Traditionally, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated between 18th and 25th January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul.
The theme for the week of prayer in 2020, “they showed us unusual kindness” is taken from Acts 28:2, and draws on the story of Paul finding safety in Malta after a shipwreck. The resources for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by members of different churches in Malta. On 10th February many Christians in Malta celebrate the Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul, marking and giving thanks for the arrival of the Christian faith on these islands.
Today many people are facing the same terrors on the same seas. The very same places named in the reading (27:1, 28:1) also feature in the stories of modern-day migrants. In other parts of the world, many others are making equally dangerous journeys by land and sea to escape natural disasters, warfare and poverty. Their lives, too, are at the mercy of immense and coldly indifferent forces – not only natural but political, economic and human. This human indifference takes various forms: the indifference of those who sell places on unseaworthy vessels to desperate people; the indifference of the decision not to send out rescue boats; and the indifference of turning migrant ships away. This names only a few instances. As Christians together facing these crises of migration this story challenges us: do we collude with the cold forces of indifference, or do we show “unusual kindness” and become witnesses of God’s loving providence to all people?
The following prayer is among those prepared by the organisers for all those participating in this week.
God of the orphan, the widow and the stranger,
Instil in our hearts a deep sense of hospitality
Open our eyes and hearts
when you ask us to feed you, to clothe you and to visit you.
May our churches participate
in the ending of hunger, thirst and isolation
and in overcoming barriers that prevent the welcome of all people.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus,
who is present in the least of our sisters and brothers
The Sisters of St John of God invite you to pray this prayer with us.
It can be both a prayer for this week and a prayer for each day of the year. Around the world racial, political and economic divisions are forming walls between peoples and there is a need for healing and hope. In his message for the World Day of Peace,1 January 2020, Pope Francis reminded us “We need to pursue a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust. The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this.”
This year, let us be “artisans of peace” (Pope Francis)