Rice is the staple food in India, and women are the carriers of this cultural practice. About 70% of rural women, especially indigenous women, are farmers - though their labor is not always recognized. Traditionally rural and indigenous women, who are the custodians of native seeds, tend the paddy, harvest the crop that sustain the family and small-scale farming economy of the country.
In the North Eastern region of India, surrounded by lush green mountains, there are indigenous Christian women who also found in that labor a way to contribute to the communities through their participation in the church ministry.
Since the missionary movement in the early 1910, when people in the North Eastern part of India did not know much about the Gospel, Mizo women in Mizoram state and Kashi tribe women in Meghalaya, were very aware of how they could participate in God’s mission.
They placed a pot near the fireplace where they cook and labeled it ‘God’s Pot’. No matter how little they have for themselves, they set aside one handful of rice from every meal they prepared. After a month, they would sell the collected rice and use the money to support missionaries and their outreach mission activities to take care of orphans, the destitute and those in need in their own communities.
The participation of women during the missionary years is the same mission context that originated World Day of Prayer in North America. When women are aware of the needs of their communities, they want to do something. In the giving of their labor, women in the North Eastern part of India reflected their prayer and faith.
Within the Presbyterian Church of India, this practice is known as ‘Handful of Rice’. In the World Day of Prayer, we call it “informed prayer and prayerful action”.
Both perspectives meet during the common day of prayer on the first Friday of March. The rice put aside is a gesture of prayer for the church – who still does not ordain women in India, for the home – where domestic violence is high, and for the country – where rural and indigenous communities’ struggle not only with poverty but with various forms of gender based violence.
On this past celebration, motivated by the program written by WDP Slovenia, women from India came together in prayer and were thankful for God’s call – Come – everything is ready!
- Rev. Moumita Biswas, WDPIC Asia Regionl Representative
“I am Merlyn, from Mindanao. When I was 15 years old, I was forced to seek employment after my parents died. I said I was 18 years old and boarded a ship with a recruiter to the big city of Manila. The agency assigned me to work for a family and I worked almost 24/7 without a day-off. After 3 months, I did not receive any salary, so I resigned. My employer filed a complaint against me for qualified theft. She accused me of stealing. I was put in a detention cell for 3 days. With the help of a Christian lawyer, I won my case against my employer on unfair labor practices and received compensation.
My story is that of many young girls who come from rural areas, and the ones that leave our country as overseas workers. Forced by economic circumstances, we migrate to the urban centers and abroad. We are often abused, and experience economic injustice…”
This excerpt was taken from the World Day of Prayer 2017 worship service program written by the WDP Philippines committee. Given the theme “Am I Being Unfair to You?” based on the bible story Matthew 20:1-16, the committee decided to focus on the unjust labor practices in their country and bring awareness to the struggles the women, men, and sometimes children, face. The men face high unemployment rates and the women are overworked, underpaid, and taken advantage of.
Due to increasing costs of living, many men and women decide to work abroad in order to find better paying jobs. This often impacts the family negatively. Families break up and children begin to do poorly in school. The country has passed laws to protect workers but implementation is lacking.
With the support and offering received from the World Day of Prayer, the WDP Philippines committee took its first steps in tackling these issues. They supported two Mangyan (indigenous people) lay missionary empowerment projects. The first entails Bible study sessions for the women participating. They are mentored by women leaders to attend conferences, WDP events, seminars, and training sessions. The second project involved teaching the Mangyans of Mindoro, to weave baskets and trays so they can promote their culture and simultaneously make a living. Their products were marketed at conferences and community events to support their progress.
Through the WDP service the question presented is - What can be done to create a better world? Every day, women and men in the Philippines bear the responsibilities of providing for their families in the face of unfair labor practices. Through these offerings the WDP Philippines committee was able to make a small change in the lives of some.
“We will not lose hope. We will continue to be resourceful and mentor our children until even just a glimmer of light shines through to guide us.” – Prima Formilleza, WDP Philippines Chairperson
- Based on reports received from WDP Philippines
En 2016, el comité del Día Mundial de Oración de Cuba escribió el programa bajo el tema “Al recibir a las niñas y los niños, me reciben a mí” basado en Marcos 10: 13-16. El tema nos llevó a crear nuevas iniciativas, que con gratitud en nuestro corazón hemos dado seguimiento a la atención a los niños y las niñas, los protagonistas de la celebración en 2016. Les compartimos un poco de lo que hemos hecho.
Al coro creado de niños y niñas provenientes de zonas vulnerables, les impartimos clases de música y de formación de valores. Hemos trabajado también con niños y niñas con síndrome de Down usando las artes visuales como instrumento para su inclusión social. En Holguín, hemos dado acompañamiento material y pastoral a niños y niñas cuyas madres están presas. Y hemos propiciado el compartir celebrativo de niños y familias en situaciones vulnerables, tanto en los barrios como en las iglesias.
Gracias a una ofrenda para apoyo psicológico, pudimos apoyar y acompañar a algunas familias de las víctimas del accidente aéreo de Mayo de 2018, donde 17 niños provenientes de las familias pastorales se quedaron huérfanos.
Muchas mujeres se han capacitado y hemos podido desplegar un trabajo de prevención con mujeres y adolescentes que estaban viviendo en situación de violencia. En algunas escuelas secundarias en Cuba se introdujo la temática del “anti-bullying” (acoso escolar).
En la zona oriental del país, organizamos un evento formativo con 300 mujeres de diferentes denominaciones donde promovemos el movimiento del Día Mundial de Oración. En el marco de este evento apoyamos a mujeres jóvenes que perdieron sus casas a raíz del paso de un terrible huracán. Muchas personas e iglesias que no conocían el DMO se animaran a celébralo por primera vez.
Uno de nuestros encuentros más transformadores ha sido la colaboración con el Proyecto Cuidándonos entre Hermanas. Este es un espacio de convivencia formativa y terapéutica para que las mujeres desarrollen la sanación personal y se capaciten con herramientas para el cuidado pastoral.
A partir de la celebración del DMO 2016, el movimiento del Día Mundial de Oración en Cuba se ha fortalecido con numerosas alianzas ecuménicas y la inclusión de mujeres jóvenes. Durante todo el año nos involucramos con las actividades formativas del Programa Mujer y Género, que movilizan a mujeres de diferentes denominaciones, incluyendo a la Iglesia Católica. Dentro de estas actividades se cuentan la Jornada de la No Violencia hacia las mujeres y las niñas, los cursos de promotoras, la Semana de Oración por la Unidad, los encuentros de comunión y retiros de la red de mujeres Débora.
Al mismo tiempo, dimos continuidad a proyectos apoyados por la Sociedad Bíblica de Australia y la Comisión Bíblica de Cuba. Esta alianza de colaboración nos provee de literatura para el trabajo de prevención de la No Violencia entre las nuevas generaciones, así como la disponibilidad de la Biblia ISHA para el trabajo con mujeres.
En Cuba hoy hay una serie de actividades y programas que resultaron de las ofrendas recibidas de la red internacional del DMO. El impacto es sentido desde nuevas iniciativas en conjunto con el Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba hasta el fortalecimiento del DMO en las comunidades reportado aquí por Midiam Lobaina, Reverenda María Yi Reyna y Ruth Trueba. Con el apoyo de los coordinadores territoriales del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba en la difusión de los materiales del DMO (vía impresa y digital) y la coordinación de las celebraciones en las varias de las provincias de Cuba, hemos logrado fortalecer la presencia de un comité provincial del DMO. Hemos estado presentes en cada región del país, como por ejemplo, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, y Guantánamo. Esto hay permitido que nuevas iglesias se han sumado a las celebraciones.
El Día Mundial de Oración en Cuba, no sólo se activa durante el primer viernes de marzo sino que permanece tejiendo acciones concretas orientadas hacia el empoderamiento de la mujer cristiana, promoviendo espacios de espiritualidad, formación y oración.
- Ruth Mariet Trueba Castro (Coordinadora del DMO en Cuba), Midiam Lobaina (Miembro del Comité Escritor del DMO Cuba 2016), y Reverenda María Yi Reyna (Iglesia Los Amigos Cuáqueros en Holguín, Coordinadora del Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba en la provincia de Holguín)
Within the Africa Region there have been several initiatives taken for the capacity building of women leadership and the promotion of campaigns geared towards ending sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The World Day of Prayer national activities in Ghana are a part of the Gender and Women’s Programme of the Christian Council of Ghana. Apart from the WDP celebration every first Friday of March, the Council is also involved in organizing capacity building events for women leaders. In 2018, various leadership seminars were held with special attention given to SGBV topics and issues. During a training session in Abokobi, Ghana, participants signed on to join the Thursdays in Black campaign.
In Zambia, the WDP committee hosted the 2nd Sub-Regional conference for Southern Africa under the theme “Pray without Ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:12 -17). It was attended by 73 participants including WDP members from committees in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia.
At the meeting it was decided that each country present would commit to and observe the Thursdays in Black Campaign.
The WDPIC regional representative from Africa – Joyce Larko Steiner, was present to facilitate and share materials and news from the WDPIC office.
Learn more about the Thursdays in Black campaign here.
- Joyce Larko Steiner, WDPIC Africa Regional Rep.
In 2012, the women of WDP Malaysia wrote the World Day of Prayer worship service under the theme “Let Justice Prevail” based on Luke 18:1-8. The WDP offering is a sign of our worldwide prayers, as we can learn with our sisters in Malaysia, who dedicated the offerings to support the following projects that involve women and children - Elshaddi Learning Center, Project Hope, Malaysian Care, Single’s Mothers Home, Sengoi Educational Development Program, and Indigenous women’s training.
There are more than 19,000 refugee children in Malaysia and the numbers are increasing. These children are denied entry into government schools and private schools are very expensive. Education is the basic right of children and without an education these children face a bleak future. The Elshaddai Learning Center caters to refugee children and offers both primary and secondary education. Currently the school has 550 students from Myanmar (Rohingya and Chin tribe), Indonesia, Pakistan and Cambodia. This education gives the students a basic foundation while their families await relocation to other countries. Similarly, Project Hope aims to provide indigenous children with housing closer to schools so they may have easier access to their education and prevent drop outs. Donations are used to buy books and provide tutors to help the children meet the proficiencies required by the Ministry of Education.
Malaysian Care is a Christian organization that provides diversified services for rural and urban communities. The WDP offering was used towards a project dedicated to helping women and children affected by substance abuse and living with HIV/AIDS. These people are often abandoned and need urgent assistance for basic necessities like medication.
The Single Mother’s Home is a local community based project which was started in 2011. It currently houses eight single mothers, who are either widows or victims of domestic abuse, and their children. The home is rented and relies on donations to continue operating. Without this home the women and children could potentially face a hard life on the streets and be exposed to dangerous situations.
The Sengoi Educational Development Program was initiated by a Methodist Church as part of their mission work among the indigenous Sengoi tribe. The program aims to educate the Sengoi and empower the new generation to raise their standard of living and economic welfare. Their action plan is to train secondary school students to become pre-school teachers and earn a degree in Early Childhood Education. Other programs in development with the Council of Churches of Malaysia and Indigenous churches involve leadership training for rural women. Regular seminars and workshops are held where indigenous women are encouraged to become more active in their church and community life. They are taught how to identify the issues faced in their community and consider solutions.
The Women’s Work Committee of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, who organizes the WDP services, is grateful to all of the countries who donated their offerings to support these projects. The opportunity to put into practice the WDP motto of ‘Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action’ and make a difference in someone’s life is something the committee is incredibly thankful for.
- Based on reports by Mary Thomas Mathew
Moderator, Council of Churches of Malaysia, Women’s Work Committee
Last year, the German World Day of Prayer Committee collected more than 30 tons of used pens for Syrian girls in Lebanon. The revenue of this campaign made school education and psychological support for many girls possible.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria, more than one million people have fled to the neighbouring Lebanon. Among them were around 400,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17. Two thirds of them have not seen the inside of a classroom for years.
This is why the partner organisation of WDP Germany, Beit el-Nour ("House of Light and Hope"), has set up an educational programme that serves around 200 girls. The girls go to school and have a chance to learn in a quiet environment away from the refugee camp, where they face so many hardships. War and terror have severely traumatized most of the girls who were forced to flee their home. At Beit el-Nour they receive psycho-social and pedagogical support too.
True to the theme of World Day of Prayer 2018 from Suriname "God’s Creation is Very Good!", the German World Day of Prayer Committee has launched the recycling campaign "Pens Make Girls Strong". For more than a year, people all over Germany have collected used pens at over 2,000 collection points: in parishes, schools and kindergarten classes, offices, stores, supermarkets, medical clinics, universities, libraries and even at police stations.
The pens all ended up at a recycling company and were converted into watering cans or pen holders. For each pen, the company donated one cent to the World Day of Prayer. The money collected was used to support the educational project of Beit el-Nour. For 450 pens, the equivalent of 4.50 euros, a girl can be provided with school materials. So far, more than 30 tons of pens have been received, which corresponds to the possibility of supporting the education of more Syrian refugee girls.
- Corinna Russow, WDP Germany
Today on the last day of the 16 Days of Activism we recognize Human Rights Day!
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the day the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ensure every human being - regardless of race, color, religion, or sex - is protected through inalienable rights.
We celebrate the anniversary by highlighting a story shared by our Caribbean & North America regional representative, Ruth V. E. Phillips:
“I am a 51 year old pastor who grew up in a Caribbean family which was punctuated with fights and beatings between my grandparents, my aunts and their husbands or boyfriends, my mother and my father, and my mother and my sister’s father. All on my mother’s side of the family. I made up my mind that that would not be me!
"I worked my prayers, and my faith in believing that I must have a life different to the life my grandmother, mother and aunties had, have brought me to where I am today. Praise the Lord. No longer does the abuse happen in my family because I teach my son that love does not strike to cause pain. I teach him by example of the way I live about abuse. I talk it out. I pack the hurt with love. I forgive."
Read the full story on the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace blog, click here.
Greetings from Canada!
This year, we at the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada celebrated 100 years of growing God’s kingdom in prayer, unity, and social justice!
In 1918, Bessie McMurphy invited representatives from the Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Boards to come together at the first meeting of what is presently known as the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada (WICC).
In 1920, the first national interdenominational Women's Day of Prayer in Canada was held in Lindsay, Ontario. Later, in 1926, women in Canada and the United States joined together to distribute prayer services for an international day of prayer. One hundred years later, the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada is still home to a beautiful assortment of unique passionate women of all ages, backgrounds, and denominations, all united in our quest to restore hope to women touched by injustice.
Our celebration took place at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 23rd, 2018. Over ninety people including former members, past presidents, friends, family, and other members of the WDP community came to celebrate with us. We were honoured to have Rosângela Oliveira, World Day of Prayer International Committee Executive Director, come and speak to us and extend her congratulations.
Also speaking at our celebration were three grant recipients: Beloved Women, an outreach project focused on women refugees from Syria in the Greater Toronto Area; the Student Christian Movement, supporting Cahoots, an innovative annual festival of faith, social justice, and do-it-yourself (DIY) activities; and the Cadence Leadership Resource, a leadership development program for Indigenous women. These were only 3 of the 21 grants that WICC was able to support through WDP funds!
For more information on grant recipients, their stories, or to apply for a WICC WDP grant from anywhere (ANYWHERE!) around the world, head to https://wicc.org/grant-programs/. We were able to fund $80,000 worth of grants this year! What a way to celebrate 100 years!
Check us out on Facebook to learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/WICCanada/
- Lauren Wilks, Regional Rep. Caribbean & North America
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.
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.