Even as nations continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, final preparations are under way for one of the world’s largest annual prayer observances, traditionally celebrated 18-25 January. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity involves Christian communities from many traditions and all parts of the globe. At a time when public health concerns put a limit on physical gatherings, it provides an opportunity for churches to come together by means of a typically Christian practice that long predates modern transport: prayer.
In a culmination of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the World Council of Churches (WCC) held its first ever online global ecumenical prayer on 25 January, drawing attendees from across the world who came together in a spirit of hope.
As the 2021 Biden-Harris National Prayer Service unfolded at the Washington National Cathedral on 21 January, dozens of prayers and a message from Rev. Dr William Barber II together gave a clarion call for repairing the breach in America.
Gathering for an annual meeting from 19-20 January, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and World Council of Churches Office of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation discussed ways of sharing more widely the document “Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity: A Christian Call to Reflection and Action During COVID-19 and Beyond,” which was co-produced by the two offices in 2020.
Senior UN staff, representatives from faith groups and members of civil society will be presenting at the 7th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs on January 26, 2021. This year’s event will focus on “2021: A defining year for accelerating gender equality, equity and justice,” with a series of presentations and discussions on issues including multi-stakeholder collaboration to accelerate gender equality, equity and justice, the urgency for achieving it, women advancing peace and security, and multilateralism and the intersection of religion and human rights.
On 30 December 2020, a tragic landslide struck the village of Ask, Norway, located in Gjerdrum, about 50 kilometers northeast of Oslo. Ten people were killed, and more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated from the area, even as they mourn lost loved ones in the close-knit community.
Below, Rt. Rev. Atle Sommerfeldt, bishop of Borg in the Church of Norway, reflects on how the church is bringing hope in the midst of what, for many in Gjerdrum, has become a valley of despair.
Rev. Dr Munther Isaac from the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, is academic dean at the Bethlehem Bible College. Below, he reflects on how, during 2020, the celebration of Christmas in Bethlehem, though vastly different than in the past, still brought hope and comfort.