OSJ Prayers: May 23, 2018

Gunman Kills 10, Injures 13 Others in Santa Fe School Shooting

A shooter opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Texas last Friday morning, killing eight students and two teachers, and injuring 13 others. The suspect, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, allegedly intended to commit suicide but eventually surrendered after an exchange of gunfire and subsequent negotiations with two school resource officers. Pagourtzis used a sawed-off shotgun and a handgun, both belonging to his father, in the attack. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has convened a series of roundtable discussions on school security, gun safety, and victims’ stories.

We pray, God, for new hope as we pray familiar prayers about an unspeakable tragedy. We pray for the people in grief, for children and parents who live in fear, for school employees and first responders whose professional lives now include increasingly frequent mass shootings. We pray, God, for discussions to lead to solutions. We pray, God, for the peace and protection of our schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

Iranian Asylum Seekers Face Dead End in Austria

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied asylum earlier this year to nearly 90 Iranians who applied for protection under a special U.S. law for persecuted religious minorities living under the Iranian regime, while 20 applicants have not received any update on their status, despite filing their applications 18 months ago. Two-thirds of the 108 individuals are Christians. All of the applicants have relatives in the U.S. who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents and applied for asylum for their family members in Iran. The applicants, who have been waiting in Vienna, Austria, while their cases are processed, fear imprisonment or execution if they are forced to return to Iran. The Austrian government has issued fines and threats of deportation to several individuals whose transit visas have expired.

God, for our sisters and brothers in Christ who live between safety and danger and who depend on government policies to dictate their fate, we lift our prayers. We remember the millions around the world who face conditions that force them to flee. End their oppression, offer them a new beginning, and open people’s hearts to welcome them, Lord—and do so using us, your church.

Youth Suicides in Nunavut Indigenous Community

Territorial officials visited Pangnirtung, a remote Inuit community on Baffin Island, Nvt., yesterday to listen to community leaders’ requests for help addressing youth suicides, which, while a part of Pangnirtung’s reality for many years, has become an “urgent situation.” The community council has officially asked for help from the government of Nunavut, requesting more social service workers and better access to mental health and addiction services. The community’s youth center ran out of government funding in 2015 and eventually closed, taking away a safe space for local youth. Over the course of a few weeks in February of this year, a dozen youths attempted suicide.

God, for grieving families and communities, for hurting young people, for exasperated leaders, we offer our prayers. Bring hope, protect life, and instill in all who have power a strong calling to use policy as a means of proclaiming the dignity of people who have been cast aside.

New Report Outlines Rohingya Militants’ Massacre of Hindu Civilians

Amnesty International recently released its findings detailing how the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out mass killings in several villages, massacring nearly 100 Hindu civilians, including at least 23 children, around the same time last August that the Rohingya militant group attacked more than 30 police posts in Rakhine state, Myanmar. The Myanmar government’s subsequent military offensive, described by the United Nations as “ethnic cleansing,” led to the deaths of over 6,700 Rohingya and forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, refuses to recognize the approximately one million majority-Muslim Rohingya as a people, denying them citizenship, and excluded them from the most recent census.

God, we lament violence that gives rise to more violence. We grieve that death, destruction, and hate are so powerful. We believe in a promise that love can overcome this evil. We pray for the suffering, stateless, oppressed Rohingya. We pray for the families that remain to grieve the acts of violence carried out by Rohingya militants. We pray for peace, for restoration of all that is so deeply broken, for justice to roll down.

The Persecuted Church in China

According to Asia Harvest, Christians in China are currently undergoing intense persecution, which has been escalating ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the need to control “illegal religion” three years ago. The government introduced new laws last year to punish “illegal religion”; these laws, which came into effect earlier this year, include one with a fine of up to $30,000 for holding prayer meetings or Bible studies. Hundreds of house church pastors have vanished in recent years, assumed to have either been killed or held in secret jails, while thousands of Chinese Christians have been sent to “re-education camps.” The government has also deported thousands of foreign Christians from the country and demolished registered church buildings.

We lift prayers for your church, our family, in China, Lord. We pray for an end to these oppressive policies, that believers in Christ may flourish there. We pray for our sisters and brothers who are suffering because of their faith—give them hope, lift their spirits, grant them peace, Lord. As we follow you in places of safety, lead us to a deep understanding of what we can learn from, and how we can be united with, believers who follow you in places of persecution.

Bangladesh: The Canary in the Coal Mine

World Renew, OSJ, and the Climate Witness Project are releasing a series of short videos highlighting Bangladesh and the effects of climate change on the people and the country. Watch the first video in the series here.

Immigration Organizer Positions Open!

Are you passionate about keeping the church informed about immigration and engaged in advocacy? We’re partnering with the Reformed Church in America and hiring five immigration regional organizers to carry out this work! A stipend is offered for this one-year, part-time position. If you are located in one of the following regions, learn more and apply: Denver, Chicago, Pella, northwestern Iowa, and California.