‘Praying for unity amidst injustice’
The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA, and the institutional racism which it represented, is the thematic focus of the Christian Churches who have prepared the material for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, 2023. ( Listen here to an interview re the fallout from the George Floyd murder with JaNaé Bates, a United Methodist Church minister in Minneapolis.)
Tom Layden SJ is the Irish Province Coordinator of Ecumenism and in his annual letter regarding the Week of Prayer, he notes that members of the Christian churches in Minneapolis are reflecting on how we might pray for Christian Unity when Christians are part of unjust and racist structures. The theme they have proposed for the Week of Prayer is “Be-Longing: Praying for Unity amidst Injustice”. Their accompanying resources can be downloaded here.
“They present us with the challenge from the prophet Isaiah to do good and to seek justice (Isaiah 1:17),” Tom notes, adding that ” Isaiah denounces the structures which encouraged the hypocrisy of offering religious sacrifices while oppressing the poor. He is vigorous in his criticism of corrupt leaders and strong in his support of the disadvantaged. The prophet is clear in his teaching that God requires righteousness and justice from everyone, at all times and in all aspects of life. The words of Isaiah continue to call to us in our time and place that we might learn to do good and to decide to engage with issues around prejudice, racism, and exclusion.”
Tom believes that praying together in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives people the opportunity to commit themselves, with the help of God’s grace, to confronting oppression and injustice in all its manifestations.
He wants his fellow Jesuits, friends, and colleagues to join in this global Week of Prayer in which he says, “We are invited to recognise that we ourselves are part of the problem as we can harbour thoughts and attitudes that are racist and exclude others. We also acknowledge that, with the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, change is possible and can happen in the lives of individuals, churches, and nations. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to engage in the work for justice in society recognising that we all belong to Christ.”
He says that the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity offers us all a particular opportunity to remember what we have in common, express regret for the pain caused by our divisions, and ask the Lord to deepen in us the hope that we will all be one someday in the future.
“This letter is a reminder and an encouragement to all of us to participate in the Week of Prayer in some appropriate way,” he says and offers the suggestions below as being of possible help whilst noting that many people will have various other ideas based on their own experience and context.
Suggestions for Prayer:
• Remember the intentions of the Week in personal and communal prayer.
• Use some part of the order of service in the resources in the link sent along with this letter in either personal or communal prayer.
• Use the prayers from a Votive Mass for the Unity of Christians at Mass.
• Use one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation from the Missal.
• Watch online a Sunday service from a church of another tradition.
• Write a letter of greeting or send an email to a person from another Christian tradition whom you know either through work or personal contact.
Tom concludes his letter by noting that in the whole area of Christian unity, there is still a lot to be done and he asks for the Lord’s blessing on all those who pray during the week.