDP, and come to learn about Suriname, they also renewed their commitment to reflect their faith in action. An eco-pilgrimage was organized in a Visthar campus, a secular civil society organization committed to social justice and peace.
During the eco-pilgrimage we visited different eco-sanctuaries including an abandoned well, which we blessed together. The well is a symbol of life in Indian traditions as water sustains life. Indian women play a crucial role in daily water management. They suffer the most when wells dry up and rivers get polluted. They are forced to walk longer distances to find water and face gender based violence on unsafe roads. Visiting the well in Visthar helped us renew our spirituality to share the unheard stories of the indigenous, rural and urban women who make an effort to heal the wounds of mother Earth, like the rural women of the Himalayan region who spearheaded the Chipko Andolan, a nonviolent social and ecological movement aimed at protecting trees slated for government-backed logging. The Hindi word chipko means “to hug” or “to cling to” and reflects the demonstrators’ primary tactic of embracing the trees to impede the loggers.
Participants of the Certificate Course for Gender Justice included 33 women leaders, man pastors, and missionaries. Men were also involved because, as pastors and missionaries, they need to be empowered to build inclusive communities that can end gender based violence. We also wanted to create awareness among them about how prayer movements like WDP can be used to promote gender justice.
This course provided a scope not only to explore strategies and discover methods to deal with the pandemic of gender based violence in India, but also explore the nexus between ecological devastation and violence against women and children. While environmental degradation affects women most, rural and indigenous women who are aware about conserving nature and environmental issues, have been able to make a significant difference to the environment in tangible ways. They are inspiring examples in water conservation, waste management, energy efficiency at home and family planning. Women environmental activists have also proven to change the status of women, particularly in rural communities, creating empowerment opportunities beyond the environmental benefits.
This movement of ‘Informed Prayer & Prayerful Action’ provides Indian churches and women’s fellowships in churches the opportunity to promote the ‘Thursdays in Black Campaign’ to create a ‘World Free of Rape and Sexual Abuse’. Women and girls are at high risk of getting raped in India and many children face sexual abuse including boys. World Day of Prayer is helping equip church leaders and communities with the awareness to promote gender justice in India.
- Moumita Biswas, WDPIC Asia Regional Rep.
From its founding in 1918, the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada (WICC) has been responding to injustice. Next weekend, on June 23rd, the WICC will be celebrating its 100th anniversary under the theme The Joy of Justice!
In 1918, most, but not all, Canadian women gained the right to vote, but women were excluded from holding public office until 1929 when they were finally considered persons under Canadian law. Women of the Church were often similarly restricted in leadership except in their missionary societies.
Inter-Board Committee of the Women’s Missionary Societies
Bessie McMurchy invited representatives of five women’s missionary boards—Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian—to meet together to “promote the spread Christ’s kingdom by united prayer, united action, and a stronger voice in national questions.”
This committee was the first national ecumenical organization in our country. Its first national interdenominational women’s day of prayer was held in Lindsay, Ontario on January 9, 1920. A suggested worship outline was prepared by a small committee and printed. By 1922, the committee and its American counterpart were preparing national prayer services under a common theme, sowing the seeds of an international day of prayer.
The committee changed its name a few times as more denominations joined their movement but settled on the “Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada” in 1946. The name reflects an expansion beyond missionary societies. Today, our council includes representatives from ten denominations.
Vision and Mission
From our roots in mission, WICC formed a vision: restoring hope to women touched by injustice. We fulfil that vison by empowering Christians to pursue justice, peace and reconciliation by standing together in prayer and action. Our vision and mission are rooted in the value we find in faith, justice, prayer, solidarity, and respect.
Our World Day of Prayer grant program is our response to injustices in Canada, Central and South America, Africa and Asia.
Just like the people of Suriname, Sri Lanka has been blessed with natural beauty and resources. Unfortunately, there are people who do not care for the environment and are irresponsible in the way they relate to God’s blessings upon this land. Although the Sri Lankan Government has tried to create policies and make our people aware of the crisis we are facing, implementations of these policies have been quite a challenge. There is a need for infra-structure change and educational campaigns. By raising awareness of how important it is to protect God’s creation, the World Day or Prayer Suriname service challenged our people, especially Christians, to not only pray but act as well.
To give an example, Sri Lankans usually use plastic lunch papers to packet our rice meals. These plastic papers take around 100 years to disintegrate. At a National Asian Women’s Conference service the speaker, Bishop Dhilloraj Canagasabey, challenged us to take care of our environment beginning in our homes. He pointed out how we were destroying our environment by the use of this plastic paper. When I analysed this, I realised that in my household alone, I was using at least 10 lunch sheets a day, which worked out to 40 in just a week. Multiply this by thirty – 1,200 in a month, which ultimately ends up in at least 14,400/- a year!
Having realized how irresponsible my family and I have been, we switched to using reusable lunch boxes for carrying our food, saving so much paper from ruining our immediate environment. I shared my experience with the ladies present at the service, and they felt challenged like I was. We, as individuals can make a difference to our environment. The change begins with us! The super powers, spending millions of dollars to sit and discuss how our planet can be saved, need to be called upon to take this matter seriously. Discussion alone is not the solution, action is required.
At the WDP service, we distributed little cards with a picture of the sea turtle. We asked each one present to make a commitment on how they could positively contribute to preserving the environment. Instead of having them drop these commitment cards in the offering bag, we requested them to keep it (maybe in their Bibles) to be reminded of the commitment they made. Each one of us has a responsible contribution to make this a better place not only for us but for the future generations as well. It has to begin with us, and World Day of Prayer Sri Lanka has taken the initiative to make a difference.
Whilst we are not alone, garbage disposal is a big problem in Sri Lanka. An educational door-to-door campaign by the name ‘No Kunu’ (No Garbage), organized by Sumi Moonesinghe, has been launched in the country and has already reached a few cities. A video clip for the campaign is also available on Youtube. Click here to watch the video:
The World Day of Prayer motto ‘Informed prayer - Prayerful action’ keeps us on the vision of our prayer responsibility and positive action towards our world. Let’s continue educating ourselves, and people from all parts of the world, to make every effort to protect our environment, as every little rain drop helps make the mighty ocean!
Thank you WDP Suriname for bringing this matter to the forefront!
- Vino Schubert, WDPIC Asia Regional Rep.