Christians around the world and in the Middle East have scheduled a yearly “Prayer for Christian Unity”. It has become a yearly ritual we celebrate all around the world between January 18 and 25 hoping that this initiative would promote dialogues among local, regional and world churches deepening partnership and developing ecumenical awareness through building bridges connecting all Christians.
During this celebration, a booklet of meditation and prayers from different families of the Church is prepared in many languages by a yearly delegated party or organization to be distributed to all Christians around the world.
The Week of Prayer was celebrated for the first time in 1968, following an official cooperation between the Committee of Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council to Promote Christian Unity to prepare the prayers of the celebration under the name “To the praise of His glory” Ephesians 1:14.
This is when Christians around the world started adding the yearly ritual to their calendars. The Prayers were prepared in different countries and the celebration was under different titles like “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free” Galatians 5:13 (Preparatory conference in Rome, Italy in 1969). “For we are God’s fellow workers” Corinthians 3:9 (Preparatory conference in the coven of Niederaltach, the Federal Republic of Germany in 1970). “The Communion of the Holy Spirit” 2 Corinthians 13:13 (Preparatory conference in Bari, Italy in 1971). “A new commandment I give you” John 13:34 (Preparatory conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1972). “Blessed be the God… who has blessed us in Christ” Ephesians 1: 3-14 (Prayers suggestion by the Middle East Council of Churches- Preparatory conference in Verna chapel, Italy in 2000). “I am the way, the truth and the life” John 14: 1-6.
The Week of Prayer celebration in 1975 was under the title of “God’s will: to bring unity to all things under Christ” Ephesians 1: 3-10, based on prayers put as a suggestion from a local ecumenical group in Australia, starting by this initiative a new pattern of preparation.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity witnessed important events. In 1988, the Federal Christian Union in Malesia used the prayers of the Week of Prayer in an opening ceremony in the presence of important local Christian figures. In 1994, an international group was chosen to prepare the prayers of the year 1996. The group included representatives from the international organizations of YWCA and YMCA. In 2004, the Faith and Order Committee agreed with the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity in the Catholic Church to cooperate and officially publish a unified Week of Prayer booklet. In 2008, Christians celebrated the centennial of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
In 2021, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was titled, “To remain in God’s love and in self-reconciliation” John 15: 1-17. The Granshan congregation of the ecumenical coven in Switzerland chose the topic and wrote a draft of the international prayer booklet under the supervision of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council to Promote Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches. The Theological and Ecumenical Department at the Middle East Council of Churches supervised the Arabic translation of the booklet. Father Raymond Jarjoura and Mr. Antoine Wakim handled the translation workshop. The Communication and Public Relations Department prepared it for publication and shared an electronic copy of the booklet with all the member Churches in the Middle East.
However, due to the massive spread of the Coronavirus and its dangerous repercussions, the celebration was put on hold for further notice. The decision followed a cooperation and coordination between the Episcopal Ecumenical Commission and the Middle East Council of Churches Represented by its Secretary General Dr. Michel Abs.
On a side note, the Middle East Council of Churches will be preparing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity booklet of the year 2022. The booklet preparation phase is over and it is now being proofread and edited in order to complete the final procedures before publishing the booklet and translating it into English, French, and Spanish, and finally to be shared with Christians all over the world.