This year, World Health Day falls on 7 April, and also commemorates the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization.
The prayer service included music and a reflection reminding people of the need for healing and liberation, and the call to break down the barriers that prevent people from experiencing God's love, and living whole and healthy lives.
Prof. Dr Rastko Jović, from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, Department of Canon Law, and a member of the WCC Gender Advisory Group, offered a reflection, noting that, many times in the Old Testament, disease is seen as demonic, as breaking the law of God, and that sickness makes a person defective and reduced in fullness.
“The Old Testament tells us that sick people are not ‘complete’ and therefore are unclean and are not allowed to approach the altar of God,” he said. Yet in Luke 8:43-48, a woman is healed and made whole again.
Jović reflected that, in today’s context, people who are sick often suffer, as the woman did, from an “identity of exclusion.”
They may be economically endangered, socially excluded, emotionally suffering, and religiously excluded.
Jović’s reflection offered ways in which churches can help sick people overcome this kind of stigma.
Prayers of intercession were offered by Dr Gisela Schneider, director of the German Institute for Medical Mission, who prayed that we would see humanity and creation as one body of God. “Help us to strive for justice and equity in accessing health for all,” she prayed. “Give us the strength and humility to work alongside people and communities, especially those at the margins.”