Our prayers are with all people in Iraq and around the world who are suffering as a result of this horrendous outbreak of war in Iraq.
Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, ministers, parents, and caregivers in the faith community should expect that children and youth will be filled with a host of questions and concerns about this war and the resulting violence. They may question the very existence of God and be angry that God could let war happen. Leaders, teachers, parents, caregivers, and pastors need to talk with and affirm one another in direct, sensitive, gentle, and honest ways in light of this violence to the people and nation of Iraq, and the threat of terror and violence both within children's and youths' own context and to people around the world.
Some General Suggestions:
- Make children and youth a priority in your faith community and family. Listen to and with your children and youth in the context of communal worship, children's, youth and intergenerational groups and in their families. Let them ask questions and affirm all their feelings, both negative and positive, in regard to the outbreak of this war. Be open to sharing your feelings and beliefs in appropriate ways and be open to honest dialogue.
- Trust and safety are deep spiritual needs. Continuously reassure your children and youth that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe even in the face of war.
- Include children and youth whenever possible in communal worship, prayers and other faith community activities in response to the violence of war. Use comforting scripture passages such as Psalm 23 or Psalm 27. Children and youth need to experience that a loving community surrounds them if they are to deal with the fear and dread of war. Children and youth also have much to offer the faith community. Their questions, prayers and spiritual responses will bring a sense of comfort and hope to the entire faith community.
- Include children and youth in any concrete action you as a family or faith community make to the outbreak of war in Iraq, whether it is offerings of prayer, peace vigils and marches, sending an e-mail to the Prime Minister, etc. Children and youth will develop a sense of care if they feel they are included in making a positive contribution to stopping war and creating a world of peace and justice for all.
- Be aware that your child's age may affect his or her response to terror and violence of war. Younger children may feel down right scared. Distance doesn't mean much to younger children, so they may be expecting to be attacked or bombed at any minute. Invite them to express their feelings through art or drama and help them be realistic about the realities of this war for them. Older children, and adolescents in particular, may feel deep despair and anxiety about the future in face of war. If a young person seems overly withdrawn or anxious, you may need to provide extra pastoral care to help them deal in direct and loving ways with their anxiety and fear. Make sure pastoral care givers have gone through United Church screening procedures before engaging with children and youth. (Faithful Footsteps, Screening Procedures for Positions of Trust and Authority in The United Church of Canada: A Handbook is available from United Church Resource Distribution).
- "Children Helping Children." Children's groups may wish to initiate their own action in response to this war and connect to other community groups. Encourage and support them and help them make their responses happen!
- Making sense of evil. Unfortunately the questions of why war and violence keep happening are difficult to answer. Share with the children and youth that relationships among peoples of the world are difficult and complex and answers are sometimes not easy to come by. Share with them the United Church stance of PEACE, NOT WAR and some possible actions they as a faith community might take towards peace.
- Consult the Parenting for Peace and Justice Network for the family pledge of non-violence, at their website.* Two resources the Parenting for Peace and Justice network have developed that offer excellent tools to explore peace issues are Kids Creating Circles of Peace and Families Creating a Circle of Peace.
- The World Council of Churches has declared the years 2001 to 2010 the Decade to Overcome Violence. Visit their website* to discover resources that support you in your commitment to seek creative solutions to violence.
- Most of the world's religions have a prayer for peace as part of their scriptures. Each day, share one of these prayers to remember that all God's people have a longing to know peace in our lives and in our world.
Prayers for Peace
"Like the bee gathering honey from the different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scriptures and sees only the good in all religions."
- A HINDU PRAYER FOR PEACE
- Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the real. Oh God, lead us from darkness to light. Oh God, lead us from death to immortality. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all. Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to us. And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all, and may that peace come to me also.
- A BUDDHIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
- May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another. May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses - the children, the aged, the unprotected - be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
- A JAINIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
- Peace and Universal Love is the essence of the Gospel preached by all the Enlightened Ones. The Lord has preached that equanimity is the Dharma. Forgive do I creatures all, and let all creatures Forgive me. Unto all have I amity, and unto none enmity. Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world. Violence, in fact, is the knot of bondage. "Do not injure any living being." This is the eternal, perennial, and unalterable way of spiritual life. A weapon howsoever powerful it may be, can always be superseded by a superior one; but no weapon can, however, be superior to non-violence and love.
- A MUSLIM PRAYER FOR PEACE
- In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations, that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other. If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is the one that heareth and knoweth all things. And the servants of God, Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility, and when we address them, we say "PEACE."
- A SIKH PRAYER FOR PEACE
- "God adjudges us according to our deeds, not the coat that we wear: that Truth is above everything, but higher still is truthful living. "Know that we attaineth God when we loveth, and only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated."
- A BAHAI' PRAYER FOR PEACE
- Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
- A SHINTO PRAYER FOR PEACE
- "Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us, I believe, are all our brothers and sisters, why are there constant troubles in this world? Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us? I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds which are hanging over the tops of the mountains."
- A NATIVE AFRICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
- Almighty God, the Great Thumb we cannot evade to tie any knot; the Roaring Thunder that splits mighty trees: the all-seeing Lord up on high who sees even the footprints of an antelope on a rock mass here on Earth. You are the one who does not hesitate to respond to our call. You are the cornerstone of peace.
- A NATIVE AMERICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
- O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you. To your messengers the four winds, and to Mother Earth who provides for your children. Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind. Let us learn to share all the good things that you provide for us on this Earth.
- A ZOROASTRIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
- We pray to God to eradicate all the misery in the world: that understanding triumph over ignorance, that generosity triumph over indifference, that trust triumph over contempt, and that truth triumph over falsehood.
- A JEWISH PRAYER FOR PEACE
- Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation - neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.
- A CHRISTIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
- "Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as the Children of God. But I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you, and of those who take away your goods, do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them."
- THE FOLLOWING PRAYER authorized by Christian, Jewish and Muslim Clergy was used in many places in inter-religious worship around the time of the Gulf war in 1991:
- Eternal God, Creator of the universe, there is no God but you.
Great and wonderful are Your works, wondrous are your ways.
Thank you for the many splendoured variety of Your creation.
Thank you for the many ways we affirm Your presence and purpose,
and the freedom to do so.
Forgive our violation of Your creation.
Forgive our violence toward each other.
We stand in awe and gratitude for Your persistent love
for each and all of Your children:
Christian, Jew, Muslim,
as well as those with other faiths.
Grant to all and our leaders attributes of the strong;
mutual respect in words and deed,
restraint in the exercise of power, and
the will for peace with justice, for all.
Eternal God, Creator of the universe, there is no God but You. Amen.
(Excerpted from Current Dialogue 24/93, p. 36)
United Church of Canada Prayers for Peace
Celebrate God's Presence offers prayers for peace. Individuals, families, groups, and congregations could adapt and use these prayers for personal and corporate prayer. They are found on pages 535-537.
Moderator's Prayer for Peace
Creator God, gentle in power and strong in tenderness: kindle, we pray, in the hearts of all people your passion for peace and your will for justice. Heeding your call to be peace-makers, we pray for non-violent solutions to the crisis in Iraq. Believing in your love for the world and in our shared global humanity, we pray for compassion towards innocent people who suffer the most in war. Transform the minds and hearts of those in authority in all nations toward a commitment to peace with justice and wisdom. Transform all of us that we may rid ourselves of vengeful notions and pursue the path of non-violent action. So, may your name be glorified and your will be done through peace on earth. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Voices United, in addition to offering hymns, is a source of prayers. You might wish to read some of the prayers found in our hymnbook, i.e. 525: You Embrace All Peoples; 587: A Prayer For Hope; 616: A Prayer for Healing; 656: An Affirmation of Hope; 683: An Affirmation of Peace; 692-3: Prayers for Peace.
- The Big Book for P.E.A.C.E. and The Big Book for Our Planet
- Various Artists (Media Books Audio Publishing, 2000)
- Two audio cassette volumes of stories and poems by the best loved authors of children's books. All stories celebrate peace and the hope that there will be a peaceful world for every child to inherit. (3 hours) ISBN: 1578151473
- Let There Be Light: Poems and Prayers for Repairing the World
- Jane Breskin Zalben. (Dutton Children's Books, 2002)
- A collection of poems and prayers gathered from sources representing a variety of cultures and time periods (including the Bible, Koran, Native American and African prayers, the Dalai Lama, Buddha, and St. Francis of Assisi). Ages 4-8 ISBN: 0525469958
- Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About
- Margaret Read MacDonald. (Linnet Books, 1992)
- This book collects a variety of short stories and proverbs to be used as discussion starters on war, peace, conflict and cooperation. Stories suggested for storytelling with audience participation are appropriate for different age levels (some with pre-schoolers, some with teenagers or adults). Ages 9-12 ISBN: 0208023291
- Out of War: True Stories from the Frontlines of the Children's Movement for Peace in Colombia (in cooperation with UNICEF)
- Sara Cameron. (Scholastic, 2001)
- First-person accounts of nine young leaders of the movement, all of whose lives have been tainted by violence. Includes an author's note and a list of resources to learn more about the Children's Movement for Peace. Ages 9-12 ISBN: 0439297214
- Make Someone Smile: And 40 More Ways to Be a Peaceful Person
- Judi Lalli, Douglas L. Mason-Fry (Free Spirit Publishing, 1996)
- A read-aloud book for peacemakers of all ages. Encourages role-playing and modeling appropriate behaviour to learn the skills of peacemaking and conflict resolution. Ages 4-8 ISBN: 0 9157 939 97
Website Resources for Parents and Leaders
- Congregational Resources During War*
- This web page will connect you to sites that offer prayer, worship, and educational resources, as well as a host of relevant links from several denominations.
- The Global Movement for Children*
- A group of people and organizations around the world whose purpose is to promote the rights of the child. Their rallying call is "In every child who comes into the world, the hopes and dreams of the human race are born anew."
- Say Yes for Children Campaign*
- Join over 94 million people who have already expressed their support for this campaign, led by Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel.
- A Report On Children for Peace*
- Roundtable Discussions with Youth on the Effects of War. Includes suggestions on what we can do here in Canada.
- Free the Children*
- This year the Canadian Centre for Teaching Peace has awarded Kids Can Free The Children with the Canadian Peace Award for Youth Achievement. See also War is Not a Game Campaign.*
- Leaders Today*
- Dedicated to helping young people realize their fullest potential through leadership education and development using innovative, youth inspired curriculum. Marc and Craig Kielburger founded Leaders Today with a common vision to empower youth to become socially involved
- Peace Incorporated*
- An international volunteer organization of youth PEACE Incorporated is actively working to Increase Peace within schools, families, communities, and nations by working to create inclusive projects of peace that can be implemented by youth in communities everywhere.