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Assembly’s opening prayer conveys cries and hopes

A prayer of confession and lament that began the opening worship service of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, summed up pains from divisions, oppression, injustice and violence prevalent in news and in lives of people around the world and gathered there.  The prayer also shared hopes for healing, reconciliation, peace, justice and climate health.

The prayer picked up themes expressed in stories of suffering shared in the pre-assembly on the community of women and men and in awareness that church leaders present shared in the suffering.

WCC opening worship
People share cries and hopes from around the world.

Between each region’s cries and hopes, people sang a South African response, “Senzenina,” which means “What have we done?”

The prayers are paraphrased.

Cries and hopes - Africa:

Nurturing and vulnerable God, when you gave life to creation... interconnected and interdependent: Behold, it was all good.

It is no longer all good.  Your beautiful image in Africa has been deformed as the greedy have raped its resources, scrambling over boundaries that separate and divide communities.  Within communities, the powerful have raped the less powerful....Your people’s lament is echoed in your own deep groans [as rivers drain dry, lakes flood and trees are torn up]....

God of life, breathe new life into our efforts for justice and peace so we can, with you, declare once more that creation will be good again.

Cries and hopes - Asia:

Accompanying God, we see you in the tears and moans of girls and women raped, raped again and gang raped, and those whose lives are broken beyond repair.

We see you in the wailing and mourning of mothers, wives and children who have lost their sons, husbands and fathers to mindless violence in the name of God; for the greed of a few for power and money.  We see you in the signs of the violated, displaced and silenced Dalits, indigenous peoples, linguistic and ethnic minorities.

We see you in the distress and disappointment of millions of children forced to hazardous industries, and in the pain and anguish of those forced to eke out a living in faraway places.

Empowering God, we see you in the resilience, resistance and creativity of the weary and heavy-laden, crushed lives and broken relationships. Transform our greed to consume into a thirst to share and our collective insanity that thrives on abuse of nature and people, and wash us clean of carelessness and callousness. 

Cries and hopes - the Caribbean:

In the midst of globalization, help us pray for one another.  Many in the Caribbean have suffered the cruelty of institutionalized slavery and had their identity confused through colonialism, often with the church’s complicity.

Many societies struggle with domestic abuse; missing children; homicides and gang violence; the demise of family life; eroding norms and values; weak economies and migration with injustice in the market place; degradation of creation, and corruption.

Thank you for accompanying us on this journey towards justice and peace in our societies and in nations beyond our shores.  Help us see one another in our weaknesses and our potential.  Help us find hope.  May your kingdom come to rule our hearts and shape our interactions.

Cries and hopes - Europe:

We gather from nations, communities and churches of great diversity and many contradictions.  We represent a unique history of civilization, culture and spirituality—a tradition of human advancement, yet a heritage of death: wars, colonial exploitation, racism and genocide.

Grant us faithfulness as we struggle to make Europe a better place for all, closing the gap between rich and poor.  Open our hearts and homes to refugees, migrants and all in need, and bless us with a culture that nurtures hospitality, cares for the vulnerable and follows your way of justice and peace.

Cries and hopes - Latin America:

Creator, Redeemer and ever-present Spirit, we recognize your power in the expanse of land you give—mountains, tropical rainforests, savannahs, pampas, caverns, rivers and ocean vistas.

We ask forgiveness for having allowed so much to go wrong, the exploitation of indigenous people and African descendants, the abuse of women and children.  We hear the cry of the poor who suffer because of injustice, corruption and violence, and the cries of all victims of crime.  We listen to the earth groaning as it yearns for liberation.  Help us put into practice the vision that another world is possible.

Cries and hopes - the Middle East:

Hear us as we cry out for peace and justice for the peoples and the land itself.  Grant us homelands where water, land and resources are respected and shared by all.

Help us share your love with our neighbors and plant seeds of tolerance in our communities.  Comfort us so our souls are healed from the wounds of wars and conflicts.  May your justice course through our lands like an unstoppable torrent. Teach us to trust in hope that one day soon all may dwell beneath their vines and fig trees in peace and happiness.

Cries and hopes - North America:

Lord, have mercy on us, for we mine resources of our lands and [others’ lands], leaving in our wake environmental devastation.

Christ, have mercy on us, for we demand cheap goods, heedless of the sweatshops and child labor required to serve our selfishness.

Lord, have mercy on us, for we are addicted to a culture of violence, numbing ourselves to the increasing number of victims at home and abroad.

Cries and hopes - the Pacific:

Your Pacific people cry as our beloved ocean rises up and overwhelms us.  We feel rivers of pain as our ancient land disappears and distances us from your creation.

We face mountains of despair as our cultures erode and engulf us in greed and power.  We tremble under earthquakes of changes and their effects on our lives.  We despair at hurricanes of problems we face and anguish they cause.

Yet Lord, we believe in your mercy, we hope in your love, we trust in your strength, we love in your grace, for in your mercy, love, strength and grace, we live.

Throughout the assembly, there were morning prayers, evening prayers, Korean church services, informal prayers and communion, and the closing prayer.  

Prayers set the tone for the encounters, discussions, events and decisions as the World Council of Churches set priorities for its programs and elected leaders.

A prayer of intercession after the opening worship sermon appealed:  “God of life, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God with us yesterday, today and forever, guide and comfort us on our pilgrimage towards justice and peace.”

Copyright © December 2013 - The Fig Tree