We are starting 2021!
Usually on the first day of the year, we look towards the future and ask ourselves about what this year holds to us.
In the Lectionary of today there are two well-known recommended Bible texts for meditation. Together, they can offer a vision that we are prompted to have in the beginning of the year: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 and Matthew 25:31-46.
In Ecclesiastes, we may find comfort knowing that there is a season for everything. It may help us deal with the anxieties of battling the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the first vaccines available and the alarm over an outbreak of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus. It sounds like “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:4).
The reflection about our time continues in the reading of the final judgment in Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (25:35-36).
“When was that time?” we may ask ourselves in our meditation. As World Day of Prayer, we hope that our services are one of those times that we cared for the other in prayer and action.
As we look forward to the year of 2021, let’s make it a time of trust in this God that is with us always and in all seasons. Let’s be #WDPUnitedInPrayer.
We wish you all a Happy New Year!
- Rosângela Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
As a child, I loved to hear this sentence! It meant that my family would soon be reunited. We wo uld have delicious meals and above all, lots of presents! As an adult, I also like this sentence, and I do have an incredibly long "to-do-list" for this festive period.
Today, in France, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are uncertain if we will be able to gather indoors with the extended family to celebrate Christmas. All the plans for big meals and presents seem useless and selfish. We may have to review our priorities to celebrate Christmas in light of what we have learned during this time of lockdown to control the spread of the COVID-19.
Christmas is coming, as well as World Day of Prayer on March 5th 2021. “Build on a strong Foundation” is the 2021 theme written by Christian women in Vanuatu. We listen to women’s voices through the worship service, which invites us to focus on the Bible story in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus tells a story about the kingdom of heaven using the image of a house and the land on which the house is built.
In Jesus’ story, the wisdom of the builder of the house comes from hearing and acting on the word of God, which is a word of love. This is the foundation on which our sisters in Vanuatu call us to build our homes, our nations and the world. A call of faith to be earnestly considered when responding to the prayer of commitment: “What is the house that you would build?”
Today, I know that what is essential and unique in each Christmas celebration is the human connection. Christmas could be an opportunity to say to my family and all my friends how much I love them. This is much more important than the gift I was running to get for each one of them.
The Christmas celebration is unique as well as World Day of Prayer. Every year it happens as a great gift. In the midst of the pandemic, it is like an opportunity to give the best of ourselves to the common good. In the face of the millions we have lost, who will be greatly missed in the family reunion, we commit to making Christmas an opportunity for transformation.
We are reminded by the women of Vanuatu that nothing prevents us from having our trust in God. I invite you to listen to the words of the angel to Mary, “Rejoice! The Lord has granted you a great favor. God is with you!” (Luke 1,28) Isn’t it the greatest of all promises?
Let us therefore celebrate Christmas affirming the foundation of the Gospel, which is God's love for the world. Friends of the WDP, feel blessed!
Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
WDP Croatia has been organizing workshops and lectures implementing an initiative, called ‘She shall be called woman’ – re/constructing women's identity in the Bible. This initiative began in January 2020 and will end in April 2021.
The project discusses female identity, acceptance, self-image, and values that women have before God. We want to contribute to the change in ourselves and in our environment, to be as the Creator imagines us to be, and to leave a mark on the people around us. We are encouraged to reflect on our actions as Christians.
In October 2020, we held a workshop on the Island Veli Losini, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The theme was “When God calls us to overcome fear”, based on Genesis 1-5 and the Book of Esther 2-9. We gathered 46 participants from 17 to 75 years old, from 9 Christian denominations, and 20 Croatian cities. Among them, 18 women were first timers. For those who were not able to come to the workshop, we enabled the Zoom platform for participants from Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia.
We are also thankful to God for guidance, protection and for keeping us safe from the coronavirus. We were allowed to meet and followed the proper protocols. We had a safe gathering! Praise the Lord! We are immensely grateful for our prayers have been answered.
In the first part of the workshop, we reflected on God`s plan for human beings (Genesis 1-5). The participants were asked to reflect on their fear and their responses, and identify if and why they would feel intimidated in their communities, churches and homes.
Many shared about their fear of speaking up for themselves, or to speak in front of their churches, or even to their husbands. Others said they felt there is no room for them to express what they could really do, apart from the pre-set roles given to them by the male authorities in their communities. One said that she felt in her Church like “an unwanted child.”
Reflecting on Genesis 1-5, we understood that the fall should never be construed as God's divine order for us. God created man and woman with gifts and ordained them to walk with Him and be as one, and He would meet the innermost needs of both of them.
In the second part of the workshop, we turned to the Book of Esther (2-9) and analysed what happens in situations of great fear. We read the story of Esther and how she changed her attitude from one of “accepting the situation” (passive) to “accepting God’s plan for her” (active resolution). Esther understood what was going on and looked for support in God and in her community. In her response, Esther’s fear was a trigger for her actions.
In conclusion, we recognized that religion, as well as the Bible, are an important part of women’s lives. However, we feel bad when we are told that we are less worthy or less equal to God. We are tired of being constantly pointed at as “guilty” for the first sin. None of that brings to light the many examples of women in the Bible who provided godly leadership. Rather, they are samples of the patriarchal interpretation of the Bible. However, we can read the Bible with an interpretation that fosters equality. When open to this perspective, we see women and men equally loved by God.
Esther’s courage was not an absence of fear. Rather, it withstands fear. We then discovered that the strongest source of courage in the face of fear is faith. When we place our faith in God, we find the courage to face what seems bigger than we can handle. Let’s be in the power of God!
- Senka Sestak Peterlin, WDP Croatia & WDPIC Regional Representative of Europe
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign is an opportunity to show collective actions and solidarity in efforts to end violence against women. The campaign runs from the 25th of November, United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to the 10th of December, UN Human Rights Day.
In 1993, the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against women defined violence against women “as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Approximately two-in-three women reported having experienced violence from their spouse in the Pacific island countries which is alarmingly high by world standards. The Christian Talanoa Network (House of Sara, Fiji) launched the Break the Silent Sunday to remove the culture of silence and shame around violence against women especially in faith-based settings.
UN Women reported that in Vanuatu, three in five women (60%) who have ever been in a relationship have experienced either physical or sexual violence (or both) by a husband or intimate partner. More than two in three (68%) experienced emotional violence.
Since the border closure in March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the number of domestic violence cases in Vanuatu has surged and almost tripled compared to the average reports for previous years, Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC) Research Officer Sharon Frank revealed. “Sometimes they won’t talk to anyone directly, like sharing with their friends or relatives, that they are facing that problem. It is quite hard. Here (in Vanuatu) they tend to be a bit shy, they would say I can handle this, I can face that but in reality, it is a silent killer as well if it is affecting emotionally and mentally, resulting in break-ups and broken homes,” said Laurina Liwuslili, Psychologist of Wamogo Counselling and Psychology Services.*
Word Day of Prayer joins the World Council of Churches campaign Thursday in Black to raise awareness and say NO to gender-based violence and rape.
On these 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, let’s break the silence in our families, churches, WDP committees and affirm women’s human rights to a life free of violence.
Let us pray,
Loving God, you are the one who desires that all people be brought into right relationship with one another and with you. Show us the path to justice and peace in our families, our communities and our world and fill us with your transforming power. AMEN.*
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
*(Domestic Violence Surge During Lockdown, sista.com.vu, 2020)
*(Prayer from Break the Silence Sunday Liturgical Resource)
As preparations for the 2021 Vanuatu WDP celebration started in many countries, WDPIC held an online conversation with WDP Vanuatu on October 23, 2020. Across 7 regions, 26 participants from 13 WDP committees came to the "Let's talk with Vanuatu" meeting.
The sisters in Vanuatu reflected on the 2021 theme "Build on a Strong Foundation" and informed on issues of child malnutrition, violence against women, the impact of COVID-19 on the islands and their plans for WDP 2021.
Annette Poitier, WDP Bahamas, was invited to offer the opening prayer, to which she responded with appreciation for being part of a group that prays. In her prayer, she thanked all for being together from different time zones, and affirmed that we know that we are standing on a firm foundation when we are standing on prayer.
“Build on a Strong Foundation, it is really an exciting theme. When we think about it, we automatically switch to our country motto ‘In God we stand’. Without God we can do nothing. Our country’s development after 40 years of independence reflects our belief that in God, we stand. In these uncertain times, the theme becomes very relevant to the world and to us. We hope that all will build their foundation on God alone, and then all things will be added,” affirmed Cindy Vanuaroro, from WDP Vanuatu.
Through the country background information and the worship service’s prayers, we learned about some of the challenges in Vanuatu, to which Ruth Dovo, WDP Vanuatu, offered some updates. According to Ruth, Vanuatu is experiencing a double disaster: the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Category 5 Cyclone Harold that hit the islands in April 2020. The cyclone season is from October to March, and although the people are resilient and prepared for the season, sometimes the destruction is more than what was anticipated. Now, the communities affected are recovering thanks to the support of organizations and churches.
Vanuatu is rich in natural resources like the fertile land and ocean, but some children may face malnutrition. This could be addressed with parental education, to help the families understand how to feed the children well.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the tourism industry leaving many unemployed. All the frustrations caused by this economic situation can be seen in the rise of domestic violence. That being said, this situation has also created an opportunity for Vanuatu to go back to its agricultural roots. Now, everybody is farming and gardening because it is not known when the COVID-19 situation will be finished. People are encouraged to have their own gardens for their own consumption and for commercialization.
When, Pollyanna Banga, WDP Vanuatu, last visited her home island, she got very excited. She comes from one of the islands where a volcano erupted and the people were evacuated. They are coming back and settling down, and women and young people are gardening. They started to plant again, and now they are harvesting the crop and living on that. “It is a good thing,” said Pollyanna joyfully.
Ruth Dovo is grateful for the government task force’s response to COVID-19. One of the issues they dealt with was the repatriation of seasonal workers from Australia and New Zealand, who had to quarantine for 14 days. The policy may have contributed to Vanuatu being considered COVID-19 free, which is very important, as the medical facilities are too limited to deal with an outbreak.
WDP committee representatives of Australia and New Zealand expressed their concern with the impact of the country’s closing borders to the seasonal workers from Vanuatu, whose families depend on them.
In regards to plans for the celebrations in 2021, WDP Vanuatu created a working committee to organize several workshops for the empowerment of women, the worship service, a festive parade, and a big lunch with cultural performances. “Vanuatu is a Christian country,” continued Ruth, “so women in the church come to assist with prayers and support. We go through different challenges all the time, but we believe in God and know we are not alone. God is with us.”
In the midst of the uncertainties, one thing we can say for sure, "we are covering Vanuatu in our prayers," concluded Janice Soyer-Delaney, from WDP Tobago. WDPIC thanks everyone who participated in the conversation, which was adjourned with Ruth reciting the Lord’s Prayer in her mother tongue from the Pentecost Island.
Watch a video summary on our Youtube channel!
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Committee
There is a long history of sisterhood between World Day of Prayer (WDP) and Fellowship of Least Coin (FLC). We share our prayers, responses and leadership in the global ecumenical movement led by women. As, we approach the time of the Annual Meeting of the International Committee for the FLC, we invite you to join the Circle of Prayer. As a member of the Fellowship of Least Coin prayer movement, World Day of Prayer will be represented at the online Annual Meeting, from October 13-16.
You can join the Circle of Prayer, by accessing the online publication here, which has devotional thoughts and prayers to be used when "participating with the 'least coin.' You are invited to set aside the 'least coin' to a common fund which is used for ministries of mercy which create Christian community across national, racial, cultural, economic and denominational lines; and for work for justice and peace throughout the world.”
The theme of Volume 25 of the Circle of Prayer, which was convened by Rev. Yamina Apolinaris-Concepción, is “We lift our voices for the integrity and well-being of God’s creation.”
As Liza B. Lamis, Executive Secretary ICFLC, says in the Forward section of the Circle of Prayer:
“We lift different voices from around the world – from different contexts, social locations and personal experiences. Not just to reflect on our particular experiences, but to pray for our needs to make our world a better one to live better lives.
Women belong to the group or voices that are “the preferably unheard”. But here we are, raising our voices to be heard by more people, and raising our prayers to God who hears and sees. We do not want our world to rot, nor do we want to be still exhorted to remain silent. Now we speak, and with this voice and speech of our realities, we utter our prayers for the wellbeing of all of God’s creation.”
As WDPIC chairperson, I have the opportunity to represent our movement at this table and share our common concern. In the Circle of Prayer, together with WDPIC Executive Director, Rosângela Oliveira, we offered a prayer for our responsibility to care for the environment as written by the women from WDP Suriname. May God nurture our heart and witness in love. Amen.
- Laurence Gangloff, WDPIC Chairperson
A oração é o melhor presente que podemos oferecer às pessoas em qualquer tempo e ainda mais durante uma pandemia. É isso que queremos proporcionar a todas e todos por intermédio do Dia Mundial de Oração.
A oração une os corações em comunhão com Deus e nos aproxima mesmo estando distantes, porque olhamos todas para nosso Senhor que nos dá o socorro. Não importa a hora, o lugar, ou o número, pois o Senhor não dorme e nos guarda hoje e sempre.
Com os nossos próprios olhos não conseguimos ver aquilo que Deus tem para nós, mas através da oração o nosso coração vê com os olhos da esperança e da alegria que vem Deus. Vemos então que Deus nos fortalece para prosseguirmos com responsabilidade no cuidado da saúde e na prevenção da transmissão do Coronavirus em nossas famílias e communidades.
Deus nos ama infinitamente, e este amor nos acolhe quando em oração estamos diante Dele. Deus nos ensina que precisamos orar umas pelas outras com fé e esperança e buscar socorro onde se pode achar. Por isso elevamos nossos olhos com humildade e pedimos:
Guarda nossa vida,
guarda nossa alma,
não nos deixe falhar,
mas enche-nos com a alegria que vem de ti
para que também possamos levar essa esperança para todas e todos que precisam.
Concordamos em unidade, que Deus nos ouve e nos oferece o socorro que precisamos para vencer a pandemia do COVID-19. Em meio a profunda dor pelas vidas perdidas no Brasil e na América Latina, encontramos consolo no nosso Deus eterno. No sofrimento, apelamos a Deus, fonte de sabedoria e cura que o mundo precisa.
O Senhor está conosco em todo o tempo e nos guardará de todo o mal, agora e para sempre! Amém
- Esther Susana M. Renner, Representante Regional de Latinoamérica en el CIDMO
The World Day of Prayer movement, which had started in 1927, reached the land of the Holy One in the 60s of the twentieth century. It was no surprise or coincidence that participation started from Jerusalem, the city of the resurrection, where Jesus, on his way to be crucified, had advised the lamenting women: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me: weep rather for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28-31).
Jesus Christ was warning of the difficulties to come and how women would have to bear responsibility, care for others and be compassionate. This warning is still relevant today in His land and any other land where injustice is rampant.
Since WDP is a women’s led ecumenical initiative, a small group of women of different denominations, already active in education and social work, observed the yearly worship service on the first Friday of March, reading the prayers written from countries around the world. In a city which is the seat of all thirteen recognized churches, the yearly worship service was first held in the protestant churches, hence the involvement of pastors’ wives in organizing and calling upon their ecumenical sisters. It is important to note that almost all Christian families are interconnected with other denominations by marriage.
However, the responsibilities of women differ from one church to the other and it is only very recently that women are part of decision-making bodies in the Church. Through its connections with active women’s organizations the World Day of Prayer group earned a special status above the usual decorating the church, preparing refreshments and singing in choirs. The global connection brought awareness to common women’s needs. Soon small changes became evident, especially after Aida Haddad, the wife of late Lutheran Bishop, Daoud Haddad, became the coordinator of WDP Palestine. Locally, services started being held in different churches and were extended to cities outside Jerusalem such as Ramallah, the Bethlehem and Nablus regions as well as in the Galilee. Regionally, links were built with WDP in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt; and internationally, the women of Jerusalem became members of the International Committee of the World Day of Prayer. Aida Haddad, from the Lutheran Church, served for two terms, followed by Leila Carmi, Roman Catholic Church, for two terms; and Nora Carmi, Armenian Apostolic Church, is currently in her second term.
The challenging turning point came when Palestine was selected to write the service for the 1994 worship service under the theme “Go, See and Act”. This was an opportunity to pray with, share facts and concerns, and call upon prayerful actions from the global family. An ecumenical team was nominated by leaders of five churches in Jerusalem to produce the worship service, and in coordination with the WDP International Committee, the prayers were shared with all communities. Once again, the women heard the call of the Savior, as the daughters of Jerusalem had done, and courageously exposed why the world still did not know “the things that make for peace”. Thirty years later, WDP Palestine has once again been given the opportunity to write the worship service for 2024, this time trying to live according to the principle of: “I beg with you… bear with one another in love” (Ephesian 4:1-3).
The task is not easy. Reading the 1994 service again, which was included recently in the book: Christian Theology in the Palestinian Context published by AphorismA, one realizes that the call to the daughters of Jerusalem is even stronger today. The responsibility to care and work for the dignity of humankind is more urgent. Locally, there is still an unjust military occupation that violates all rights and demeans humanity. Regionally and globally, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the lives of human beings, and above all, the nuclear threat of powerful countries is hovering over God’s beautiful creation. With all the efforts of peacemakers to respect and abide by international laws, one basic principle, which is the foundation of peace, is missing LOVE. As the daughters of Jerusalem prepare to write the WDP 2024 prayers, they know that justice with compassion is needed today for His land, in the Middle East and the rest of the world. In WDP words, this is our motto “Informed prayer. Prayerful action”.
Dear Sisters, have you heard the same call as the daughters of Jerusalem to go and tell the truth till the ends of the world? Love one another and do the will of God.
- Nora Carmi, WDPIC Regional Representative of the Middle East
A new decade started and I was hopeful, but something happened that challenged my hope. I did not see the warning signs of the Coronavirus when it hit Europe during February/March 2020. At the beginning I did not know what was happening and did not realize that the virus was not like the flu I had known before. Europe and the whole world have been in full lockdown. People were asked to stay at home and to leave only for groceries, medicine and potentially to go to work. The world’s economy was greatly impacted and in-person meetings were forbidden to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus.
In some European countries, WDP women were not able to celebrate the 2020 program written by WDP Zimbabwe. They did receive the booklets of the 2020 program, so they could have at least an overview and a sense of the Zimbabwe celebration. However, it was not enough and we needed to find ways to communicate differently.
As physical distancing became the norm, people started to organise themselves and become creative. How to stay in touch? How to meet as national/regional/local committees? How to start planning for the 2021 Vanuatu program?
Most of the European committees are already using social media but at times it does not feel like it is enough and it is too difficult to use. It is at this moment that I discovered the means of videoconferencing, which had been used for the Executive Committee meeting organized by the WDPIC office in New York. In the beginning, I was hesitant but I understood that we need to be innovative. After some tests, most of the WDP women using this means are thankful that they can get in touch again. Yes, we are still here and the movement is still alive!
Although videoconferencing may have its limits it is a vital way to stay connected. However, there are limitations that need to be taken into consideration, otherwise some WDP members will be left behind. It may be easy to assume that the problem is aging, but the main issue with online services is connectivity. Depending on where someone lives, internet access and good networks are not always available. Many people still rely on printed materials and physical connections. It is one of the many challenges in the foreseeable future.
Social media and communication applications have helped us overcome the feeling of isolation. Through videoconferencing, I realised that we have not yet ran out of all communication possibilities. It is a new exciting journey. As we keep an eye on the pandemic, we also need to make sure no one is left behind on this journey. This pandemic has brought to light that WDP women will always find a way to keep the movement alive, and that we will never give up. We are resilient, we persevere and we rise!
Blessings to all and stay safe!
- Emmanuelle Bauer, WDPIC Regional Representative of Europe
Last year while reaping green peas from the kitchen garden, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through a parable. I tried to shake the notion that it was indeed the Holy Spirit, but the stories being poured into my spirit confirmed it, and there was no doubt.
I saw in the garden that there were a number of green pea trees of similar height growing in several garden rows, but I was taller than all of them. I could not count the leaves; I could not count the green peas growing on them.
The pea pods grow in clusters of varying numbers which were mostly identical in size and color. The color of the peas was green; however, some were red, and some had spots, all in the same pod.
There were young pods - the peas not fully developed. There were old pods - the peas that had dried while still on the tree.
There were peas with holes caused by worms, still in the pod.
There were green leaves, yellow leaves, and dried leaves on the trees, as well as on the ground.
There were blossoms on the trees. There were bumble bees feeding at the blossoms. There were spiders casting webs between the leaves and the trees to block the path of the reaper. The webs are traps for the spider’s food and for it to rest, even though they are a bother to me.
This garden, full of life, is like us – the children of God. Every aspect of these food bearing trees was given a purpose.
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members, one of another” (Romans 12:4-5)
The Spirit showed me individuals in families, in churches, in World Day of Prayer (WDP) groups, in villages, in communities on God’s earth, all with the same beginning. As we all grow, various things happen in our lives which caused us to develop. But the development for each person or family, church, WDP committee, and definitely a village, are different.
We have all been given the gifts and promises by God with the opportunities to thrive and to flourish. Yet not everyone thrives and flourishes, or makes it to the ‘pot’. Circumstances cause us to fall or fail.
The Holy Spirit taught me through a garden patch of green peas that, the color of our skin, the way we have developed, financially, socially, psychologically or otherwise, does not separate us from God. Even though these things separate us from each other at times, we were all created by the same God who loves us all the same.
I did not attend to the pea trees in their infancy. I was not the planter. I did not know them intimately, but God did. The trees grew and the branches touched each other across the garden rows. The Holy Spirit helps us to thrive and flourish in the situation we find ourselves in. Like the bumble bee going from blossom to blossom, the Holy Spirit comes to us to teach us the truth and to guide us.
- Rev. Ruth V. E. Phillips, WDPIC Caribbean & North America Regional Representative