Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Executive Director of Arigatou International Geneva was invited to contribute to the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship, which took place from 8 to 14 November 2020.
Since 1904, the Young Woman’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Young Man’s Christian Association (YMCA) have traditionally come together to deliver the World Week of Prayer and World Fellowship. This year, the Week extended an invitation to communities to use biblical text to shed light on the lived experiences of those affected by the global pandemic. These contributions were compiled into a booklet entitled Rays of Hope: Creating Resilient Communities Through Practical Spirituality, which can be accessed here.
In sharing the realities of those who endure and overcome adversity, the Week of Prayer aimed to call upon governments, organizations, and leaders to work towards a future that promotes justice, love, and peace in communities around the world. As the booklet notes “we find comfort in the stories of hope and solidarity, and recognize encouraging lessons that are emerging for our post-COVID world.” (pg3, World YWCA – World YMCA Week of Prayer, 2020)
Ms. Uribe contributed to the booklet with an entry, entitled “Transforming Fear Into Strong Vulnerability And Loving Trust”, which is an exploration of the struggles endured by young people around the world given the restrictions imposed due to and pre-existing conditions exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Uribe examined how the role of fostering spirituality among young people may help mitigate the adverse social, mental, and emotional effects they are currently enduring. In order to explore the role that spirituality plays in developing the wellbeing of children, Ms. Uribe chose to use Psalm 23- A Psalm of David as a basis from which to explore these themes.
Psalm 23- A Psalm of David- The King James Bible
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
From this Psalm, Ms. Uribe drew upon three key themes that shape our understanding of how our relationship to God, through spirituality, can help guide us through uncertain times. Firstly, we have “green pastures” and “quiet waters”. The refreshing of the soul and the nurturing comfort conveyed upon David by God is emblematic of the power that trust in the divine can impart. As our sense of connectedness becomes increasingly strained and isolation increasingly becomes the norm, trusting in God can provide strength and comfort for those struggling to deal with this new reality and ease the mind when challenges seem overwhelming.
While the sad reality remains that many children have found themselves in precarious situations due to restrictions imposed by governments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that violence and sexual abuse remain part of their daily reality, we may take inspiration from the Psalm of David “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. As Ms. Uribe points out the Psalm does not state that we will not go through dark places, or endure adversity, but rather that when confronted with obstacles we have the strength to overcome. As Ms. Uribe notes “The unique strength that comes from within, and that can encourage us to seek help, stand up and say ‘no more’” (pg 22, World YWCA – World YMCA Week of Prayer, 2020).
Beyond strength, God also imparts upon us comfort, love and goodness. Like a shepherd to his flock, God’s rod and staff are instruments to let us find support and guidance when can move no further. As noted by Ms. Uribe “The rod and staff symbolize the many signs God gives us when we place our trust in him and listen to his guidance.” (pg 22, World YWCA – World YMCA Week of Prayer, 2020) These signs manifest themselves in many ways but most importantly they speak to the sense of empowerment, protection, and guidance we are afforded when God’s healing grace is allowed to take root in our souls.
The insightful contributions to the booklet demonstrate the key role that faith-based approaches can play in building resilience in times of adversity. We would like to thank the YWCA and YMCA for their invitation to be part of the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship.