Children Praying for Peace

children-for-peace

Michael Martin, of our Oxford fraternity, has alerted us to a letter “Children praying for peace” from the Minister General of the OFM (Fr. Michael Perry OFM), and from the new Custos of the Holy Land (Fr. Francesco Patton OFM). The letter was posted on the First Sunday of Advent on both the OFM website, and on the website of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae (The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land).

The letter is addressed “to all the friars of the Order of Friars Minor, to the Poor Clares, to the sisters to the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, and to all women and men of good will.”

This text follows Fr. Michael’s recent message, at the time of the feast of St Francis, regarding Syria and Aleppo, which we posted here.

A PDF of the letter, which you may download, is available here.

children-in-aleppo

Fathers Michael and Francesco say in the letter that they wish to join, and “want to propose to all our communities”, the “Children praying for peace” initiative that began with “Aid to the Church in Need.” They say that “our Parish of St. Francis in Aleppo, which has been strongly affected by the tragedy of war and which has been tenaciously anchored to its hope for peace, has already joined the initiative. From Aleppo, we are now sending out our invitation to the whole world.”

“We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the “little ones” and that their prayer will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.”

“We are asking each community to dedicate their children’s mass, or the mass most frequented by children, on the first Sunday of every month, to prayer for peace, according to what is locally possible. The same thing can be done in a celebration during the Oratory or by involving the schools, thus, in this way giving an ecumenical and interreligious spirit to the initiative. If a community does not have a children’s liturgy or if it does not have a ministry for Oratories or a school, it can make the gesture during the communal Praises or Vespers, or on an occasion created especially for this initiative.”

They offer, in the letter, some practical suggestions using the example of how it is done in Aleppo.

They ask all those who take heed to their proposal to report it on to their Facebook page “Children in prayer for peace” which is based at St Francis parish, Aleppo.

If you do not have access to facebook, then add a comment to this post mentioning your community’s response to the initiative, which we can pass on to them, to assure them of the solidarity of the various communities / fraternities that make up the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain.

As Fathers Michael and Francesco mention, “Children Praying for Peace” is an Aid to the Church in Need initiative. In May this year Aid to the Church in Need reported that children from Syria’s different Christian denominations (Catholic and Orthodox) would be joining together to pray for peace in that country on International Children’s Day.

And on 7th October Aid to the Church in Need reported that More than one million children in Syria have been calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the violence engulfing the country. “At least 2,000 schools from many parts of Syria are taking part in the initiative in which youngsters have been drawing pictures and writing messages for the attention of the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. Children of all denominations in the capital, Damascus, as well as in Homs, Yabroud, Marmarita as well as Aleppo have been taking part in the Peace for Children initiative with songs, dances, drama and prayer, all calling for peace.”

Aid to the Church in Need project partners including Aleppo-based Sister Annie Demerjian have stressed the number of traumatised children, with many experiencing violence, sexual exploitation, abduction and the loss of loved ones. Sister Annie Demerjian (pictured below), was recently in London at an Aid to the Church in Need event, and spoke of the extremely difficult conditions they faced in Aleppo.

Fathers Michael and Francesco suggest that the prayers of the “little ones” will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.” Grown-Ups wishing to add their prayers to those of the children may find an additional resource on this page.

Sister Annie Demerjian:

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Children from Al Nouzha, Homs showing pictures of the Infant of Prague which they drew in Catechism classes – from Aid to the Church in Need:

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Update: The EU Referendum; also Ramadan

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Our Lady of Europe, in the cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned (Santa María la Coronada) in Gibraltar.
Image by Falconaumanni – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17976196.

 
David Gleave, of our East Anglian region has drawn our attention to a statement by the National Justice & Peace Network about the debate on the forthcoming European referendum. Debbie Bool, our national Presence in the World minister, has suggested it be brought to the attention of the national fraternity.

David Gleave also refers us to this resolution on the EU Referendum made by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales:

Michael Simmonds (Bedford Fraternity) has followed up on the NJPN’s call to deep prayer on this issue by reminding us that we have six patron saints of Europe to whom we can pray for their powerful intercession. Michael says:

We are blessed by having SIX patron saints of Europe. We can pray for their powerful intercession for the improvement of the European Community, so we should have confidence to pray that the good things of the European Union can improve and the less good things can be diminished.
The main patron saint of Europe is Saint Benedict, [480-547] the father of western monastic life.
Then there are five co-patrons: Saints Cyril & Methodius, [9th century] apostles to the Slavs;
Saint Bridget, Queen of Sweden, [14th century], founder of the Bridgettine nuns;
Saint Catherine of Siena [14th century] who persuaded the Papacy to return to Rome from Avignon;
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein], [20th century] of Jewish birth. She became a Catholic and a Carmelite nun. During the Nazi persecution of the Jews, she had the chance to escape to safety, but chose to remain and suffer with her Jewish people and died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
As a bonus, we can also ask Saint Hedwig [14th century], patron saint of queens and European Unification, to intercede for us.
 
Saint Benedict, pray for us
Saints Cyril & Methodius, pray for us
Saint Bridget of Sweden, pray for us
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Saint Hedwig, pray for us.

Leda Aynedjian, of our Clacton fraternity, reminds us that we may also pray to St Francis. We also have St Clare, and all Franciscan saints; and we may pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Europe, a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary as patroness of Gibraltar. The entire European continent was consecrated under the protection of Our Lady of Europe in the early 14th century from the Shrine in Gibraltar where devotion still continues to this day, over 700 years on.

Thank you for these contributions, East Anglia.
 
Ramadan

Also from Eccleston Square, and at the suggestion of Salvina Bartholomeusz of our South East region, we share with you these comments by Katharina Smith-Müller, Interreligious Adviser to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, regarding the Muslim month of Ramadan. She made these comments to colleagues, as I understand it, but has agreed with Salvina that her comments may be reproduced here:
 
Just a quick note to remind you that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, donating and increased prayer, has begun.  The Islamic calendar works on lunar months, which is why Ramadan moves through the year, and why many of the celebrations and products linked with it are decorated with a moon – the month begins and ends with a sighting of the new moon. This also means that the fast is exceptionally long this year – practising Muslims (apart from a few exceptions that are made e.g. for pregnant women) will not be consuming drink or food from sunrise to sunset.

There will be a number of fast-breaking meals that are open to all – if you are interested in attending one, see the links below, or come and have a chat with me. They are called “iftar”, and will be around 21:30pm this year. The end of Eid, in a month’s time, will be celebrated with one of the two Eids, the big Muslim festivals of the year – Eid Al-Fitr.

In my experience, Ramadan is a good time to strike up a conversation with Muslims you meet – I have found that “so, are you fasting?” usually leads to an interesting conversation, and I am sure that your Muslim friends and acquaintances would appreciate your good wishes during this month – a simple “Happy Ramadan” is usually very much appreciated (“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Karim” mean the same thing). If you have any personal worries that you would appreciate prayer for, now is also a good time to ask Muslims of your acquaintance – after all, there is a renewed focus on prayer life during this month.

There is more information here, and an interview with Sadiq Khan which I found interesting here

If you fancy joining a fast-breaking meal, there are a number of opportunities – the Ramadan Tent project is a good place to start, and you can follow The Big Iftar on facebook or twitter (unfortunately their website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment). There are listings of different iftars taking place across the country. There is also an interfaith iftar organised by the Three Faith Forum.
 
Katharina Smith-Müller also writes this interreligious blog.

Finally, this report on a Catholic delegation (Bishop Paul Hendricks, Canon John O’Toole, and Ms Katharina Smith-Müller – Interreligious Adviser to the bishops of England and Wales) helping out on 2nd June at Finsbury Park Mosque’s ‘Meal for All’ – a project for the homeless.

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