Sunday, 12 August 2012

Olympic Truce and Peace- 
prayers for August 2012 
from Christian Concern for One World

It was, as economist Duncan Green put it, a "painful contrast." In the Olympic stadium (and around the globe) people were watching the harmonious gathering of thousands of athletes and the coming together of hundreds of tiny flames into a single caldron of fire that represented peace and unity. And at the same time, at the UN, the president of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty was announcing that the talks were ending without an agreement.

The Olympic Games have historically been associated with peace. The ancient Greeks had an "Olympic truce" to enable athletes and spectators to participate in and travel to and from the Games. During the truce, which included a period before and after the Games, wars and legal disputes were stopped. Since 1992, the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations have encouraged a modern Olympic truce. This year's UN resolution speaks of ‘Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal’ and calls on all nations to "promote and strengthen a culture of peace."

And yet, as the Olympics begin, we have a delay in the Arms Trade Treaty, Syria's civil war, fighting in the eastern Congo, violence in Afghanistan ...

It's easy to take refuge in cynicism. But for Christians, that's not an option. And so, instead, we:

(1)  look for signs of hope -- signs like the 90+ nations who joined together as the arms talks collapsed to say that they "are disappointed, but ... not discouraged" and "are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible." They are giving opportunities for further discussion with major arms exporters the US and Russia -- both of which demanded "more time" to clarify issues. But despite the issues these countries had, and the ongoing opposition of Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, the countries supporting arms trade regulations intend to take the treaty to the General Assembly in the near future.

  • Give thanks for the signs of hope, and pray for all who are working for peace. Pray especially for an Arms Trade Treaty that will "bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity"
(2) intercede for those countries that are not at peace, praying protection for civilians threatened by violence, comfort and healing for those who have been harmed, and for God to transform individual's hearts and society's structures in ways that lead to the flourishing of justice, mercy, righteousness and peace.
  • Pray for all countries participating in the Games that are suffering from violence, including
    • the people of Syria, especially for those caught up in the fighting in and around Aleppo.
    • leaders within the government and the rebels, that they may be granted the desire and the skills to lead their people to peace. Pray especially that all parties to the conflict may agree a framework in which minorities have a safe place in Syria's future ... and therefore have the freedom to negotiate peace.
    • the people of the eastern Congo and those seeking to keep the peace and to aid refugees. Give thanks that global leaders are sending strong signs to Rwanda that it should not arm the M23 rebels.
    • the people of Iraq, and especially those affected by the bombings this week
    • the people affected by ethnic fighting in southern Ethiopia
(3) recall that, as the former Anglican Bishop of Reading, Stephen Cottrell, said in his sermon for the Sport in the Service of Peace gathering, "Jesus is our peace. He, and he alone, can draw together the warring factions of the world ... He can eradicate and redeem the fear and ignorance that creates hatred and prejudice in the first place; he can heal the deep hurts that all too often mean that those who were oppressed rise up and oppress others."
  • Pray that in all situations of violence, whether country-wide or within individuals or families, Christ will
    • eradicate and redeem fear and ignorance
    • heal deep hurts among those who have been oppressed and break the cycle of oppression
(4) commit ourselves and our communities to work for peace.  Pax Christi and other groups have joined together to promote 100 Days of Peace ... a "truce" of 50 days before and after the Olympic and Paralympic Games, during which churches can pray and think of ways to work for a lasting "legacy of peace" 
  • Pray that
    • churches and other groups may use the time surrounding the Olympics to consider what contribution they can make to "the healing of the nations"
    • Pax Christi and other groups working for peace may be given wisdom and discernment to resource those who wish to seek peace
If you're looking for a formal prayer, the 100 Days of Peace prayer for the Olympic Games can be found here; the Olympic Peace Prayer on the Pax Christi Olympics page is also extremely helpful.
Action Points: Pick one (or more) nations from among those competing in the Olympics. Commit yourself during the Olympics to follow events in that country and to pray for it. Consider, too, supporting an organisation that works for peace.

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