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)
In the course of preparations for WDP 2019, for which Slovenia was the writer country, I was privileged to visit the ASPI Centre twice. I was very touched by their work. ASPI, I have since learned, is the name which Slovenes with Asperger syndrome use to refer to themselves.
The ASPI Centre helps and supports adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders. They prepare them for independent living, as much as possible, in cooperation with their parents and families. It is located in the outskirts of Domžale, a town in the greater Ljubljana region of Slovenia. The facility has been supplied by the local Caritas. It is a fairly small, longish narrow building with a garden attached in a quiet area not far from the old main road from Ljubljana to Maribor. They have some limited overnight accommodation and offer a series of programmes which include gardening and vegetable growing. They offer individual therapy, classes and activities that enable adolescents and adults to pursue their interests and develop their life skills in a meaningful way.
During my visit, I had the chance to see one of the neighbours assisting with the gardening, which appears to be a meeting point for the local community and the ASPI clientele. This Centre is a place to which persons on the autism spectrum and their families can come freely and find acceptance and help; which improves their wellbeing by making them feel more secure and calmer.
In Slovenia, there are limited official resources, recognition or understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Many families live in isolation and unaware of where to turn to for help and understanding. The government and the society still need to research and learn more about it. Official recognition of the disorder would help the organisations get financial aid from the state to assist those people and their families.
ASD can be manifested in extreme sensitivity to sounds, light, smells, or interaction with other people and groups. Sometimes schools and churches are not prepared to welcome them, and so they are excluded from many activities that would enrich their lives or be enriched by them. When they are together, they realise that they are not alone or not to be blamed, but their condition needs to be understood so they can count on help to face the frightening world around them.
In case you live with a person with ASD or want to create a welcoming environment for them, let me share a few tips. Be aware that noise or light can be quite unbearably painful to them; even music played at fairly acceptable volume. Their repetitive behaviour and gestures, or unwillingness to meet your eye, does not necessarily mean that they would not like to be your friend. They may have no way of interpreting the body language of those around them. They may look like a lonely child, although they themselves may be actively seeking companionship.
I have a friend with Asperger syndrome, who is one of the most caring and artistically gifted people I know. She spends much of her life doing voluntary work with old people - who appreciated her care and concern - but could not hold a paid job because somehow “she didn’t fit into the norm.” She must have been in her 40s before she and her sister heard of Asperger syndrome, and it took her another few years to get the necessary medical assessment, and then a monthly pension. But simply understanding her own condition was a great relief to her.
It is very important to understand ASD and raise awareness in schools, churches, families, the medical field and government offices. People on the autism spectrum and their families need to be supported and we are grateful to the WDP committees who partnered with us to donate to the ASPI Centre in response to the World Day of Prayer Slovenia service in 2019. Thank you all very much.
- Áine Pedersen, WDP Slovenia
World Day of Prayer annually brings together Christian women of various denominations and cultures in fellowship, prayer and understanding. It is indeed inspiring to be part of this global ecumenical network that spans 146 countries worldwide.
The World Day of Prayer services, held on the 6th of March 2020 in South Africa, were very special. Along with praying for the women of Zimbabwe, it was the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Women’s World Day of Prayer in South Africa. All Praise be to God!
The first observance of the WDP was held in March 1930, at the Congregational Church at Sea Point in Cape Town. In the same year, a small group of Afrikaans and English-speaking women met in Johannesburg to organize a service. Since then, the movement has grown into a solid organization.
South Africa is known as the “Rainbow Nation”, with 11 official languages. Annually, the program is translated into 8 of the official languages. Many services are inter-cultural, and the same sermon is presented in Afrikaans, English, German and Zulu. An estimate of 1,200 plus services are organized on the Prayer Day – in schools, churches, old age homes, prisons, Bible study groups, and community halls. Approximately 80,000 programs are printed, and a huge amount are electronically distributed. We also assist countries such as Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe with copies of the program. Around 120,000 people attend the services on the particular day. What a blessing this has been again in March 2020. Prayer truly knits hearts together for eternity!
South Africa can look back on the past 90 years with pure bliss and joy, where our Lord has never left or forsaken us. His lovable presence, guidance and mercy remained with us every step of the way.
What was outstanding from the feedback received on the 2020 service, was the enthusiasm for the writer country. Zimbabwe is one of our neighbours, and most families in South Africa know someone from Zimbabwe. Most congregations made special efforts to invite and accommodate families or women from Zimbabwe. Ladies dressed up in colourful Zimbabwean outfits. The Zimbabweans enthusiastically brought food, artwork, and mats for the services. The Dutch Reformed Church in Jacobsdal handed out key holders in the form of Africa, with a little heart above Zimbabwe. The United Church in Hermanus had a lovely display of quilts, depicting a story specifically related to Zimbabwe and made by a known quilter, Helen Granville, who previously lived in Zimbabwe. Many congregations gave voice to a Zimbabwean to tell their own personal stories.
The 90th Jubilee of WWDP South Africa was celebrated with joy and gratitude. Beautiful birthday cakes and cupcakes were baked and served in traditional wooden dishes, and decorated in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag. Dances and choirs highlighted the services. In Klerksdorp, 300 little hessian mats were handed out at the doors, each with a peanut slab inside to celebrate the 90th Jubilee. Beaufort-West treated the ladies with bookmarks in the form of a mat, and a little gift bag with sump, corn, mealies as souvenir.
There was a very positive drive all over to involve the youth. We cannot thank our teachers enough for their willingness and enthusiastic efforts to keep this wonderful movement alive for future generations. In Klerksdorp alone, 11 primary schools and five high schools were involved. In Piet Plessis, prints to be coloured, a sandwich and a cool drink were handed out to every pupil. In Beaufort-west, and other towns, more than 500 teenagers took part in the children’s program. In Underberg, (KwaZulu Natal), young ladies from Pevensy Place (an adult cerebral palsy home) were special guests at the service.
The theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”, had a great impact. It led many to self-reflection and a new commitment to face our own problems and walk in the grace and presence of our Lord and Saviour. The Prayer Day is not only a day of prayer and worship, but it leads to many ongoing projects in communities to support the poor and the needy.
We were blessed to be able to host our Prayer Day before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa. Our hearts go out to everybody that has been affected by the virus, and especially to those who have lost loved ones. May we be united in prayer, and may God Almighty protect us all and be with us.
Life as such is challenging and when we look at the 2021 program, we have “Hope” and can build on a strong foundation.
- Joa Van Aarde, WDP South Africa
The World Young Women Christian Association (W-YWCA) and World Young Men Christian Association (W-YMCA) are launching the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship from November 8-14, 2020. The theme of the week is “Rays of Hope. Creating a resilient community through practical spirituality”.
W-YWCA has a historical relationship with World Day of Prayer, which includes providing leadership for WDP celebrations and active participation in WDP National Committees in many countries. We are, locally and globally, motivating and organizing women and young women for prayers and actions that may impact the communities in the way of peace and justice.
The Week of Prayer and World Fellowship “is an invitation to journey as one, and reflect on how we move from an individual calling to collective transformation, creating resilient communities through practical spirituality. Hope tells us that despite the graveness of a situation, good can happen.
People have acted to transform realities in their community – tackling misinformation, providing physical, financial, mental and spiritual support in innovative ways, while spreading kindness and reaching out to those in need. Everyone has a role to play, everyone must have access to support, every one matters,” declares the joint message from the presidents of World YWCA and World YMCA.
The “Rays of Hope” booklet features daily reflections from several ecumenical partners, including World Day of Prayer International Committee. The booklet is available in English, Spanish and French. The Week of Prayer ends with an online service on Friday the 13th of November at 16:00 Geneva time that will be live streamed on both organizations’ Facebook pages. You may visit the World YWCA or World YMCA to join the service.
Through the Week, we will breathe together in solidarity during the current pandemic that is taking away our breathing capacity. We will learn about the young women in Nepal involved in social transformation and fellowship. When addressing social injustices in our communities, we hear the call to action in Jesus’ question - “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6-7).
The "Rays of Hope" contemplate that finding peace and sharing kindness keep our hope alive. In the world that women and girls and men and boys are screaming, crying out, demanding safety and protection from violence, it is urgent to weave the fabrics of support and transform fear into strong vulnerability and loving trust.
Let us regain our breath by praying together the Blessing of Day 1 by Elaine Neuenfeldt:
Breathe in this blessing: consider how you might influence ONE life.
As you breathe out, speak a blessing on those around you.
God bless our world, our habitat.
Enable us to respect and treat our earth with the dignity it deserves.
Empower us to preserve its resources to provide for all people.
Enable us to protect our people, especially the vulnerable: women and children.
Enable us to do what is good, resist evil and to protect each other from evil.
Enable our men to transform themselves from beneficiaries of patriarchy
to contributors of human dignity.
Inspire our leaders to be transformed for the good of all people.
Enable us to be transformed into Servant Leaders.
Enable us to be open to restore your image in us.
Inspire us to have healing relationships.
Enable us to live with dignity.
Empower us to heal our communities and give us your peace. Amen
- Rosângela S. Oliveira, WDPIC Executive Director
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
We really felt blessed and humbled to be the writer committee for the 2020 WDP worship service. The opportunities given by the collaborative writing process enriched us and let us grow in faith. One of the impacts of promoting the program as the focus country is that it united us. Women from different religious backgrounds, cultures and traditions came together under a common goal for the betterment of our country. It was a wonderful experience which required creativity.
In the beginning, we found the theme motivational and a reminder that Christ would give us strength. However, as the days went by, the theme became more relevant, especially because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The theme sounded like a mandate, a mantra and certainly a way of life as the Coronavirus pandemic hit the nations in 2020.
In Zimbabwe, the pandemic grouped together with the drought and the economic hardships made us feel that God was speaking directly unto our situation. Our people had to rely on Jesus Christ and His command to “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk” towards the love and peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and the reconciliation with the Holy Spirit, who brings healing and restoration to us all.
Since the theme was defined in 2012, to the launch of the writing process through the Strengthening National Committee Workshop in 2016, and finally the moment of the celebration in 2020, the message has evolved. Really, God showed Himself to us. God is All Knowing. Our country and all others around the globe must indeed “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk.”
Notwithstanding the disruption in our calendar due to the pandemic, the children and youths were able to undertake a drama which was aired at the Zimbabwe broadcasting studio; they assisted with advertising on social media, sang and danced in the services. They were also involved in projects making sanitary pads, sewing face masks, crafts involving beadwork and donating food to those in need. Little girls from the Girl Guide movement also participated in the activities. These activities showed that all hope is not lost. The children acquired a good foundation as they learnt attitudes basic for their sense of humanity, which are caring for others and catering to their needs. This intergenerational exchange of skills also blessed us all.
During the full WDP process as a writer country, we were reminded that despite the dark times, Zimbabwe is still part of a global village. We learnt to appreciate all that God has entrusted us to look after. We learnt a lot about our own country and how to love and embrace people from other religions, cultures, traditions and who speak different languages. We are all God’s creatures.
Recently, we also learnt new things such as how to use video conferencing applications (e.g. Zoom) and other technologies to stay connected despite the lockdown due to Coronavirus. More significantly, all nations around the world took it upon themselves to pray for our country. The responses we got from other countries have encouraged us to engage and support other writer countries, thus we are more motivated with next year's program written by WDP women of Vanuatu.
There was an overall excitement that took charge of the atmosphere around the world throughout the preparations and services. We heard very positive comments from different churches and organizations. They told us to “keep up the good work.” Others wished they were the ones leading the program. Some organizations indicated that they would like to join in the World Day of Prayer programs and projects. Every woman got involved, regardless of their tradition.
There was a great sacrifice by the committee members for the whole program to sail through. To put the materials together with participants from different parts of Zimbabwe and with no access to social media to facilitate our communications was our biggest challenge. Thus, we created a steering committee to coordinate the promotion of the activities and formed sub-committees to help with the fundraising. People were highly supportive of the World Day of Prayer, and gave very good suggestions for the promotion of the activities; we even got support from people in the government. Sacrifice, commitment and dedication are key!
Those who managed to attend the worship service before the government ordered a lockdown expressed their gratitude as they felt the service was heartwarming. They were encouraged to propel above injustice, hatred, violence and walk towards Love, Peace and Reconciliation.
We look forward to engaging with more community outreach events while we build up and improve on the prayer journey that has already began. Through our ecumenical relationships, we developed partnerships to support the mothers and care givers of Ramangwana Ravo Trust, the Mucheke Old People's Home and Omni Village Rehabilitation and Skills Development Center. Also, it helped birth relationships that empower women to share ideas on how to manage challenges in life and be self-sufficient.
This entire experience has reinforced how important it is to pray without ceasing for others and for ourselves. Without God we are unable to do anything. We depend on God for everything. God is God of the impossible. Is there anything too hard for God?
- WDP Committee of Zimbabwe
The WDP Zimbabwe Committee's report was published in the 2020 WDP Journal. The Journal captures the lively presence of this worldwide ecumenical movement of informed prayer and prayerful action. Each country's story helps weave the wisdom and enthusiasm that the annual celebration generated in each part of the world. We invite you to view the Journal on our website and read the stories of this year's celebration.
Jamaica, like much of the rest of the world, has been severely affected by the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is wreaking havoc across the globe, with no obvious cure anytime soon. This virus has infected millions of persons worldwide. Hundreds of thousands have already died and the infection continues. For the most part, we in Jamaica had been successful in containing the spread of the virus. However, the decision to open the borders and allow some freedom to travel and for recreation, combined with people disobeying the proper protocol, have resulted in the increase of the number of infections. Our prayer is that our leaders will take the advice of scientists and persons in the know and make informed decisions on the welfare of its citizens until there is a cure or a solution for the virus.
We as women of the Jamaica WDP Committee, pray for God’s divine intervention as we struggle with the effects of the virus. We had Parliamentary Elections recently, which came off successfully, and we give thanks to God. We pray for our leaders to continue to guide us wisely and not to let arrogance and pride stop them from listening to the concerns of its citizens. In our society, there is still violence against women and children, gender violence, domestic violence, human trafficking, robberies, and extortion.
We pray that us, as a people, will stop and listen to God. God wants us to stop our busyness, and be with each other in conscious awareness. Under this pandemic, we are forced to be at home with each other; the children are out of school; churches are out and the theory of ‘church without walls’ becomes clearer with worship services being held through Zoom or YouTube; shopping for things we don’t really need has stopped. We now only shop for the necessities. Some of us have lost jobs and are barely surviving. The virus has made us realize that there are things that we do that are not important in the grand scheme of things. God wants us to think about each other in love so that we do nothing to harm our brothers and sisters. Love will allow us to obey the laws and guidelines set for us. We will therefore wear our masks, wash our hands frequently, practice social distancing and listen to all the protocols so we do not harm ourselves and make others around us unsafe. In spite of the chaos around us, we have a lot for which we are thankful. In this ‘new normal’, we thank God for his goodness and blessings towards us.
- Patricia Newell, WDP Committee of Jamaica
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 Bahamas joined the World Day of Prayer movement in 1950 when the wife of a Presbyterian Minister in Nassau, invited the wives of ministers throughout New Providence to celebrate the day. The early services were held at the Presbyterian Church and later moved to other denominations and other islands.
World Day of Prayer was celebrated on every island of the Bahamas in 2015, when our committee was tasked as the writer country and the world prayed for us and with us. Since 2015, five islands have continually observed WDP in schools and in ecumenical services.
Our 2020 celebration was scheduled to take place on Cat Island, where we have the highest hill in the Bahamas, ‘Mount Alvernia’! This service was scheduled for the month following the annual service, and was to include women from every island! However, on March 15th, our country was shut down and international travel was prohibited, except for cases of emergency, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was providential that the WDP Committee of New Providence (Nassau) observed seventy years during the annual service in Nassau. At the conclusion of the prayer service for Zimbabwe seventy candles were presented, each candle standing in a large delicious homemade cupcake, and placed on a cake rack resembling a sea-grape tree. The beautiful six-tiered cake-stand was created by Tyrone Ferguson, whose artwork was used on one of our postage stamps in 2015. The cupcakes were made by Julia Burnside, a member of our committee and the daughter of Gertrude Burnside (also featured as our historian in 2015).
On the table decorated for Zimbabwe stood nine large candles commemorating the lives of members ‘In Memoriam’ and these were lit by members of their families. Two of these candles represented the souls that perished in Abaco and Grand Bahama during Hurricane Dorian. The chairperson of the Abaco Committee traveled to Nassau for the service, and the former High Commissioner to the U.K lit the candle for Grand Bahama. A moment of silence was observed. On the top tier of the stand was one very large ‘sparkler’ candle, the last to be lit by all the children present.
The first candle was an international candle, lit by Annette Poitier, WDP Bahamas President. Then followed three candles for Zimbabwe, lit by three ladies from Zimbabwe, followed by candles representing the region. We are fortunate to have committee members from Canada and the United States as well as from seven other Caribbean countries. The islands of the Bahamas and the denominations represented in our committees were all included and well represented.
A great applause went up after the children lit the last candle, sending sparkles high into the air, and the band played, in calypso style, an old Bahamian New Year’s Eve chorus: ‘Thanks for another year O Lord!’ We danced, ate meals prepared by the Zimbabweans and of course we ate the cupcakes!
After another half hour of greetings, dancing, and building fellowship, we left thanking our hosts and thanking God for the growth of our work in the Bahamas.
- Annette Poitier, President of WDP Bahamas National Committee