Once again this year parishioners from our church, St. Bernard de Clairvaux Parish, in Toronto, joined other parishes to celebrate the World Day of Prayer. The ecumenical service was held at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Other churches that participated were the Greenborough Community Church, St. David's Anglican Church and the Church of the Advent. The theme for 2012 was "Let Justice Prevail".
The service is held at a different churches in the community each year. In 2010, it was help at St. Bernard Parish. In 2011, the host parish was St. David's Anglican Church. Council members come from the many church partners: Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, The Salvation Army, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Canada, Ukranian Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Pentecostal Assemblies.
The World Day of Prayer was started in Canada and the Unites States in 1922. Today it is observed in more then 170 countries. By participating in the service the faithful come together to pray and worship and strengthen their relationships with other Christians around the world, as well as over 2,000 churches and communities across Canada. Each year a theme is chosen and the prayer focus and awareness is to highlight a specific country. For 2012, the nation selected was Malaysia. In 2013, the women of France will prepare the prayer service and the theme will be: "I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me".
The service this year featured the sad story of a Malaysian social worker, Irene Fernandez, who was jailed for advocating for the rights of migrant workers and other poor oppressed people in her country. She researched the problem and exposed the injustice by publishing the information. She uncovered the very sad reality of workers who were often housed in government detention centres that were unsanitary and with inadequate food and water. In addition, some workers were beaten and sexually abused. This resulted in a number of deaths. She was charged by the government for "maliciously publishing false news" and after a long detracted legal battle lasting seven years she was found guilty.
Fernandez spent one year in jail before the High Court overturned the earlier conviction that led to her acquittal. She is currently trying to stop her government from supporting the trafficking of persons that she sees as "the heinous crime of modern day slavery". As well, she believes the survivors of this dehumanizing activity need to be helped to once again see themselves as children of God in order to regain their self-worth and dignity.
In the Lenten message 2012, Pope Benedict XVI focuses on these words taken form the Letter to the Hebrews “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (10:24). The Pope wants to remind us that Christian life is centred on charity. The Holy Father considers three main points of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness. By attending and supporting the World Day of Prayer, we are building those community bridges that can help us to care more for each other and do good works. The service creates a community awareness of the needs of others. The prayers, the hymns and the Bible readings chosen for the service served to renew the universal Christian call to be concerned and to pray for the entire Christian family all over the world.
One of the hymns sung during the service that best sums up the essence of the World Day of Prayer is "In Christ There is no East or West". In one verse, we find the words that speak about our Christian responsibility because we are all connected to the Mystical Body of Christ: "In Christ shall true hearts everywhere their high communion find,/ Whose service is the golden cord close-binding humankind." And so we end as we began, "Let God's Justice Prevail".