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.
“Hope is not the expectation that things will be better tomorrow; hope is the capacity to do the right thing today.” – Mitri Raheb, Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem
The World Day of Prayer movement brings people together in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
As we ecumenically prepare the March celebration, we hear about the situations of women and girls around the world, and we realize how close to home those stories are.
We pray with them for the ending of their suffering, we commit to promote awareness, we advocate for women’s human rights, we support the survivors of violence who are among us, and we raise funds to empower them to live in a world without rape and gender based violence.
At our International Meeting, in August 2017, in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, we wore black to educate ourselves about the Thursdays in Black campaign and to show our support! The campaign has traveled to the local communities, where we join others involved in the campaign started by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Thursdays in Black grew out of the WCC Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998), in which the stories of rape as a weapon of war, abuse, violence, and many tragedies that grow outward from such violence became all the more visible. However, also visible was women’s resilience, agency and personal efforts to resist such violations.*
As Fulata Moyo explained to the WDP community, “in this campaign, black is used as color of resistance. Let us journey together for a world of gender justice and peace.” (WDPIC 2015 Journal, page 51)
The campaign is simple but profound. Wear black on Thursdays. Wear a pin to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of violence.*
We encourage you to join the Thursdays in Black campaign and to share its message.
Here are some steps that you may want to take:
(*Extracted from Churches’ Advocacy against Sexual, Gender-Based Violence, WCC Thursdays in Black pamphlet.)
Today, Human Rights Day, marks the final day of the 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence campaign but it does not mean our fight is over! We must continuously work beyond the days of these dedicated campaigns and work towards a world free of violence against women and girls. Our WDP sisters from around the world are taking lessons learned from the worship services and applying them to real life situations in order to promote awareness for the betterment of women and children. These following stories were taken from the 2016 & 2017 Journals.
In 2016, WDP Malaysia reflected on the theme “Receive children, Receive me” and thought about the refugee children in their country being denied their rights to an education. They affirmed in their service “that all children should be received equally, regardless of their sex or status, and education is very important for the future of refugee children.”
Similarly, Bulgaria highlighted the difficulties Roma children experience in their country as opposed to other children. Their main concern is to “make education accessible to them so they may have a better future.”
In Latin America this year, Argentina “vowed to work towards defending the rights of women and, above all, to combat gender [based] violence,” and Cuba renewed leadership with young woman engaging in the coordination of WDP and with this they will be able to more actively “promote campaigns for NO violence against children, and will use art to reach out to families in vulnerable situations.”
Panama used the 2017 theme of “Am I Being Unfair to You?” as an opportunity to bring awareness to the injustices faced by many woman. They created a game to show the inequality of wealth distributed and how the minority usually suffers the most. They used chairs to represent possessions and gave “the man” most of the chairs while those without chairs had to stand. It really impacted their service and it shows us how we must work together to fight establishments like this that oppress women and young girls.
As we celebrate this Advent season, we must remember all of the things Jesus has taught us through these WDP worship services. We must listen to Jesus’ words and help each other, not just one day, but every single day until the end of gender based violence.
Members of the National Committee in Australia took a stand at their Biennial Conference, in Brisbaine, to raise awareness on domestic violence. They learned about the Thursday in Black Campaign, reported by the members who attended the WDPIC International Meeting in Brazil. Some of the delegates have spent a life time working with women and children affected by domestic violence. “With crossed arms, symbolizing 'no to domestic violence', we have been challenged, to bring about change in all communities, through prayerful action," informed Vicki Marney, WDPIC Pacific Regional Representative and member of the Queensland Committee.
In the Cook Islands, Henrica Marona, WDPIC Pacific Regional Representative, joins all in prayers to end violence of women and girls: “Let us all be strengthened by our theme "All God's Creation is Good." As Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and you will find."
From November 25th - the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 1th – World Aids Days, and to December 10th – Human Rights Day as declared by the United Nations, communities and faith based organizations will be engaged in the campaign known as 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The 2017 theme is “Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education!”
We are extending the call to action from the Women’s Concerns Ministry of the National Council of Churches, which leads World Day of Prayer in India, to promote awareness that the education of women and girls are at risk because of gender based violence.
“As a mother, every morning I take the biggest leap of faith when I wave to my child as she leaves for school. The fear that lurks in my heart is: Will anyone touch the body of my child? Will anyone bully her in school? Will she face corporal punishment for not being able to answer? Our roads are not even safe enough to send our daughters and children walking to school,” shared a concerned mother from one of the Women’s Fellowship of Member Churches of the National Council of Churches during the World Day of Prayer event in Delhi while reflecting on the 2016 WDP theme “Receive Children, Receive Me.”
Similar concerns were presented in other countries, like Nigeria where prayer is lifted up in the midst of “poverty and increasing child abuse or trafficking, and the devastating activities of fundamentalist groups like Boko Haram, who kidnapped girls from school in 2014.” Or, Sierra Leone, who vowed to "lobby for children who are rejected, neglected, and often looked over due to disabilities, by promoting their educational rights and also foster children and victims of trafficking.”
At the WDP International Meeting, participants of the group conversation ‘Reaching out to Children’ recognized that around the world children are been trafficked, working to put food on the table, or raising themselves when they lose their parents to war or HIV/Aids.
Ms. Moumita Biswas, Executive Secretary of Women’s Concerns Ministry of the National Council of Churches in India and WDPIC Asia Regional Representative, points out “We need to address gender norms at all levels and across multiple settings to prevent gender based violence in schools and the society at large. Violence towards girls and children begins in their own home. Only publicizing child protection polices in school cannot end violence towards children. Therefore we need to have a multi-dimensional, holistic approach to end gender based violence in education.”
We invite you to build upon these stories and campaigns and advocate for an end to all forms of gender-based violence in education. We should not have to live in fear when our children do something as simple as go to school. We must speak up and together bring awareness to this issue.
Let’s affirm with the 2018 WDP Suriname theme that "All God’s Creation is Good” thus girls and women should live free of violence.
On June 5th, 2017 millions of people around the world will answer the universal call to ‘connect with nature.’ There will be thousands of events dedicated to positive environmental actions and now more than ever we must take action to protect our earth. A commitment to keep the earth clean depends on public policies implemented by governments, but also on our personal lifestyle. This year’s theme, provided by the United Nations for the World Environmental Day, “Connecting People to Nature,” encourages people to get outdoors and enjoy what our beautiful world has to offer.
It is a perfect time to be reminded of the theme of the 2018 World Day of Prayer service - “All God’s Creation is Very Good!” The earth is God’s greatest creation, our home, and it is in danger. Pollution, climate-change, and exploitation of our lands are all detrimental. The women of Suriname lift up their voices to remind us that we are caretakers of God’s creation. We must realize that we depend on this earth and we must revitalize our relationship.
The women of Suriname believe that the Christian faith community can make a great contribution to the preservation of a livable, healthy, and safe environment. The future of the earth to next generations matters. They see this as one of the key elements of the Christian faith. They are reminded of the relationship between God and creation, God and humanity. It is about having respect for every living thing.
We encourage you to join in this important and incredible celebration!