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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – it’s on!

Christian Unity and Love Amid Burkina Faso’s Crisis: Insights from the 2024 Week of Prayer

Every year, the member churches of the World Council of Churches gather from January 18 to 25 to commemorate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year, material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso, led by the local Chemin Neuf community.

The chosen theme is: “Love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27). Brothers and sisters from the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, Protestant Churches and ecumenical bodies generously collaborated in preparing the prayers and reflections, experiencing this joint work as an authentic journey of ecumenical conversion.

In what context have the churches of Burkina Faso prepared this week of prayer?

Burkina Faso is currently experiencing a serious security crisis affecting all faith communities. Churches have been specifically targeted by armed attacks. Priests, pastors and catechists have been killed during religious celebrations, others kidnapped, and the fate of many is unknown. But despite all this, a certain solidarity is emerging between Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional religions. Their leaders are working to find lasting solutions for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation. The efforts of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, through the Commission for Dialogue between Christians and Muslims, to promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation are well known.

Loving your neighbour as yourself is the source of mercy

Love is also mercy. Initiatives by various Catholic and Protestant churches to help displaced people fleeing areas under occupation by jihadists have multiplied. Christians are committed to promoting meetings to reflect on and raise awareness of the value of fraternity and solidarity with those most in need, and to defining strategies for the return of lasting peace to their communities. It is this hope that underpins the daily life of every Christian.

Working together has enabled Christians to commit the various churches to walk, pray, witness and work together in mutual love at this difficult time for their country. The love of Christ that unites all Christians is stronger than their divisions, and the Christians of Burkina Faso pledge to follow the path of love of God and love of neighbour with confidence.

How central is love to the Christian life?

Love is written into the DNA of the Christian faith. God is love,” says Saint John. And “Christ’s love brings us together in unity”. Christians discover their identity by experiencing God’s love, and reveal this identity to the world through their love for one another. As Jesus says, love of God and love of neighbour is the summation of all the law and the prophets…we will be judged on love.

In the passage chosen for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024, (Lk 10:25-37), Jesus reaffirms the traditional Judaic teaching of Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength” and Leviticus 18:19b: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.

Unity in diversity: One in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:18)

Unity in diversity is the most astonishing experience of the first Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles. How far we still are from this habit of communion, of sharing everything: words, thoughts, goods, hospitality without shutting ourselves away in little bubbles, but ready to help those further away when they need it.

The ecumenical journey is an experience that is only superficially useful, for it carries with it the revolutionary impetus of a world without separation, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all One in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). A path made up of listening, but also of confrontation, discernment, and the search for meeting points; points of view that know how to find new syntheses. Unity in diversity is not the synthesis of people who look, think and act alike. It is not the cancellation of differences, or a mixture that leads to the loss of identity…it is not doing what the leader, the most intelligent, the most powerful, the most deserving has imagined…

The ecumenism we dream of today is a puzzle piece, a communion rooted in a fundamental co-responsibility, a synodal spirit of mutual understanding and experience of the pleasure of a life of communion: a company of two or more, which does not crush singularity, but a unity that is searching, patient and courageous.

Happy week of prayer to all!

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