‘God is not aloof; God is not a spectator.’ Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs, American union leader.
Creator God, we would pray for the whole world, but it’s too big and we are overwhelmed. We understand that you can see all and know all that is before we even think to talk to you about it. We also know that you have made us to be able to concentrate on the small stories, on the individuals, in order that we can grasp the intensely personal nature of all that we pray about. We offer our prayers for all people, by understanding the story behind one story.
In Korea, reunions between North and South Korean family members are extremely rare. Only 20 such meetings have been organized since 2000; only a fraction of people who apply to attend them actually get the opportunity. To date, about half of the 130,000 people who have applied to participate in reunions have already died. Lee Ok-yeon, an 88-year-old South Korean woman, has reportedly been living in the same house her husband built decades ago, before they were separated for 65 years. Her grandson said that Lee had “asked whether it was a dream or a reality” when she was told she would get to see her husband again. We can barely understand the pain of that reunion and separation; we don’t know how we could live so faithfully, and wonder if it would be better not to have a 2-day reunion. God, you were separated from your Son for 3 fateful days – you understand.
A masked man armed with a sword has killed a pupil and a teacher at a school in Sweden. The suspect, clad in black, apparently posed for photos with students ahead of the attack, in the western town of Trollhattan. Two further victims, a pupil and a teacher, are seriously injured. The 21-year-old attacker and resident of Trollhattan was shot by police and has died of his injuries. So many people, in so many countries, are faced with similar attacks; we wonder how anyone can cope with the agony of grief for a child who should have lived. You know, God our father – you understand.
An F-18 jet crashed in a Cambridgeshire (England) field. The Hornet aircraft, which had taken off from RAF Lakenheath, was part of a fleet of six fighter jets due to fly to California (United States). They had been en-route from Bahrain and were scheduled to fly to their base in Miramar. The pilot, not yet named, was the only crew member and was ejected from the plane. It has been reported he leaves a wife and child. You know what it is like to have an eagerly-awaited arrival turn into news of death. God who waited and watched – you understand.
When Millen Magese won the Miss Tanzania competition in 2001 and became an international fashion model, she became an idol to millions of women. But she has become a heroine to many more for speaking up about a debilitating gynecological condition, endometriosis, which can cause severe pain and infertility. God, you named yourself mother and love like a mother – you understand.
The death toll from a ferocious typhoon in the Philippines climbed to 54, as home-wrecking floods shifted downstream to coastal villages, displacing tens of thousands of residents. Inundations from torrential rains in mountain regions caused by Typhoon Koppu cascaded into coastal fishing and farming villages, submerging them in waters up to 3m deep, officials said. God, who watched your son calm a storm – you understand.
On Tuesday, Geert Wilders, controversial leader of the right-wing Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, will be the keynote speaker at the launch of the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA), somewhere in Western Australia. Its manifesto states that “Islam is not merely a religion, it is a totalitarian ideology with global aspirations.” God, your Son was victim of political machinations – you understand.
For hundreds of thousands of farmers in “the Dry Corridor,” a drought-prone area of Central America that runs across El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, this year’s harvest is over before it has even begun. The fields are yellow, the ground bone-dry. For 74-year-old Marco Tulio Lopez Diaz, the situation is getting desperate. Working on his land in the village of San Miguel near Chiquimula his whole life, farming is all that he knows, but with 80% of his corn crop dead and the plants that have survived providing no grain, he is greatly worried. God, your son fed many people – you understand.
John Sweeney, a journalist, is searching for five-year-old Azam, believed to be Syrian, last seen with a broken bandaged jaw in Preshevo in southern Serbia, just to the east of the Kosovar mountains, in order to reconnect him with his mother. Sweeney doesn’t know where she is or even her name; she might be anywhere on the road, looking for her son. Two days ago, 10,000 people came through Preshevo in one day. And the bad news, according to Seda Kuzucu of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), is that the majority are families with children. God, your son become a refugee in Egypt – you understand.
The South Bronx in New York City is still synonymous with urban blight, and is the most socially-deprived district in the United States, with over 40% of residents living below the federal poverty line. It is officially the least healthy place to bring up children in New York State. Yet this is where high school teacher Stephen Ritz hatched a food-growing project with his students that has been adopted in schools across the U.S. and beyond, picking up numerous awards on its way. Ritz’s Green Bronx Machine (GBM) project produces a harvest of fruit and vegetables, cultivated in high-tech indoor tower gardens, creating vertical cornucopias, with edible walls of raspberries, columns of kale and cucumbers, barricades of blueberries and broccoli. God our Father, the gardener who created the diversity of life that we might eat healthily – you understand.
These are the cries of all our hearts: for the lost, the bewildered, the grieving, the refugee, as well as those who help. You’ll understand that we place them in your safe hands as the only thing we can intelligently do. Now help us to understand how we can live the answers. Amen.