Christian unity, Jerusalem peace linked for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

By 
  • July 28, 2010
There is no difference between praying for peace in Jerusalem and praying for Christian unity, according to the authors of prayers for next January’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The 102nd Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be celebrated Jan. 16 to 22 in Canada.

For the first time the ecumenical team that chose the theme and accompanying prayers for the week-long event is drawn from the churches of Jerusalem — the mother church for all Christians and the city that first witnessed the Resurrection.


Four of the nine representatives who wrote the basic text for the 2011 Week of Prayer were also contributors to a contentious document that calls for boycotts of Israeli goods produced in the occupied Palestinian territories. “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” has inspired Middle East boycott and divestment movements within the Methodist Church of the United Kingdom and the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

Despite this connection, a senior Jewish representative to Canada’s official Christian-Jewish dialogue calls the week of Christian prayer “very positive.”

“It speaks of peaceful negotiations. It speaks of an end to all violence. It speaks of peace and justice for all living in that part of the world. And it speaks of harmony among neighbours,” said Dr. Victor Goldbloom, senior representative of the Canadian Jewish Congress to the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation. “There is nothing negative about the state of Israel, nothing political in the document. I take all of this as very positive.”

“The call for unity this year comes to churches all over the world from Jerusalem, the mother church,” says the introduction to the annual eight days of prayer promoted by both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches.

“Mindful of its own divisions and its own need to do more for the unity of the Body of Christ, the churches in Jerusalem call all Christians to rediscover the values that bound together the early Christian community in Jerusalem, when they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

But Christians praying together won’t be enough, according to the 2011 Week of Prayer authors. They end the week with “A call from the Jerusalem churches to the wider service of reconciliation.”

“Even if Christians achieve unity among themselves, their work is not done, for they need to reconcile themselves with others. In the Jerusalem context this means Palestinian and Israeli,” says the document.

With the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East scheduled for Oct. 10 to 24 at the Vatican and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity originating in Jerusalem, plenty of Christian-Jewish dialogue this coming year will concentrate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The preparatory documents for the Vatican synod call for a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict.

Given mostly good relations between Catholics and Jews in Canada, it would be a good idea for the Canadian Jewish Congress to open a dialogue with the Canadian representatives to the synod, said Goldbloom.

Gradual diminishment of the Christian presence in the Holy Land is not something Jews around the world or Israelis want to see, Goldbloom said.

Over the last century the Christian population of what is now Israel and Palestine has shrunk from about 20 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2005, according to the Week of Prayer’s Jerusalem authors.

Religious diversity is as good for Israel as it would be for Canada or any other country, said Goldbloom.

“It would be unfortunate if Israel were to become so homogeneous that there would be no interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land, which is holy for three Abrahamic religions,” he said.

Initial materials to help parishes organize their own Week of Prayer celebrations have been posted to www.weekofprayer.ca. The printed materials will be available from Novalis in September.

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