Special Prayers: June 20, 2018

Many people are overwhelmed by stories of children being separated from their families at the U.S. southern border. And this is not the only place in the world where children and parents are being unjustly separated. Each situation is markedly different, and comparison or equivalence is not the goal -- because grief need not be compared or quantified. Our hope in  sharing word about these situations is that prayer will also lead us to action, and below you’ll find ways to use your voice.

Families Separated at U.S./Mexico Border

Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” U.S. immigration policy, any adult caught entering the U.S. irregularly—even an individual seeking asylum—is criminally charged and separated from his or her children. These children are then considered “unaccompanied minors” and transferred to HHS for placement with sponsors or other caretakers, including large-scale care facilities, like a planned “tent camp.” Between October 1, 2017, and May 31, 2018, at least 2,700 children have been split from their parents. Of these, 1,995 were separated between April 18 and May 31 — indicating that at present, an average of 45 children are being taken from their parents each day.

God, we find some hope in this situation when we remember the helpers -- the lawyers, the social workers, and the caretakers who are working hard to show love and care for children and parents who have been separated under this horrifying policy change. Give them energy and hope to show up day after day. We pray for the fathers and mothers involved, desperate and panicked in their worry. We pray for the children, more than alone and afraid -- in pain from this trauma. And, God, we pray for leaders who have power to make this unjust situation end. Change their hearts, God. Give us wisdom, courage, and direction so that we might know how to hold them accountable to their vocation of serving their nation for good, not harm.

Palestinian Children Detained in Military Prisons

According to B’tselem, between 700 and 800 Palestinian children are detained by the Israeli military each year. As of last month, 315 minors were in Israeli custody, 20 percent of whom were under the age of 16. Palestinian youth in the West Bank are not protected by civil law but prosecuted according to military law. More than 75 percent of minor detainees report experiencing physical violence during their arrest and/or imprisonment. Seventeen-year-old Ahed Tamimi is currently serving an eight-month sentence for slapping and kicking soldiers after a soldier shot her younger cousin in the head.

God, we pray for an end to the practice of incarcerating children in Israel. We pray for these children who have names, ideas, gifts, potential -- give them a resilience, a hope, a future that can transcend the trauma and suffering they’ve experienced. We pray for parents, desperately longing for their children and trying to make sense of the pain they are being caused. We pray for soldiers, policy makers, international rights groups -- empower those who believe this practice is harmful to speak out, to use their authority for change, for good.

Canada Celebrates National Day of Reconciliation

Last week, on June 11, Canada celebrated the 10th anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology for residential schools in the House of Commons. Canadian residential schools separated over 150,000 children from their families between the 1870s and 1996. In the same time period, the U.S. government operated as many as 100 boarding schools for Native Americans, both on and off reservations. Children were sometimes taken forcibly, by armed police. Today, Indigenous kids are grossly overrepresented in Canada’s foster care system; 52% of kids younger than 14 in foster care are Indigenous, although Indigenous people make up only 8% of Canada’s population.

God, we lament the suffering of thousands when powerful people said that Indigenous peoples were not fully human, and created policies to enforce it. We recognize that this same sin is the root of today’s policies and suffering too. We want to repent, but first we must face this sin in ourselves, in our communities, in our structures of power. Work in us, Lord, so that we might reverse course, learn from the painful past, and pursue reconciliation with integrity. For all whose trauma began when they were torn from their parents and placed in a residential school, we pray for healing, hope, and abundant life that can come only from you.

Incarceration Places Burden on U.S. Children

There are 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in American prisons and jails – including those not convicted of any crime. African Americans make up 40 percent of them, even though they represent just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As a result, 1 in 9 black children now has a parent behind bars, compared with the national rate of 1 in 28. Children of incarcerated parents are at increased risk of experiencing physical and mental health issues, academic struggles, and a range of other behavioral struggles.

God, for the most innocent victims of the sins of mass incarceration in the U.S. — the children who grow up without a parent — we lament. It is difficult to know where to begin to address this problem, so widespread, rooted in myriad unjust laws and policies, so tangled with racism, and creating so much suffering. For these children — and for the teachers, pastors, social workers, neighbors, and others who work each day to love them through their pain and processing — we lift prayers for your Spirit to work.

End Family Separation at the Border

Separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is now official policy. On May 7, the Trump administration announced a new “zero tolerance” policy: all adults caught entering the U.S. irregularly are to be criminally prosecuted — even those who are legally seeking asylum — and their children will be forcibly taken from them. As people who have been enfolded into God’s family, we understand the sacredness of family unity. Raise your voice to ensure Congress hears that Christians stand with families.

“Advocate for Justice That Restores”

Click here to learn how the U.S. ministry Prison Fellowship is encouraging advocates to raise their voice to change unjust criminal justice policy — federally and in your state.

Protect Children from Military Detention

Every year, between 700 and 800 Palestinian children are arrested, detained, and prosecuted by the Israeli military, most frequently on charges of stone-throwing. Under Israeli martial law, children as young as 12 can be sent to prison. A bill in the House of Representatives seeks to ensure that U.S. assistance to Israel is not used to support the military detention and interrogation of Palestinian children. Ask Congress to protect children!

Canada: Stand Up with Indigenous Kids!

Despite years of promises, education results for First Nations students have not improved in comparison to those of other Canadians. (Auditor General’s report on Indigenous Services Canada, 2018)

Ask your MP to establish clear steps to address the funding gap and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 7-10 so that Indigenous parents can send their kids to schools that integrate their languages, cultures, values, and communities into the educational system.