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Christians Urged to ‘Break the Silence’ for Week of Prayer for Unity

Jointly prepared since 1968 by Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Church, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally celebrated Jan. 18-25.
( [email protected] ) Dec 27, 2006 03:26 PM EST

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been organized for 2007. Jointly prepared since 1968 by Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Church, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally celebrated Jan. 18-25 or, in the Southern hemisphere, on other dates.

With the theme set as “Breaking the Silence” and focusing on the verse “He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (Mk 7:37), the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2007 calls Christians to express their growing unity both by "breaking the silence" and by joining together in responding to human suffering.

This year's Week of Prayer has its origins in the experience of Christian communities in the South African region of Umlazi, near Durban – a region deeply affected by unemployment and poverty – but most of all by HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that 50 percent of the residents of Umlazi are infected with the virus.

The theme of "Breaking the Silence" challenges cultural norms wherever matters relating to sexuality are "not to be spoken about".

In Zulu, the term ubunqunu, which literally "nakedness," indicates that these matters are taboo – and this reluctance to break the silence is costing lives. For the churches in Umlazi carrying out their ministry under these circumstances, the "visible unity of all Christians" is far more than a theological concept.

“The churches can be and do become agents of healing only when they themselves are healed, when they are truly the one body of Christ,” the WCC testified.

The human suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other dehumanizing forces threatens to overwhelm the divided churches.

“Christians and churches can, however, break the silence, speaking out with a single voice and reaching out as a single body, acting with compassion and in unity,” a WCC press release stated.

Week of Prayer resources include an introduction to the theme; a suggested ecumenical worship service that local churches are encouraged to adapt for their own particular liturgical, social and cultural contexts; biblical reflections and prayers for the "eight days"; and additional prayers from, and an overview of, the ecumenical situation in the particular country which has prepared the material – in this case, South-Africa.