January 18 – 25

“You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself”

(Luke 10:27)

The material for the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso, led by the local Chemin Neuf Community (CCN). The theme chosen 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, ecumenical bodies and the CCN in Burkina Faso generously collaborated in drafting the prayers and reflections and experienced their work together as a real path of ecumenical conversion.

Loving God and neighbor in the midst of security crisis

Burkina Faso is currently experiencing a serious security crisis, which affects all the communities of faith. The country’s social cohesion has deteriorated dramatically. Terrorist attacks, lawlessness and human trafficking have proliferated, this has left over three thousand dead and almost two million internally displaced persons. In the context of this dire security situation, social cohesion, peace and national unity are being undermined. Christian churches have been expressly targeted by armed attacks. Priests, pastors and catechists have been killed during worship, and the fate of others who were kidnapped remains unknown. Where worship is still possible, with police protection, usually in large cities, it has been necessary to shorten services owing to security concerns.

But despite this, a degree of solidarity is emerging between the Christian, Muslim and  traditional religions. Their leaders are working to find lasting solutions for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation.

Following the government’s calls for prayers for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation, individual churches continue to organize daily prayers and fasting. This hope is also reflected in the traditional Mossi proverb: “No matter the nature or duration of the struggle, the moment of reconciliation will come”.

The love of Christ that unites all Christians is stronger than their divisions, and the Christians of Burkina Faso commit themselves to walking the path of love of God and love of neighbor. They are confident that God’s love will overcome the violence that currently afflicts their country.

The Biblical Text: the centrality of love in the Christian life

Love is the “DNA” of Christian faith. God is love, and “the love of Christ has gathered us into one”. We find our common identity in the experience of God’s love (cf. Jn 3:16), and reveal that identity to the world by how we love one another (Jn 13:35). In the passage selected for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 (Lk 10:25-37), Jesus reaffirmed the traditional Jewish teaching from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”, and Leviticus 19:18b: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

In this Gospel passage, the lawyer immediately asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The question of how far the biblical obligation to love should reach was a disputed one among doctors of the Law. Traditionally, this obligation was believed to extend to fellow Israelites and resident aliens. Jesus responds to the provocative question from the lawyer with a parable illustrating love extending far beyond the limits expected by the lawyer.

Christians are called to act like Christ in loving like the Good Samaritan, showing mercy and compassion to those in need, regardless of their religious, ethnic or social identity. It is not shared identities that should prompt us to come to the aid of the other, but love of our “neighbor”. It is by learning to love one another regardless of our differences that Christians can become neighbors like the Samaritan in the Gospel.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we ask the Lord to come to our assistance, to tend our wounds and so, enable us to walk the way of ecumenism with confidence and hope.

CHARIS and Christian Unity

From its beginning the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been part of an ecumenical current of grace. CHARIS is therefore, according to its Statutes, “an instrument to promote and work for unity in the body of Christ, as expressed in the prayer of Jesus Christ (Jn17).” (Statuts – Preamble)

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