OSJ Prayers

The Pope and Drug Violence in Mexico

Pope Francis began his weeklong visit to Mexico on Friday, where he has called for justice in regard to drug violence, the income gap, and the treatment of indigenous peoples. In a speech to Catholic bishops, he focused on the need for church leaders to step up and denounce the drug trade and violence. He urged leaders to step out from behind their privilege and to stand up for the people of Mexico who are victims of the drug trade. The pope’s trip to Mexico followed a prison riot in Nuevo Leon state last week that resulted in 49 inmates killed. The riot began as a fight between two drug cartel leaders.

God, for the deep and longstanding suffering that the drug trade has brought to places like Mexico, we lift our prayers. We pray that your church might use its influence to reduce this suffering — on both sides of the border.

Airstrikes and a Ceasefire in Syria

Russian and Syrian government airstrikes hit four medical facilities in northern Syria this week, two in Azaz and two in Idlib province. One of the strikes hit a Doctor’s Without Borders hospital, destroying the facility and killing at least 7 people. A second set of strikes hit a children’s hospital, killing at least 10 people. Fourteen medical facilities have been hit by strikes this year alone. These strikes come after a “cessation of hostilities” agreement was made by the International Syria Support Group, which is set to begin at the end of this week. The agreement also included promises to increase aid deliveries to cities under siege. The Islamic State and al-Nusra Front were not participants in these ceasefire talks.

God, we grieve for the suffering in Syria — bewildered by this tragic news of hospitals being bombed. We plead for movement toward peace — may this agreement be a step in the direction of hope for an end to the suffering in this region. May help come soon for those suffering without a way to escape.

The Marrakesh Declaration

At the end of January, 250 Islamic leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the obligation to protect the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority states. The group was joined by fifty faith leaders from non-Islamic faith traditions to observe the gathering — an important display of interfaith cooperation in the midst of extremism and Islamophobia. The discussion resulted in the Marrakesh Declaration, which commits to combat extremism, religious bigotry, and scapegoating and to protect minority rights and the freedom of religion.

God, we give you thanks for faith leaders willing to speak out for the dignity of all human beings. We thank you for their courage in speaking to defend people whose faith is different from their own. May followers of Jesus commit too to fight against extremism, bigotry, and seeing any person as less than human.

Welcoming Refugees Event in Michigan

West Michigan interfaith organizations are joining together to discuss how the local community can make an impact on the refugee crisis. Officials from the City of Grand Rapids, Bing Goei of the Michigan Office for New Americans, and representatives from Bethany Christian Services, Lutheran Social Services, and Welcoming Michigan will be on hand to discuss local refugee programs that are currently in place. They will be joined by several refugees who will share their stories of settling in West Michigan, and a time for discussion and questions will conclude the event. The event will be held on Tuesday, March 8, at 7:00 p.m. at the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids and is open to everyone.

Forum on the Death Penalty

There will be a Forum on the Death Penalty at Calvin College in the CFAC recital hall at 7:30 p.m. on March 7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The panel includes: Shane Claiborne (author and Christian activist), Dr. Chris Dorsey (professor at Western Theological Seminary), Randy Steidl (death row exoneree), and Gail Rice (member of the CRC whose brother was murdered). The forum is sponsored by the Office of Social Justice, Equal Justice USA, Calvin Social Work department, and the Heyns family.