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Friday, March 24, 2017
Christian Unity Week to focus on welcoming the stranger
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¬†Churches have an obligation to welcome asylum seekers and refugees and be enriched by their lives and gifts: this is the message of the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, launched by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The Revd Canon Michael Ipgrave, Secretary Churches' Commission on Mission (a Commission of CTBI) said at the launch in Inter Church House, London: 'In our religiously diverse societies, Christians have an obligation and an opportunity to build up friendly and trusting relationships with their neighbours of other faiths. I know that this material will give them some practical suggestions to help them find ways to do this.' The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has become an annual worldwide chain of prayer for unity since it was proposed in 1908 by Paul Watson. Many Christians observe the Week from 18 to 25 January and some at Pentecost. CTBI wants congregations to explore the theme to find ways towards unity throughout the year, at Easter, Christian Aid Week, at Pentecost, at holiday time, harvest and One World Week, Advent and Epiphany. "It is not enough just to pray together for unity during one week in the year and then do nothing to grow towards that unity for the remaining fifty one weeks," said the Revd Jean Mayland, CTBI's Co-ordinating Secretary for Church Life. The theme this year was developed in Argentina, by the Ecumenical Commission of Christian Churches in Argentina. The material was then worked on by an international committee and finally edited for use in these islands by a small group drawn from the four nations represented in CTBI. 'The phrase Treasure in Clay Jars from 2 Corinthians 4 is rich in symbolism, speaking as it does of the light of Christ which we are privileged to carry in the clay of our flesh. It is this light which has inspired many refugees who have come to our shores enriching us by the treasures they bring through their lives and gifts,' explained the Revd Jean Mayland, The Resource Book advises: 'We should see the immigrants and asylum seekers who come to live among us as indeed a bonus to our lives, and not bogus people coming to drain our livelihood from us.' On exploring conversations with people of other faiths the Revd Canon Michael Ipgrave said: 'Inter faith conversations are the place where we can discover what being Christian is about. The Resource Book offers some starters for people to explore in their own situation. If people looked carefully at their neighbours they would find people of other faiths in nearly every place.' Richard Solly, who edits Church and Race, the periodical of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice and prepares material for the annual Racial Justice Sunday, said the issue of asylum seekers caused disunity within some Christians. 'Churches have been against the routine detention of people just because they are seeking asylum. I have met people who assume those people must have done something wrong. The average person who does not meet asylum seekers believes what they read in the newspapers, which is largely untrue. In fact some asylum seekers are here because of their faith and we should see them as the treasure in clay jars. It would be wonderful if beginning with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Christians could reflect on the privilege we have of these "clay jars" coming from other countries and choosing to live among us. Then Churches could advocate for them, speak to those in government who say they are Christian, yet treat these people with cold, callous brutality.' There is a poster, order form, a resource book and a pamphlet with daily readings and suggested service. The pamphlet is available in two versions, one in English and the other bilingual, Welsh/ English. CTBI resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity include: English pamphlet at 50p each; bilingual Welsh/English pamphlet at 50p each; A2 poster at £1.00; planners' resource book at £3.00 each and planning pack at £8.50 each (includes one poster, ten pamphlets and one resource book.) Send orders to CTBI Publications, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW!P 3BN, phone 020 7898 1300. email:
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