13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

‘Week of Prayer’ offers chance to focus on Christian unity

ECHD Executive Director James Rehmat calls for charity, mercy, justice, and unity as majority of Christians face ‘intolerance’ as a minority group

Every year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) provides an opportunity to focus on unity, speak about and experience unity personally in villages, towns or county as well as engage with what happens at local and national levels.

The Ecumenical Commission for Human Development (ECHD) joined mainstream churches in observing the week of prayer for Christian unity which were attended by youngsters in Lahore, Faisalabad, and Multan. “UN member nations spend millions of dollars to unite the world but have failed in achieving this goal,” said Peter Calvin, general manager of Masihi Isha’at Khana, with reference to wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Addressing youth members of diverse background, and 12 clergy members of the Church of Pakistan, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Presbyterian churches at the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore, he suggested the world leaders to take decisions which benefit everyone. Similar prayers were organized by the Ecumenical Commission at Saint Peter’s Church of Pakistan in Faisalabad and at Saint Mary’s Church of Pakistan in Muzaffargarh.

The theme of a week-long prayer services – ‘You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself’ – is taken from the Gospel of Luke. Every year, pastors, priests and bishops hold joint prayers, hymns, candle lightings and meals in various churches of Pakistan during the eight-day Unity Octave that is observed from January 18 to January 25. In Lahore Cathedral, leaders recited different biblical verses on the theme of love.

They reflected on the story of Good Samaritan – a term typically used to describe someone who acts selflessly to help others, even if they are a complete stranger. The phrase originates from a biblical story, one of Jesus Christ’s parables reported in Chapter 10 of the Book of Luke. In this story, a traveler from a Middle Eastern Samaritan community comes upon a guy who has been robbed and beaten along the road side.

The injured person was disregarded by two persons passing by, both of whom were members of religiously revered organizations in a Jewish community: a priest and a Levite, a tribe with unique religious duties. In contrast, the Samaritan administers first aid to the victim, lays him on his donkey, and brings him to an inn where the beaten person is kept, cared for, and fed – all expenses paid for by the Samaritan traveler.

“We don’t understand the kind of love that God demands. The Samaritans were viewed as poor gypsies; anyone can become His instrument. Love those who reserve that right,” said Peter Calvin. The internationally observed effort first started in 1908 under the leadership of Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, the founder of an Anglican community and later a convert to Catholicism. The Catholic Church officially accepted observance in 1966.

‘Week of Prayer’ offers chance to focus on Christian unity
‘Week of Prayer’ offers chance to focus on Christian unity

“The theme selected reflects the connection between love of God and love of neighbor with a particular concern for challenging the boundaries of who is considered neighbor,” said James Rehmat, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Commission for Human Development. “It is a call for charity, mercy, justice, and unity as majority of Christians face intolerance as a minority group. We lack the strength necessary to advocate our rights, effectively bargain with government officials and become both socially and politically important, he said, and asked the Church leaders to find means to end the schism and quiet within.