Julien Hammond, director of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the archdiocese, says the City Hall display includes artifacts borrowed from the Syro-Malabar Catholic community.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Julien Hammond, director of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the archdiocese, says the City Hall display includes artifacts borrowed from the Syro-Malabar Catholic community.

January 21, 2013
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The focus of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is on Christianity in India.

Each year, in the third week of January, Christians worldwide organize liturgies, Bible studies and other activities to animate the Week of Prayer. Highlights of Edmonton's celebrations include a display at City Hall and an ecumenical celebration at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

The Week of Prayer is also a time to recognize the tragedy of divisions among Christians and promote the way of ecumenism, which aims to restore unity within the global Christian family.

"Every year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials come to us from a different part of the world, a different country," said Julien Hammond, director of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the Edmonton Archdiocese.

"An ecumenical group from India was responsible for writing the materials this year. That's why there is a particular focus this year on Christianity in India."

The planning materials invite people to reflect on the theme as it relates to overcoming all forms of injustice and marginalization.

Hammond, who is also president of the Edmonton & District Council of Churches, said the material prepared for the Week of Prayer shows how they are striving to "give voice to the voiceless."

In India, the caste system is a system of division of labour and power in society. It is a system of social stratification, and a basis of affirmative action. People are grouped into caste categories, with certain people excluded altogether, ostracized and treated as untouchables.

"Those are the people exempt from participating in the life of the community. They are invisible or on the margins of society.

"Here in Edmonton, we don't have a caste system like in India, at least not on an official level, but there are people unofficially who continue to be excluded from society, who reside in the margins," said Hammond.

WHAT DOES GOD WANT?

This year's scriptural theme is taken from Micah 6.6-8: "What does God require of us?" The theme evokes the path of Christian discipleship rooted in justice, mercy and humility.

In Edmonton, the Week of Prayer is being marked from Jan. 20-27 with a host of ecumenical activities in homes, the Maronite Catholic church, and other Christian churches throughout the city.

Among the activities are two public events under the auspices of the Edmonton & District Council of Churches.

First, a display promoting the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity opened at City Hall on Jan. 15. The display includes Christian religious artifacts from India, as well as information related to the theme, the background of the Week of Prayer, Christianity in India, and a listing of local activities associated with the week.

AN ORIENTAL CHURCH

There are almost 20 million Catholics in India, who represent less than four per cent of the total population. The Catholic Church is the largest church in India. The Syro-Malabar Church is an Oriental church in communion with Rome, following East Syrian traditions.

"For the display we have artifacts from India, which we borrowed from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Community, here in Edmonton," said Hammond.

"These are Indian Christians who are living and worshipping in Edmonton. Father Varghese Munduvelil is the new pastor of the Syro-Malabar community, and he was ever so kind to lend us some of his worship materials."

The worship material includes a St. Thomas cross, chalices, an altar cloth and a Bible written in Malalayam, a language spoken predominantly in India.

The second major event is an ecumenical celebration planned for Good Shepherd Church (18407-60 Ave.) on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.

People are asked to join bishops and leaders of various Edmonton-area churches at the city-wide celebration to mark the closing of the Week of Prayer.

Father John Reddy and his parish are hosting this event, which will again feature Micah 6 and the theme of Indian Christianity.