We can find joy in suffering

  • June 8, 2007
KING CITY, Ont. - With tambourines, shakers and streamers in hand 200 women opened the first World Day of Prayer International Committee meeting to be held in Canada with an ecumenical prayer service.
The World Day of Prayer is a worldwide ecumenical movement that co-ordinates annual worship services in 170 countries on the first Friday in March. Representatives from 90 countries met May 30 to June 5 at Seneca College in King City, north of Toronto.

Gillian Barfoot, communications manager for the the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada , which sponsored the meeting, said just gathering under one roof was an accomplishment due to a two-year long struggle to secure travelling visas for the participants.

“I think the world has become more fearful,” said Barfoot, explaining some women couldn’t come due to visa complications. Others like AIDS workshop presenter Judith Sioto from the Solomon Islands arrived a day late because her Canadian visa was not recognized at her stopover in the United States.

{sidebar id=2}Safe and accessible passage between countries is a topic of interest for keynote speaker Mary Jo Leddy, who founded Romero House for refugees in Toronto. The award-winning author and lecturer said having lived with refugees at Romero House for 16 years she’s learned it’s possible for people of different cultures and faiths to live together.

Leddy drew upon her experience working with displaced peoples and ideas from her book Radical Gratitude to inspire the committee, which meets once every four years to share experiences, elect an executive committee and select a group of women from a different country to write the annual prayer service. It is translated into more than 90 languages and celebrated by tens of thousand of local communities, including 2,000 communities in Canada.

Having been a part of many World Day of Prayers, Leddy said many of these prayers come from cries of suffering in the world.

“I think it’s profoundly important that we also hold those prayers in gratitude and blessing,” said Leddy. “Even in the midst of suffering we can find joy and praise God.”

Leddy sprinkled her talk with stories about people who’ve lived at Romero House and the lessons they’ve taught her about prayer and gratitude. Despite their hardships they continue to thank God for the life they’ve been given, she said.

“It’s the beginning of their liberation from violence and oppression (that) no matter what you’ve done to me you can’t take away the ability to praise ‛You.’ Liberation must begin with a simple affirmation of gratitude.”

Leddy said that keeping an attitude of gratitude is difficult in the midst of a global culture of money.

“This is a profoundly countercultural attitude to believe in prayer... as the power to change the world” rather than chasing after material wealth, which leaves people dissatisfied with what they have, but also who they are, said Leddy.

“The fundamental act of gratitude is when we are able to say ‛it’s enough.’ ”

Leddy said in order to cultivate a gracious attitude people must recognize all the things they are grateful for.

“My life, as it is, is imperfect, lacking (but) I’ve still been given this one great chance at life,” she said.

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