Prayer Service for Peace on the eve of ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Trinity Church in Oslo is a great round space of silence and light. It’s a place that invites those who enter to think about peace.  Campaigners of different faiths and traditions, in the city to celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, quietly fill the pews.  Then a grand organ sounds—this house of prayer welcomes guests with its own voice.

Readings shed light on peace and on God.  God looks to us to work for peace, the prophet Isaiah says.  There are summits to climb where God’s ways are made clear.  God will arbitrate among the nations, the prophet declares. Instruments of violence will be remade into farming tools.

Bible passages evoke themes in the treaty that led to this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  The UN General Assembly mandate in 2016 to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban was a kind of global summit on the common good.  The resulting treaty invites all nations to engage in freeing the world of nuclear dangers.  It offers pathways for nuclear-armed nations to disarm and join.

A hymn in Norwegian and English evokes the dilemma that brings us together – “much we have done, gross human error, misuse of power, darkens the sun” – and its chorus asks: “God in your grace, God, in your mercy, turn us to you to transform the world”.

This past summer in New York, people of different faiths gathered each morning across the street from the United Nations to pray for the treaty negotiations.  Today Christians, Buddhists, people of other faiths and people of goodwill are attending prayers in Oslo led by the Christian Council of Norway and the Church of Norway.

The text on the eve of the Nobel Prize is “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.  Peace-making involves the best part of our humanity, the part that allow us to live together for the good of all, according to the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.

“We need encouragements such as this year’s Peace Prize, to see that peace is possible. It is possible for ICAN—it is possible for all of us,” he preaches. The world cries out for peace and justice, he says, “so that we can be one in our efforts to share resources, preserve the climate, the seas, the earth.”

To rely on nuclear weapons is an extreme form of survival of the fittest, the sermon suggests.  However, churches joined ICAN in doing the opposite: “Uniting the peoples and nations of the world around a treaty prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons, prohibiting threats of such use…and possession of nuclear weapons….is deserving of great honor,” the WCC leader notes.

Prayers sung and said rise like incense.  “Light a candle for peace, and for Korea where peace does not exist but the threat of nuclear war does”.

“Who shares a sister’s distress and need? Who will stand up for another’s right?”  Kyrie eleison; God have mercy.

“Let our light shine where we are, so we share the hope that you have given us.” God in your grace hear us.

“Our common action for the sanctity of life brings us together as people of different faiths,” says Linnet Wairimu Ng’ayu of the African Council of Religious Leaders in a closing call from one of the several faith-based partners of ICAN present.  “Set aside whatever divides us and come together at such a time as this, to work for the abolition of nuclear arsenals and until the last nuclear weapon is gone.”

The ICAN logo appears at the end of the order of service.  Its broken bomb is more broken than ever.

From high in its tower, the bell of Oslo’s Trefoldighetskirken tolls an “Amen”.

About the author :

Jonathan Frerichs recently retired from the World Council of Churches where he had been the programme executive for peace building and disarmament. In the summer of 2015 he prepared and accompanied a WCC church leaders' pilgrimage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to mark the 70th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on these two Japanese cities.

Jonathan Frerichs is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.