A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. – John 12:46
The news this week has left me crying with the bereaved relatives and friends of 137 school-children and 5 teachers in Pakistan, “ENOUGH!”
- In Gumsuri village, northern Nigeria, 33 people were murdered by Boko Haram and another 200 taken captive.
- 51 people are confirmed dead and more than 50 are still missing after a mud-slide in Java, Indonesia.
- The worst drought in over 80 years is stalking huge areas around Sao Paulo, Brazil. Heavy rainstorms have temporarily broken the drought in California, USA but have not refilled the vastly depleted water table.
- Australia is recovering from the siege in a Sydney cafe which resulted in 2 deaths and others injured and is now looking to improve its gun-controls.
- Tugs and ships are being used as floating arsenals for private security firms fighting pirates in several areas of the world. The ships are often registered to countries which have no record of control or management of such items causing major concerns over security and accountability.
- Greece is in turmoil, and is seemingly unable to appoint a new government leading to more chaos and insecurity.
- The Russian ruble has gone into free-fall leaving ordinary Russians to pay the price.
- Five people have died in Japan following heavy snowfall and vast tidal surges caused by unexpectedly low barometric pressure.
- The fighting and political manipulation continues in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, the West Bank, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia and so many other countries…
- And we all live in the same small world, inter-connected, needing and being needed by each other. When will we stand together like the people of Pakistan and say, “Enough!” Where now, India, which has been antagonistic towards Pakistan since its inception, is now tweeting in the thousands messages of support under the hashtag IndiawithPakistan. A bereaved parent in Peshawar, Pakistan said “the smallest coffins are the heaviest ones to lift.”
- The USA has dropped its decades long isolation policy against its near neighbor Cuba. At the same time as admitting that the torture and rendition policies used after 9/11 were ineffective in producing intelligence. Something that history made clear long ago. Other countries including the United Kingdom, Jordan, Egypt, Poland and others all were involved too although now desperately trying to shed responsibility or blame.
- A young boy is being shunned in his village in China because he was born with HIV – a common reaction to those with this disease in China.
Lord, have mercy and forgive us our cruelty and lack of love for each other especially when we encounter differences.
Thankfully we hear of people celebrating differences and difficulties transforming them into challenges. The nativity plays put on by children with multiple health and learning disabilities, goes to the truth and heart of Advent and Christmas. Christ comes for us all, black, white, brown, yellow, male, female, transgender, able-bodied and those with life-limiting conditions whether of body or mind. So often, the worst things that happen are done by those who are deformed in their soul, but Christ is born for each one of them too.
These prayers from different faith traditions have helped me refocus on God, our hope and source of life.
- Bahá’í – Be a breath of life unto the body of humankind a dew upon the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
- Christian – Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Blessed be the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.
- Confucian – First there must be order and harmony within your own heart. Only then can there be peace and harmony in the world.
- Hindu – Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. God’s peace, peace, peace to all.
- Jain – Peace and universal love is the essence of all the teachings. Forgive do I creatures all, and let all creatures forgive me.
- Jewish – Oh come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we will beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
- Muslim – Praise be to the Lord of the Universe. Who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other, not despise each other.
- Native African – For you are one who does not hesitate to respond to our call, you are the cornerstone of peace.
- Native American – Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect and to be kind to one another that we may grow with peace in mind.
- Sikh – Know that we find God when we love, and only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated.
- Zoroastrian – We pray to God that understanding will triumph over ignorance, that generosity will triumph over indifference, that trust will triumph over contempt, and that truth will triumph over falsehood
God of Advent, / among refugees and outcasts / you breathed your first breaths. / In the cry of a newborn child you proclaimed / Emmanuel, God-with-us. / Come, God of the margins, / breathe into us the spirit of longing for your Kingdom. / Come this Advent to make us dream of / and work for / a better world of justice and freedom. / Come Lord, come. / Amen. (Dave Broom, Iona Community)