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Thursdays in Black: Pilgrim Prayers for Women in Conflict Situations

Thursdays in Black: Pilgrim Prayers for Women in Conflict Situations

The World Council of Churches has been mobilizing Christians all over the world to pray, walk and work for justice and peace with our brothers and sisters living in conflict countries. In 2017 and 2018, “Pilgrim Team Visits” have highlighted gender injustice especially during armed conflict. Visits have so far taken place to Nigeria, Burundi; Colombia, and South Sudan.

In all the countries the WCC pilgrims have visited so far, our sisters have shared devastating stories. They are carrying unspeakable wounds. Yet, the women also show incredible strength that comes from their faith in God who is able to transform the conflict to justice and peace.

The pilgrims from the team visit to South Sudan, in particular, committed themselves to invite you to join the prayer for overcoming the gender violence. These reflections and prayers are shared every Thursday as part of the WCC Thursdays in Black campaign.

3: Domestic violence

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:6)

Reflection

In addition to the violence that all South Sudanese are experiencing as a result of the civil war which has been going on since 2013, the women of South Sudan also talked about the oppression of domestic violence.  It takes the form of experiences of physical, psychological, economic, sexual and spiritual abuse. The majority of the women we talked to reported that abandonment by their husbands to fend for themselves and the large number of children was the number one form of abuse. They felt that the men left to join the war or to marry another woman who was not a financial burden to the men. Most women with no financial means to feed the children ended up in the streets begging, the girls being married off at a very early age or joining prostitution houses. For the boy child they would end up being recruited as child solders, or on drugs or taken for sexual abuse. Some women talked about being raped in front of their family members by the armed robbers who break into people’s homes at night,  and afterwards they experience physical and emotional violence from their family members. It is another major reason for being abandoned by their husbands.

Domestic violence is a global problem. The majority of people who experience violence during peaceful times are women and children. It becomes worse when a country is war. The Bible passage above is an encouragement to all people experiencing violence that the Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed, including oppression through domestic violence.

Prayer

Sovereign God of love, thank you for being the Light of the world. Nothing is hidden from you. Just Lord, we confess that we have been indifferent to the people suffering from domestic violence, especially in war torn countries like South Sudan. We repent and pray for forgiveness.

We pray for the young girls who are forced into marriage because their fathers have abandoned all the children as a result of not having enough money to feed the children. We pray for women who are victims of abandonment by their families for various reasons and are not able to take care of themselves and their children. We pray for their physical, mental and spiritual healing. Most of all, we pray that the war will come to an end in South Sudan.  We pray for leaders who put their people first and therefore are willing to negotiate for peace with justice for all the people of South Sudan. We pray for homes where each person is valued and is healed from the trauma of war.  We are praying in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

(Rev. Fred M. Y. Amevenku, Lecturer, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon-Accra, Ghana and Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, Deputy General Secretary, Public Witness and Diakonia, World Council of Churches).

2: Breaking the Silence of Rape

And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom's house. (2 Samuel 13:20)

Reflection

Too often the voices of women go unheard and none are more silenced than women and girls who have experienced rape.  Survivors are often forced into hiding after rape because of feelings of shame, guilt, and fear of retaliation.  We have seen this all too well from celebrities and everyday women alike who shout #MeToo via social media platforms.  Young men, once only boys when they experienced rape, have also been brave enough to speak out in defiance against a culture that seeks to silence them.

During the WCC pilgrim visit to Juba, South Sudan in May 2018 we bore witness to the atrocity of rape perpetrated upon women and children.  We listened to many stories of rape and continued victimization forced upon women, girls and young boys.

We heard the heartbreaking experiences of home invasions that resulted in the rape of mothers, wives, and daughters. We heard stories of children being kidnapped by members of the military to be used as sex slaves and tragic accounts of girls being plucked off the street and literally raped to death.

We mourned with the survivors of this country as they begin to heal from these evils of violence.  Most of all, we allowed them an audience to tell their stories, to give voice to their pain, and to break the silence.

Prayer
Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, we come before you with prayers for victims and survivors of rape. We ask you in the Name of Jesus our Christ to bless all of those affected by these violent acts. We ask you to bless these women and children with comfort as they seek to see you more clearly despite these acts of terror.

God of miracles, we ask in the Name of Jesus, that you help these your children have hope again and to believe in God’s peace; that “peace that surpasses all understanding and which guards their heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4:7).

Lord God, we thank you in advance for your mercy and compassion towards those who have suffered much.  Hold all of us in your loving arms, O God, and bring upon us your Spirit of love.  We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus our Christ; the One who died on Calvary and forgives us our sins.

(Rev. Kymberley Clemons-Jones, Presbyterian Church U.S.A.)

1: #MeToo in South Sudan

“Reverently honour an older woman as you would your mother, and the younger women as sisters.” 1 Timothy 5: 2 (The Message)

Reflection
by Maureen Jack, Church of Scotland

“The Me Too movement (or ‘#MeToo’, with local alternatives in other languages) is an international movement against sexual harassment and assault.  #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.”
(Wikipedia)

In the West, publicity and, sometimes, legal action have empowered women to speak out.  During the WCC pilgrim visit to South Sudan in May 2018, we heard stories of how South Sudanese women seeking employment or in junior positions in the workplace suffer sexual harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of more powerful men.  Sadly, given the generally low status of women in society, and the apparent breakdown in the rule of law in the country, speaking out is not an option for them.  Even women parliamentarians told us that, on injustice in general, speaking out may put your life at risk.

In the context of South Sudan, in the workplace older women are not treated as mothers nor younger women as sisters.  Far from seeing themselves as reverently honoured, women to whom we spoke said that in South Sudan they are regarded “as animals”.

May we pray with our sisters in South Sudan for transformation, respect and justice.

Prayer
God bless us with insight to recognize violence in all its forms,
And the courage to name it.
Speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves,
And seeking justice in the world in which we live.
Give us compassion for the vulnerable
And grace to stand alongside them, through the strength of Jesus our Lord.
Holy Spirit, give us a prayerful heart
Touching others with your peace,
As together we face the challenges that lie ahead.
(The Church of Scotland)