Saturday, July 31, 2021

MAMRE FJKM - Consecration of 4 new Sisters

Sister Angéline from Mamre FJKM writes:  

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The consecration of the four new Sisters: Sister Fara, Sister Pierrette, Sister Dina, Sister Minah finished safely on 24th July 2021. We are very happy to thank God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the plentiful grace of life’s donation of each. 

Some of you followed this service with Facebook F.J.K.M Ambavahadimitafo. 

The Mamre’s Sisters are happy to offer you their gratitude and their warm thanks for your prayers and best wishes because: “God is not unfair. He will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for him in the help you gave and are still giving to your fellow-Christians” (Hebrews 6:10)

Thank you very much indeed.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Church bells ring in Norway on 10th anniversary of Utøya attack

Floral tributes lay outside Oslo Cathedral on Thursday.
The flowers have become a symbol of the country's response to the attack, when roses were piled outside Oslo Cathedral in the days after the mass killing. 

Church bells rang for five minutes across Norway on 22 July, marking the 10th anniversary of the twin attacks that killed 77 Norwegians and left hundreds of others scarred for life “both in body and soul,” as Oslo Bishop Kari Veiteberg put it at the memorial service in the Oslo Cathedral. Memorial services were held, from those in individual homes to churches to a service in the Oslo Cathedral.  

I remember being in Tanzania for the DRAE Assembly, followed by the DIAKONIA Executive Committee meeting. As the Executive were gathered in the small meeting room, news came through of the horrific attack and the tragic loss of life. I remember so well how shocked Rev Marianne Uri Øverland (DRAE) was as this news came through from her home country. She, along with the people in Norway, still bear the pain and sorrow of the attack. Marianne was part of the service in the Oslo Cathedral. 

At the memorial service attended by survivors and relatives of the victims, political leaders and Norway's Royal family, the Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: "It hurts to think back to that dark day in July ten years ago. Today, we mourn together. Today, we remember the 77 that never came home". 

The memorial was held in central Oslo outside what was once the prime minister's office. People also expressed their sorrow by leaving red roses at cathedral and in public places. 

Eight of the victims died when a car bomb was detonated outside a tower block housing the offices of then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Less than two hours later, a lone gunman attacked a summer camp organized by the ruling Norwegian Labour Party, killing 69 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Norwegian Bishop Erik Varden spoke of the "grief and perplexity" of Norwegians. The attack was the deadliest violence in the country since the Second World War. Ten years, on, the nation is still in grief, and still struggles to understand how something as brutal as that act could happen in a nation that is peaceful, and that prides itself on being peaceful. So were united in grief and perplexity and also in indignation that such a thing should have happened here.”

Some parents of the victims reflected on how the country has coped since the massacre, saying that “time does not heal all wounds." 

“What would those who were so brutally and unfairly killed think of us now 10 years later? I think they would be sad to know that there still are survivors and bereaved with great needs,” said Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland, whose daughter, Synne, was killed by Breivik. Roeyneland runs the national support group for victims and families. "I think they would be disappointed in seeing the public debate in many ways has moved in the wrong direction. I also think they would be proud of us. Proud of how we reacted in the days after the terrorist attack and how our state under the rule of law firmly stood its ground in the face of brutality.”

Astrid Hoem, a survivor from Utoya who leads the AUF, the youth wing of the center-left Labor Party, said, “We have not stopped the hatred,” and urged Norway to face up to the racism in the country. “It is so brutal that it can be difficult to fathom. But it’s our responsibility to do so. Because 10 years on, we must speak the truth. We haven’t stopped the hatred. Far-right extremism is still alive. The terrorist was one of us.”

The victims came from all parts of the country and memorial services were also held across Norway, with people also laying down flowers in other cities.

The words of Shirley Erena Murray's song serve as a prayer for the people of Norway: 

SONG: When Human Voices Cannot Sing
When human voices cannot sing
and human hearts are breaking,
we bring our grief to you, O God
who knows our inner aching.

Set free our spirits from all fear - 
the cloud of dark unknowing,
and let the light, the Christ-light show
the pathway of our going.
(Words: Shirley Murray, (*v 3&4 omitted); tune: St Columba

Interesting academic research here - a critical discourse analysis of the annual memorial speeches and coverage from 2012 to 2014 which examines how visions of national identity are produced in and through the remembrance of the terrorist attacks. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Wildfires and climate change

Wildfires and bushfires are becoming more regular, and earlier in the summer season, amplified by high temperatures, drought, lightning strikes and climate change. Climate and fire scientists have long anticipated that fires on the west coast of the U.S. (and other places) would grow larger, more intense, and more dangerous. 

A wildfire in southern Oregon is currently threatening transmission lines that carry imported power to California.

Temperatures have soared in the inland and desert areas of California as fires burned in the north. In California’s agricultural Central Valley, Fresno reached 111F (43.9C), one degree short of the all-time high for the date. Temperatures in Death Valley reached 130F, the highest high recorded since July 1913, when Furnace Creek desert hit 134F – largely considered the highest measured temperature on Earth.

The newly formed Justice Committee of DIAKONIA World Federation changed the title of the Committee from Social Justice, to Justice, to accommodate the pressing challenges in our world brought about by climate change, environmental matters and eco-justice. It would be great to know in what ways those in diaconal ministry are engaged in environmental matters - education, advocacy, recovery ministries etc. 

Remembering catastrophic bushfires
We remember…cinders and sadness. 
In agony, creation fought to survive, and communities were decimated.
We remember the loss of fauna, flora, farms and families.
O God, we heard the cries. We felt the heartache. We saw the tears.

We saw the courage, response and resourcefulness of communities.
We who have so much offered and assisted, but we could not prevent or postpone
the living pain, the terror and dying from the destructive roar.
We have lived with the ongoing loss and groaning
of all what was, and is, and will continue to be, grieving with this reality.
We remember….
A silence is kept

Creator God,
Today we call to you in one voice.
Together, we celebrate our Earth.
We delight in all its diverse ecosystems.
We are awed by the variety of fauna and flora.
We are inspired by its wisdom and capacity to regenerate.

Generous One,
We are sorry that as your people, part of this great creation,
that our greed and sense of power has wreaked havoc on this splendour.
Our shame is too often set aside in bluster or denial.
Our anger is too often expressed in blame.
We too often do not take responsibility,
not wishing to put effort into relationship with the earth and consideration of the ‘other’.
We are sorrier than we can say. Forgive us.

In trust, with love, you call us to you,
And encourage us to act and see in a new way.
For you forgive us, and re-direct us to take our place in the midst of this wondrous creation.
Restoration and renewal draw us forward
to seek the right way of living, being just and acting with humility.
We listen and learn together, calling on our strength as God’s people to collaborate,
with consideration of all of creation and our small part with in it.
May our footprint be the size that fits in this wondrous earth,
sustaining, supporting and sensitively responding,
together with the Earth. Amen

A prayer by Disaster and Recovery Ministries, an Ecumenical Ministry in South Australia, providing pastoral care for communities who are recovering from disaster, whether natural or those of human origin.

Floods in Europe

No doubt you've seen the news of the devastation of the 'once in a century' floods in western Europe The floods have been fuelled by days of heavy rain, leaving thousands homeless after their dwellings were destroyed or deemed to be at risk. Elected officials are concerned about the lingering economic effects from lost homes and businesses. Elsewhere in Europe, dikes on swollen rivers are at risk of collapsing, and crews have raced to reinforce flood barriers. In one flooded German town, the ground collapsed under family homes. In another, floodwaters swept through an assisted living centre, killing 12. The number of dead has passed 125 and the search continues for hundreds of missing people. 

We are particularly mindful of the safety of Deaconess communities in Europe, and grateful for their willingness to help where possible. Please remember them in your prayers. 

We pray too for the rescuers facing such a huge task. 

This prayer by Maren Tirabassi

God who always walks across water, 
come to the people of Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands. 
Tenderly reach out a hand
for those who grieve
so that they do not sink.

Get into the small boats of fear
of those who wait for 1300 missing.

Become the shoreline of hope
for those who work through the night
rescuing, searching,
providing shelter, food,
fresh water, medical supplies.

For those in evacuation shelters
give peace-be-still to anxiety,
and grow faith large enough
to find a sun in tomorrow. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Prayers for South Africa - civil unrest

There has been considerable civil unrest in parts of South Africa following the arrest and imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday (7 July), for contempt of court after failing to appear to answer corruption charges. The unrest began in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. President Mr Ramaphosa stated: “This is not who we are as a nation,” and called for peace. Much of the ensuing violence, looting and chaos does not appear to have anything to do with Mr Zuma’s imprisonment. There is a great deal of pent up anger after many years of suffering, and deep-seated frustrations over poor governance. Mr Ramaphosa described it as: “Opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft” and destruction of property. President Cyril Ramaphosa said that there was no justification for the violence and that it was damaging efforts to rebuild the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The situation of the country, especially in Johannesburg where a majority of the population are the Zulu (former President Zuma’s ethnic tribe), has escalated. Johan Viljoen, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute) says, "There is shooting everywhere. People are standing on bridges overlooking the highways and shooting aimlessly. Burning cars can also be seen on the streets and people are running in all directions with looted items. The people’s suffering has been aggravated by the COVID-19 lockdown in the country, which has left many without any sources of income. People are suffering from extreme poverty and some are risking their lives, dodging live bullets to steal food from people’s shops because they are hungry. People have witnessed a total mess in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout where a negligible percentage have accessed the vaccination against the target masses. There is zero social assistance from the government and the people are not happy about the way the government is handling the economic crisis.” Meanwhile, South Africa is battling a severe third wave of the coronavirus pandemic driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

The South African National Defence Force has been deployed to assist the South African Police Service  in bringing the widespread chaos under control. At least 72 people are confirmed dead in the week since Zuma's arrest, and police say hundreds have been arrested.

South Africa is home to an estimated 57 million people, of whom 77% profess to be Christian. There are two member associations of DIAKONIA World Federation - The Methodist Diaconal Order, and the Highveld Deacons. 

Please remember the people of South Africa in your prayers at this crucial time:

* for an effective response to the current crises

* for the protection of life and property

* for believers to be voices for peace and reconciliation

* for unity and reconciliation across all ethnic groups

* for those in positions of leadership

* for a solution to the poverty and unemployment people are experiencing

* for containment of the COVID pandemic