With so many weeks since our last newsletter, one might expect that I would be early with my message, But such is not the case. There is much happening with the National Council of Churches in Australia and as I try to catch up on what was not completed last year, and try to prepare for the coming year, I find that there are many issues before me, and many ideas floating around.
Last October the leaders of Churches came together. They came together primarily to support each other and for conversation together. Part of their time focused on the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse. Francis Sullivan, the CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Commission spoke to them on the proposed redress scheme. Importantly, they decided that the first Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2017, will be a Day or Prayer and Fasting for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Consequently, in the past two weeks, I have kept alert to resources that could be shared with churches. Rightly or wrongly, I thought that it would be appropriate to provide some material for reflection and prayer as well as some sources for reading and study. Naturally, I turned to the web.
In doing this search, I found that people speaking of their experience had a most powerful impact on me. I have just viewed Australian Story , The Road from Damascus that told of the experience of a Syrian, Khaled Naanaa and his family. This program is available until 7 February, so, if you have not already seen it, why not prepare for the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Refugees and Asylum Seekers by viewing the program. If you miss this program, you might like to look at the web-site of UNHCR to hear more people, or you might like to look at the website of the Refugee Council of Australia to obtain more information.
Belatedly but timely, I have just read for the first time the Christmas letter to the Churches around the world of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend Justin Welby. While written for Christmas, his message is fitting for this time:
The measure of a Christ-like community is the extent to which it holds the vulnerable and marginalised of the world at the centre of its life. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, helped the Primates of the Anglican Communion to see this at our meeting in January . He has said elsewhere: ‘To live with Jesus is to live with the poor; to live with the poor is to live with Jesus’ (Community and Growth 1989). More than ever, we have a strong sense of the unity of Christians. God hears the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ that we ‘may be one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17. 21) and even now is fulfilling his prayer. While we are deeply conscious today of the ecumenism of blood, we also live in the ecumenism of hope and we are called to an ecumenism of action. To live with the vulnerable and marginalised, with Jesus Christ at the centre of our communities and at the heart of our ecumenical relations, to act together out of love and in love, love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is also to live as those who sow hope. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8.12). John the Evangelist … strengthens us with this message: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1.5).
May Christians unite in prayer and action to bring life and hope to people seeking to live in peace and with dignity.
Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs