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