OSJ Prayers

Kansas Ends Refugee Program

The governor of Kansas announced on Monday that Kansas would be withdrawing from the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Although refugees are the most highly screened individuals to enter the United States, the governor cited security concerns as the reason for this decision. In the past, Kansas refugee resettlement organizations have resettled over 20,000 refugees from more than 30 countries. The move will likely have little effect on actual refugee resettlement numbers, as states do not currently have authority over resettlement locations. A pending bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would change that, giving states the right to refuse refugees.

God, we pray for wisdom, humility, and effective leadership for all who hold public office. We pray for refugees who continue to bear the brunt of misinformation about the resettlement process and of xenophobic attitudes that shape public opinion about them. Lord, may your church stand out because Christians are so actively working to integrate refugees into their communities.

Trudeau and Saudi Arms Deal

Human rights and development organizations are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to withdraw his approval of a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Current legislation in Canada disallows arms sales to governments that have records of human rights abuses and are involved in current conflicts. The opposing organizations state that it is very likely the combat vehicles will be used against Saudi people and in the Saudi-led mission in Yemen — which has killed an average of six children every day and displaced over 2.5 million people. Saudi Arabia has also already used similar combat vehicles in its involvement in Yemen. The secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada stated that “it is civilians in Yemen or protesters and dissidents in Saudi Arabia who would pay that $15 billion price tag.”

For the people of Yemen we lift our prayers for protection and peace. We thank you, God, for transparency and for faithful people paying attention to deals like these. We ask for wisdom for Prime Minister Trudeau as he considers the perspectives of the organizations opposing this arms deal.

Virginia Reinstates Voting Rights

Virginia’s governor has reinstated the right to vote for 200,000 individuals who have served their full prison sentence and have finished parole or probation. When people return from prison, many barriers remain that prevent them from successfully reentering society, such as their ability to vote in many states. Harsh sentencing policies and this kind of disenfranchisement have disproportionately affected the African American community, prompting Virginia’s change, which other states are also considering.

God, we pray for all who are coming home from prison — may our communities more and more greet them with support and reintegration, with hospitality and with a safe environment in which to begin again. We pray for the families of returning citizens, for they also are affected by the difficulty of finding work, housing, and government help. We pray for the democratic process; may it be free and fair. And we thank you for this news of restorative justice in Virginia.

The Conflict in Syria

At least 35 people, including children and rescue workers, were killed in attacks last weekend on the Syrian city of Aleppo. It is unclear whether Syrian or Russian warplanes were responsible. There is currently a ceasefire in Syria; however, Russia and the Syrian government have escalated attacks on Aleppo. The United Nations has urged the U.S. and Russia to help maintain the ceasefire and peace talks. The U.S. has announced that it will send 250 soldiers to assist in the fight against the Islamic State, and Russia will give the Syrian government 850 million euros. However, it is unlikely that these funds will be used to positively rebuild infrastructure.

God, for the suffering people of Syria we lift our prayers. We pray for wise policies and for the governments involved, and we ask that these policies may have positive effects on innocent civilians. We ask that the peace talks and ceasefire agreement will be successful and sustainable. We also continue to pray for all the people displaced by this destructive conflict in Syria.

Flickr user jmiller291

Panel Discussion at Calvin College on Criminal Justice

The fourth panel discussion in the Challenges for the Next President Series, sponsored by the Calvin Faith and Citizenship Initiative and the Henry Institute, will consider criminal justice in the United States. The panel will feature Chris deGroot from Calvin’s Religion Department, who will discuss the perspectives of prisoners participating in the Calvin Prison Initiative at the Handlon Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan; Nathan Leamer, criminal justice policy analyst at the R Street Institute in Washington, D.C.; and Pastor James Jones from Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The discussion will take place on Tuesday, May 3, at 3:30 p.m. in the DeVos Communications Lobby on the Calvin College Campus in Grand Rapids. This series is intended to examine current policy issues in a way that will allow individuals to become more educated and thoughtful voters. Click here for more information.

Bethany Refugee World Cup

The Refugee World Cup is a soccer tournament organized by Bethany Christian Services to raise awareness about the refugee community in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and to celebrate refugees during World Refugee Day weekend. Teams will be composed of new Americans, refugees, immigrants, and locals who have grown up in the area. Besides watching the games, spectators will be able to  learn about the various cultures of local refugees and take part in American Red Cross activities. In addition, kids can hang out in a play area. Admittance and parking to the event are free. The tournament will take place on June 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Gainey Athletic Complex in Grand Rapids. Click here for more information.