The theme for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from verse 28:2 in the Book of Acts. When the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked off the island of Malta, the local people greeted him with welcome and care. Paul reciprocates the kindness and compassion shown by the Maltese people, and we too are called to greater generosity for those in need.
In the face of the global COVID-19 crisis, we are mindful of our responsibility to care for one another as a human family, especially as we witness the devastating impacts of the pandemic across the world.
For many of our church partners in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, COVID-19 poses a great threat to the safety and livelihoods of their communities. In the midst of their own challenging times, many of our partners have contacted the Uniting Church expressing their concern for us in Australia, noting how we have experienced drought and bushfire, and now COVID-19. Their concern has been for us. Indeed, we have been shown “unusual kindness”.
UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer encouraged Uniting Church members to remember our church partners in prayer and action this week.
“As we pray this week for Christian Unity, we celebrate the life we share in Christ with other churches both here in Australia and across the world. We join together as one, in embodying God’s vision for the flourishing of all people and the whole creation,” said Dr Palmer.
“One of the important ways we share in the ecumenical life of the Church is the life-giving relationships we share with our church partners, many of which have significant ties to the culturally diverse communities in the UCA.”
In the face of COVID-19, our church partners, more than ever, need our prayers and our support. Let’s join with them, praying and acting together in unity and love.
Below is information from some our church partners to help you focus your prayer.
In South Sudan, managing the spread of COVID-19 will be incredibly challenging. With a population of 12 million people, there are only 12 intensive care unit beds and four ventilators. That's one ventilator for 3 million people. Almost 200,000 people are sheltering in UN civilian protection camps, including nearly 30,000 in Juba. The first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the camps on 13 May 2020. To add to this, many people don’t have access to internet, televisions or newspapers, meaning it is hard for them to access timely information and updates about COVID 19.
More than five million people in South Sudan rely on food aid to survive. The outbreak is slowing down humanitarian operations that deliver essential food supplies and lockdowns have restricted people from earning the money they rely on to meet their basic food and water needs. Women are more vulnerable to gender-based violence with the virus restricting options to seek help. The pandemic is also anticipated to slow down peace processes within South Sudan, already there have been reports of rising tensions in parts of the country. Our Partner, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has been engaged in peace building and trauma healing initiatives to support people following years of conflict. Now they are preparing to respond to COVID-19, by delivering food, wash items and psychosocial support to people most in need.
In Zimbabwe, COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time. In 2019, around 34% of the population were living in abject poverty (less than $1.90/day). Around 90% of the population are unemployed and annual inflation was recorded at over 600% in March 2020. Already people are struggling to put food on the table. Lockdown restrictions have meant that people have been more worried about starving to death than about COVID-19, as they have no means of making money to buy food unless they go out to work, often in the informal economy. They don’t have the luxury of stocking a pantry with items to last the next few days.
Many communities have also recently been impacted by natural disasters, such a severe drought and Cyclone Idai which hit in 2019. These disasters have impacted food production, especially for rural villages.
Our Partners the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and its relief agency the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) are supporting vulnerable communities by sharing materials about preventing COVID-19 and recognising symptoms, delivering food, tapped buckets and soap to households most in need, and spreading awareness in communities to reduce gender-based violence.
Churches and faith organisations in Africa have declared 22 May “Africa Prayer Day” to curb the outbreak of the pandemic.
We pray for all frontline medical staff and others working with the threat of COVID-19. We pray with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe in their work supporting the most vulnerable and we pray with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan as they seek to offer love and assurance to an already traumatised community struggling to survive with the new fear of COVID-19.
Originally from: Uniting Church in Australia
CCD reprinted with permission.