World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together on the first Friday of March each year to observe a common day of prayer. This year, World Day of Prayer – themed “Am I being unfair to you?” will be observed at St Mels Church Shepparton, with significant input by the local Filipino Community. The Shepparton Interfaith Network will also be participating.
“Am I Being Unfair to You?”
World Day of Prayer 2017 written by the World Day of Prayer Committee of The Philippines
Before the World Wide Web, there was the World Day of Prayer, an international event that has been connecting people in a meaningful way for almost a century. Despite being planned years in advance, World Day of Prayer services have a remarkable record for anticipating major events, like the refugee crisis (France 2013), the Arab Spring (Egypt 2014) and the winding down of the U.S. embargo against Cuba (Cuba 2016).
The secret to this depth and insight is the women who plan and write each World Day of Prayer service. Too often, women have the most intimate experiences of armed conflict, violence, social injustice, and human rights violations. What might Canadians learn from women of the Philippines, a country on the front lines of climate change, foreign mining and resources interests, a regional insurgency and social upheaval due to migration, who wrote the World Day of Prayer 2017? How will we answer the question, “Am I being unfair to you?”
On March 3, 2017, Christians in more than 170 countries and in 500 communities in Australia will gather to learn about, pray, and celebrate in solidarity with the women of The Philippines through the World Day of Prayer. Please join us and invite your friends and family to attend the World Day of Prayer 2017.
Program: World Day of Prayer
Location: St Mels Church, Hamilton St, Shepparton South
Artwork for World Day of Prayer
Title: A Glimpse of the Philippine Situation
God gave the Philippines abundant resources, both human and material. God is the great provider and provision is for all of creation. This is God’s display of economic justice in contrast to the economy where the strong and powerful take God’s resources for themselves and their families. The kingdom of God provides for all, even for those who do not acknowledge it.
The church continues to remind people that all are welcome in the kingdom, as the open long table with food symbolizes access to God’s provisions. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
This material is part of the worship service and educational resource for the 2017 WDP annual celebration.
Religion in the Philippines
The Philippine islands were greatly influenced by Hindu religions, literature and philosophy from India in the early centuries of the Christian era. As a result of Spanish colonization, Christianity is the major religion, with more than 80% of the population being Roman Catholic, just second in Asia after East Timor. However, the Philippine state is secular; there is separation between church and state.
As of 2012, Muslims were a minority reported as comprising 5–11% of the population, most of whom live in parts of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago – an area known as Bangsamoro or the Moro region. Most Muslim Filipinos practice Sunni Islam according to the Shafi’i school. There are also some Ahmadiyya Muslims in the country.
Philippine traditional religions are still practised by an estimated 2% of the population, made up of many aboriginal and tribal groups. These religions are often syncretized with Christianity and Islam. Animism, folk religion, and shamanism remain present as undercurrents of mainstream religion, through the albularyo, the babaylan, and the manghihilot. Buddhism is practiced by 1% of the population. Taoism and Chinese folk religion is dominant in the Chinese communities. There are smaller number of followers of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Judaism and Baha’i. Less than one percent of the population is non-religious.
There is some collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches, one instance is the Celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, promoted together with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. A common interest is issue based, like mining. Both the Catholic Bishops Conference and the National Council of Churches are calling for the repeal of the Environment and Mining Act. They argued that the allegedly economic benefits promised by the transnational corporations would result in displacement of communities, mainly indigenous peoples, along with an increase of health risks and environmental damage.
Pope Francis visited the country in January of 2015. Millions of people attended the masses, included non-Roman Catholic leaders. His message of mercy and compassion was to comfort the people devastated by the typhoon and earthquake in the Visayas. He visited Tacloban, where around 90% of the city in Leyte province was destroyed and more than 14.5 million people were affected. About one million people remain homeless one year after typhoon Yolanda.
In the Philippines, women study theology and can be ordained in several protestant churches. Women also serve as bishops (The United Church of Christ in the Philippines), church’s presidents (Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches), deaconess, theologians, and Christian educators. A regional magazine called “In God’s Image Now” is a venue for feminist theology in Asia, and many contributors are from the Philippines. The Association of Women in Theology is present both in the national and some regions in the Philippines as well.
In 2011, Sister Mary John Mananzan, a missionary Benedictine nun, was nominated for the 100 inspiring people in the world by Women Deliver, for integrating feminism into faith in the Philippines. She was the co-founder and chairperson of Gabriela, a coalition of women’s organisations that promotes women’s rights.