Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Prayers hail hard-won unity

Catholic and Protestant worship leaders in Burkina Faso have spoken of their “ecumenical conversion” as they prepared this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which Southern Hemisphere Christians will mark between Ascension (May 9) and Pentecost (May 19) this year.

Taonga News  |  26 Apr 2024  |

This year, churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will join in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) between May 9-19 with prayers from Burkina Faso, a country where unstable politics and high levels of Christian persecution prevents public worship in one fifth of the country. 

In Burkina Faso, where Muslim-Christian dialogue has recently set out to build bridges to end violence against Christians, unity between churches has also been undermined by ongoing threats to intercommunal harmony and peace. 

Against this backdrop, the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity compilers approached the story of the Good Samaritan and its core text of Christian teaching with a new urgency, calling on all people to remember:

“You shall love the Lord your God ... and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity production team from The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order worked closely with the Burkina Faso authors and reported on their time spent drafting the prayers.

“Preparation of the texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during such a precarious period in [Burkina Faso’s] history helped the ecumenical drafting group to recognise that the love of Christ unites all Christians and is stronger than their divisions.” 

“At the end of the work, they recognised that working together in this way had been a real experience of ecumenical conversion.” 

The 2024 WPCU liturgy begins with the West African tradition of offering water to guests from the calabash (a large gourd container) as a first step in hospitality, then moves to a litany of praise and thanksgiving for the diversity of peoples and churches, confession and repentance for Christian failures in hospitality and unity, biblical readings on hospitality and love, and intercessions echoing with the response: “Fill us with your love! Make us one in you.” 

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been celebrated by church communities around the world for more than 100 years – including in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – where people gather between Ascension and Pentecost to pray together across denominational boundaries.

In 2024, members of the Aotearoa New Zealand National Dialogue for Christian Unity have adapted a version of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for use in Aotearoa New Zealand which can be downloaded alongside the international version below.