Shortly after the beginning of each year, Christians around the world pray for church unity. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally celebrated from Jan. 18-25, draws on resources sponsored jointly by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church.
The materials for January 2011 have been prepared in partnership with the churches of Jerusalem.
“In a present-day context of despair and suffering, the churches of Jerusalem show determination and witness together with the global church for a just peace in the city of peace,” said WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit in a sermon at Geneva’s Ecumenical Center during a service of prayer organized by the city’s churches.
The service on Jan. 19 included traditional music from the Middle East and was led by local church leaders. It was attended by more than 200 people.
Tveit observed that the New Testament portrayal of the Jerusalem church “describes the original oneness of those early believers in Jesus. Being one means being together, breaking bread, praising God, but also giving and sharing, according to who is in need.”
He described the image of sharing around the table as a striking image that “gives great spiritual energy” to ecumenical endeavors.
Tveit continued: “The table is also a place and space that demands that we think about justice and the way food and access to power are shared in the world, especially at a time when speculation with food prices will mean that the poorest will become poorer, and go hungry.”
Tveit noted that “there is still sadly one table where we as Christians do not yet eat together,” referring to differences among churches that mean all Christians cannot share together in the eucharist.
“Yet here too the witness of Christians in Jerusalem, the mother church of us all, can help us. They show us that it is possible to work together despite divisions, to carry forward prophetic calls for justice and peace, and try to be one in action together.”
In the Geneva service, Father Mikhail Megally of the Coptic Orthodox congregation thanked other local churches for their support in the wake of recent violence perpetrated against the Coptic community in Egypt.
He told the gathering, “Copts are children of the Middle East. They belong to this region and are part of its development and identity. We cannot imagine either Egypt or the Middle East without their Christians.”