Priest Killed in France
In Normandy, France, an 85-year-old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was murdered after two men who had pledged allegiance to ISIS broke into a church on Tuesday where he was performing Mass. The men, who took five hostages, were killed by police. This is the first attack in the West by the Islamic State against a church. Tension has been increasing between French Muslims and the rest of the French population. In 2011 France banned Muslim women from wearing burqas in public, and many French Muslims live in low-income areas and have been experiencing anti-Muslim sentiment.
God, we offer our fears, our horror, our outrage to you. We thank you for the life and ministry of Father Hamel. We pray for an end to the extremism that has prompted these acts of terrorism. We pray for Muslims who now suffer hate and blame after this incident. In our own communities, may our faith compel us to open our arms in hospitality.
Aid to Aleppo
The Syrian city of Aleppo has been under continual siege by Russian and Syrian-government forces since the beginning of this month, trapping 200,000 civilians with very little food. Russia announced plans today, Thursday, to open three food and medical-aid corridors for trapped civilians to leave the city and for rebel fighters who are willing to lay down their weapons (who will be offered amnesty by President Assad). A fourth corridor will also be opened to allow rebels to flee with their weapons. People have not yet been seen fleeing through the corridors; many civilians mistrust the Syrian government and Russian forces.
We lift our continued prayers for the people of Aleppo, for relief amid the indescribable suffering they have experienced. We pray for food, for medicine, for safety, and we ask that the people be granted wisdom as they choose whether to stay or go. We pray also for wisdom among the global forces that continue to bear upon the situation in Syria -- bring peace, Lord.
Stabbing in Japan
Tuesday morning outside of Tokyo, in a facility for people with disabilities, at least 19 people were killed and at least 25 were wounded in a knife attack by a former employee. A few months ago, he had written a letter to the Japanese Parliament threatening to attack the facility and stating that people with disabilities should be killed. This stabbing is the worst mass killing in Japan since World War II. Many are calling this a hate crime against people with disabilities.
God, we grieve with those who grieve in Japan today. We proclaim the blessings that people with disabilities bring to our lives, our communities, our churches — life is a gift, and all people bear your image. May those who are made vulnerable because of disabilities be protected from violence in Japan and all over the world.
Voting Rights in Virginia
In April the governor of Virginia restored the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. But the Virginia Supreme Court ruled last Friday to overturn his restoration order. Governor McAuliffe states that he will now individually sign restoration orders for the over 200,000 formerly incarcerated individuals affected by his order, including 13,000 who have registered to vote since April. Voter disenfranchisement is just one of the many ways formerly incarcerated individuals continue to be punished after serving their sentences.
God, we pray that all people may be treated with dignity — and we think especially of those returning from jail or prison. Help us to become more educated about ways that people continue to be punished and dehumanized after they have served their sentences. May our justice system become restorative for offenders and the whole community.