In these times, with the world news heavily upon us, we reflect upon words from 2 Timothy:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (New Living Translation)
Ten years ago, speaking in New York (U.S.), Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie said that terrorism is really the art of fear.
“The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid.” This week, Rushdie survived a multiple stabbing attack, also in New York.
And from the President of France, Emmanuel Macron:
“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal.”
Dear Lord, we bring before you these words asking for peace in this world, peace in our conference halls, in legislatures, in the voting booth, and in vulnerable urban communities. We ask for peace across torn and bleeding borders, battlegrounds and bombed villages. Transform us. Help us to look within and consider our fears. Transform us. Renew us. Call us to be peacemakers. Help us to call forth justice.
We remember the partition of Pakistan and India 75 years ago this week, resulting in homelands constituted along religious lines. There remains the long-held grief for the more than 2 million people who died, and the loss of once-mixed Hindu/Muslim communities that are now empty of one or the other. Fear and estrangement render diplomatic ties limp and lifeless. Oh Lord, consoler and counselor, walk among us. We ask that you restore our sanity and understanding of our sacred and shared heritage. Heal the nations.
We mourn for the neighborhood of Imbaba in Cairo, Egypt, where 15 children tragically succumbed to the smoke and fire at Au Sefein Martyr Church. Comfort the families of the 41 dead and care for the many injured. Lord ,have mercy on these communities that suffer such sudden and deep loss.
We are reminded in the news that Afghanistan fell to the Taliban one year ago. War has ended but famine now ravages the young. The oppression of women and girls is widely reported, as aired this week on Frontline (PBS program, U.S.). We pray for the 76,000 Afghans evacuated. Meanwhile, the U.S. attempts to continue resettlement are stalled in Congress. We ask you to keep all refugees, internally displaced persons, and exiles in your watch. We name: Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea and the Central African Republic. We have learned most recently of a small group of refugees who were found on an uninhabited island in Greece. We pray for the countries providing asylum and refuge. We name: Turkey, Poland, Germany, Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Uganda, Bangladesh, U.S., Ethiopia, and Sudan.
And the news of every birth, how we hold such joy! Protect our pregnant and postpartum women as they labor and birth. Researchers in Sweden, Canada and Taiwan recently reported increased rates of preeclampsia worldwide. Support health care providers and midwives as they watch and tend women stressed in pregnancy. Help us to hold sacred our women and mothers.
We hold in prayer the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. as they cooperate with the Justice Department investigations into reports of abuse by women and children filed against male pastors, church employees and officials from 2000 to the present. Comfort the vulnerable and fearful, those who suffer silently and those who are speaking out. Lord, in your mercy, abide with us on these long roads to justice.
As we offer these prayers, as we breathe in … and breathe out … We remember that – more than road injuries, H.I.V.-Aids, malaria and war – air pollution has shortened the lives and reduced the quality of life for the poor, infirm and marginalized globally. The U.S. Climate, Tax and Health Care Bill signed into law this week is just one example of worldwide efforts to reduce emissions that impact people far beyond each country’s own borders. We hold before you, Lord, the many we will never see, yet our indifference and or our acts affect them. O Lord, awaken us to this staggering awareness, to action. Ring the alarm bells to get our attention, shine your light in our eyes, such that we see the suffering of these families and communities especially in the nations where 60% or more of the population live in poverty.
We have heard the words, “I can’t breathe!”
Stir in us knowledge of your will and deep love. Awaken our self-discipline nourished by compassion.
In Christ’s name.