NEWS | Anne Lim
Wednesday 2 March 2016
When you have your first cup of coffee on Friday morning, 4 March, remember to ask for God’s blessing on Cuba.
But instead of calling to mind exotic imagery of salsa, cigars and vintage cars, think about the bleak reality of children suffering the brunt of social evils such as poverty, unemployment, drugs and violence.
“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, but in Cuba it is the children who suffer most when tempers flare into violence in overcrowded homes, and when fathers leave to find work in the US, leaving their sons without role models.
“Receive children, Receive me” is the welcoming, child-focused theme of this year’s World Day of Prayer, a worldwide ecumenical movement of women in more than 170 countries who come together on the first Friday of March in coordinated services of worship and prayer.
But whether you can attend a service or not, no matter what your age or gender, Jan Peddersen, Victorian president of World Day of Prayer Australia, wants every single Christian in Australia to grab a few moments during the day to pray for Cuba.
“If we’re all praying for God to be present and holding Cuba, I think we would see change,” she says.
In Australia, World Day of Prayer, formerly known as the Women’s World Day of Prayer, is considered an ageing movement, she notes, but in many countries across the world it is a young and growing movement.
“Somehow in Australia we need to get the message out there that prayer is not confined to a particular age and it would be fantastic if we could get younger people to put their hand up and say ‘we’ll pray for Cuba’.”
With 1200 prayer groups meeting on Friday in Victoria alone, there will be many thousands of individuals praying across the country for Cuba, swelling to millions across the globe. This year’s host country is Cuba, where women have prepared services and prayers addressing the growing problem of domestic violence.
In Australia, funds raised on the day will support Bible Society’s anti-domestic violence programme being delivered through Cuban churches alongside the One Million Bibles for Cuba campaign.
The educational materials use the Bible as a textbook or guide to how people should treat each other, modelled on Jesus as a man who was strong but gentle, caring and accepting.
“It’s based on the text of Jesus receiving those children and treating them with care and gentleness and acceptance, so that’s the flavour of the materials as well,” Jan says.
The programme is based on earlier educational projects run with good results by West Indies Bible Society in the Bahamas and Jamaica.
“Research tells us that as a culture they still have this notion that a man must be very macho, must be very strong and forceful,” Jan says.
“Part of the way that has occurred in Cuba is in an acceptance of domestic violence – you keep your women and children in check by hitting and smacking and giving orders.”
Jan quotes a staggering statistic from a church mission group that more than half of all children in Cuba go to school carrying weapons “because their experience of home life is violent and so they expect to grow up in gangs and have to defend themselves.”
“So there is a need to pray for a change of thinking and a change of heart, valuing of children as the future of their country and an easing of the issues of poverty, lack of work, the drug culture – it’s one of the main thoroughfares for drugs to travel through to America and other places,” Jan says.
“There’s a huge amount that requires prayer; we just need to focus our prayers and get as many Christians to be praying as possible.”
Download materials for WDOP services at worlddayofprayeraustralia.org
Picture credit: Brothers by Joana Esteves
Licence at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0