As General Secretary of FWCC, I received a letter from the Pontifical Council on behalf of Pope Francis inviting all people of faith to join in a day of prayer and fasting for peace on Friday 23 February. In particular, we are asked collectively to pray for the cessation of violence and social-political tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Each January the Pope writes a message for the World Day of Peace. He asks us to take stock of our indifference to God, to our global family, to our connectedness, and to all of creation. Indifference takes away our humanity and it affects our ability to care for one another at both individual and communitarian levels. He writes: “We are called to make compassion, love, mercy, and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another. This requires the conversion of our hearts: the grace of God has to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezek 36:26), open to others in authentic solidarity.”
The United Nations expects the recent Congo offensive against Ugandan militants to displace 370,000 people, compounding Africa’s worst displacement crisis. As reported by Reuter’s world news, “Persistent conflict in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi and insurrection in the center of the country have displaced 4.3 million people internally. Last year, it lead the United Nations to declare Congo a lever three humanitarian emergency – on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.”
A Guardian headline this week read ‘UN outrage at Syrian suffering’: ‘We can no longer stay silent’. After eight years of war, the scale of suffering across Syria has reached unprecedented levels, with access to aid blocked in three major population centres and growing displacement with more than 13 million people in need across the country.
The Quaker United Nations Offices in New York and Geneva work on behalf of Quakers in the areas of Peace and Disarmament and Peacebuilding and the Prevention of Violent Conflict. QUNO works with the UN Prevention Platform and does continuing work in Burundi.
As Quakers around the world, let us join together in prayer and fasting, not only for the DRC, South Sudan, and Syria, where there is so much destruction and displacement, but also for the countries where leadership issues are causing risk and disruption: Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Let us pray for Friends in all of Africa, the largest of the four Sections with two of the three largest groups of Quakers: Kenya and Burundi. Remember the Friends we love and those we have yet to meet, and let us pray that they will know God is near.
FWCC General Secretary
What can I do?
Plenty. From wherever you are…
- Pray, fervently and deeply. As an everyday practice.
- Learn more, particularly about the countries where Quakers live and worship. Let it enlarge your heart and compassion. Let it expand your awareness of systemic injustice. Let God’s presence in this suffering change you.
- Support Quaker organizations that support Quaker presence in the world (from local level to world level). Send messages of support. Give financially to Quaker organizations. Sign up for e-newsletters and follow on social media.
- Be an ambassador for the Quaker way of being in the world. Be patterns and examples, expressing the joy of God’s presence. Commit to the Quaker persistence that causes us to keep imagining a better world and working toward it.
- Talk to anyone who shares this passion for peace. Move your concern outward, even as you hold your concern inwardly and ask God for companionship and wisdom.
- Be peace.
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