In many parts of the world, the beginning of the new year will not be a time of peace. Therefore, ACN invites all benefactors and people of goodwill to pray along with words that have been sent to us by missionaries, religious, and bishops from ten troubled countries, so that we may beseech God for peace in their lands:
- Holy Land (Gaza)
An incursion into Israel by armed Hamas militants shocked the world on October 7th. Israel’s response included bombings and a land invasion of Gaza, which has had devastating effects on the local Christian community.
“As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I ask that all noise ceases. On the eve of Christmas, may the land bear new fruit; on the eve of Christmas, may war cease; on the eve of Christmas, may love blossom. Lord Jesus, come into our hearts. We have prepared our nativity scene for You. I pray to You for all the children killed in this war; for all those who have fallen in the streets, unseen; for the entire population of Gaza, which has been displaced and left with nothing. I ask You to help them and give them hope to keep living, because with You, life is beautiful. Bless us, bless our land and the entire world, and may Your birth be a fountain of peace that never runs dry. Amen.”
Sister Nabila Saleh of the Congregation of the Holy Rosary, which has supported Christians in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict on October 7th.
“Lord Jesus, enlighten our leaders. Lord Jesus, destroy the desire for war. Lord Jesus, dispel hatred. Lord Jesus, strengthen hope. Lord Jesus, reconcile all hearts. Lord Jesus, unite all nations in you. Lord Jesus, protect the poor and helpless. Lord Jesus, comfort those who suffer.
Lord Jesus, receive those who perish through violence. At this very special time of the year, when we are preparing to receive the newborn, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the midst of the cold, without electricity, without heating, but with God, who comes to be born again among us, we will celebrate this Christmas and ask that God’s presence be our hope, our faith, and the source of our life in war. May the Holy Family be an example of how to welcome Jesus Christ at this very special Christmas.”
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The 2021 coup in Myanmar led to internal acts of resistance, and the military junta has intensified its persecution of ethnic minorities, including Christian communities.
“The situation in the diocese is very dangerous. We are in the midst of an armed conflict, and most parishes have been abandoned. I would like to recall that a diocese is a part of the people of God, entrusted to a bishop in cooperation with the presbyterate. It is not simply a geographical area, but a community that gathers around a bishop, in unity with his priests. The main engine of the community is the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the Eucharist. In our case, the Church founded by Christ is alive and present, even among the suffering. It is important that we all remain united and build a community that is prepared to cross the desert, held together by the Gospel and the Eucharist. We know that Christ, the Good Shepherd, cares for His flock, for whom He gave His life. We can trust that this is His will for us at this time. We should never doubt His words, as promised to Saint Paul, to whom He said: ‘My grace is sufficient, because my power is made perfect in weakness.’ We have every reason to trust in Him, as He will not stop supporting us in our efforts to do good. ’The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack” (Psalm 23).
Even though we are sheep, we shall be victorious, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we shall overcome. Let us do whatever we can to behave as good sheep, caring for each other, encouraging each other, loving, and doing good. Let us place our community in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, who, on that dark night in Bethlehem, filled with love, did worship and protect the Son of God, the Lord Incarnate and Prince of Peace. May Mother Mary and Saint Joseph protect all those who are in danger.”
Bishop Celso Be Shwe of Loikaw
After an initial coup in 2019, Sudan had a second coup in 2021, during which General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took power. In 2023, different military factions began to face off against each other, sparking a civil war that has significantly affected the country’s small Christian community.
“Lord Jesus, King of Peace, despite having a home in Nazareth, Your mother and foster father were forced to travel to Bethlehem! And there, finding no home, You were born in a stable, a manger – You, the King of Peace! You, the Son of God!
Well, here in the Sudan, thousands have been forced to flee their dear homes and seek a life of peace and security far away, as refugees or displaced people! Here, in Dar Mariam, too, You have given us a large family of people to live with, all of whom earnestly desire to go back to their poor, little homes, but cannot do so due to the senseless and tragic war in the Sudan!
Look graciously on the people of Sudan! With the power of Your blood shed from the Cross, strike all the warring parties with Your powerful love and reconciliation! May the warring groups be reconciled and negotiate for a long ceasefire and then true peace in the Sudan!
May the anxious and distressing cries of the poor, suffering, and sick rise up to You, O Jesus, King of Peace! Shower on Sudan Your precious gift of peace! May all weapons of war, and the spirit of hatred, revenge, greed, and pride, be destroyed! May true peace flower once again in the Sudan! Amen.”
Father Jacob Thelekkadan, a Salesian missionary in Sudan, who serves Christians in Dar Mariam
- Burkina Faso
Violence in Burkina Faso is part of the regional conflict in the Sahel, where Islamist groups have imposed strict social rules affecting local Christian minorities.
“Jesus Emmanuel, Who comes at Christmas to establish peace, safety, and justice in the world, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas 2023 and prepare for the New Year of 2024, we pray for Burkina Faso, for the Sahel, and for all countries whose well-being, freedom, and peace are threatened by very serious acts of terrorism. Jesus Emmanuel, You are the Prince of Peace. Look upon Your children and hear our plea: grant all afflicted hearts the consolation of solidarity and helping hands; to the internally displaced, a swift return to their families; and to those who have left us, eternal rest. We pray for all those who suffer and for those who cause suffering. Have mercy on those who die and those who kill. Grant to both a deep conversion of heart and raise up in all of us love for our neighbors, for a real and active fraternity. Jesus Emmanuel, You who are the Son of the Virgin Mary, save Burkina Faso and all countries that suffer the anguish of war. Grant them the real and lasting peace that comes from you. Amen!”
Father Honoré Ouedraogo, priest of the Diocese of Tenkodogo in Burkina Faso
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The DRC has experienced episodes of violence for decades, especially in the east, with conflicts that date back to the 90s. These tensions include fighting with neighboring Rwanda and the activity of several regional militias. And ethnic tensions in different regions of the country have intensified recently, exacerbating the instability and suffering of the Congolese people.
“Come, Prince of Peace, and silence the weapons. Lord God, our Father, You created all men in Your image so that they should be happy and serve You in peace until the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. Lord, our Father, every day a Congolese person is gunned down, leaving behind insuperable pain. Tears flow unceasingly because of humanity’s evil ways. Come and dry the tears of those who suffer in wars all over the world. Come, especially, to dry the tears of the Congolese, who have unjustly borne the brunt of wars for several decades. Give us the strength to forgive those who kill, as You did on the Cross. Give us the strength to pray for the conversion of our enemies. Prince of Peace, dry our tears. Prince of Peace, console our bleeding hearts. Prince of Peace, give us Peace. Amen!”
Father Robert Kasongo Nsaka, priest of the Diocese of Kabinda in the DRC
Following the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia is once again experiencing a delicate period, and there are internal tensions. In 2023, the fighting between Amhara and Oromo increased, intensifying instability and concerns that already existed in the country.
“Lord God of peace, hear our prayer! We bring Ethiopia and her people into Your hand so that You can bestow upon us Your lasting peace.
We have tried so many times over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own power and by the force of our arms. May we opt for dialogue and reconciliation. How much blood has been shed? How many lives have been shattered? How many hopes have been buried? Our efforts have been in vain.
Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace; teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace.
Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Give us the courage to say: ‘Never again! With war, everything is lost.’ Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace. Amen.”
Bishop Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun of Bahir Dar-Dessie
Since gaining independence, Cameroon has suffered from internal conflict: the English-speaking community feels discriminated against by the country’s French-speaking majority. And since 2016, there has been an ongoing civil war for the independence of southern Cameroon. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, and more than half a million have been forced to flee their homes.
“Lord Jesus Christ, You are the eternal Priest, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Prince of Peace. We celebrate Your birth, Lord, at a time when our world is beset by various wars, depriving us of peace and tranquillity in body, soul, and spirit. Faced with this reality, we turn to You in confidence, imploring You to come to our aid, and to instill in us the courage to take concrete steps towards lasting peace. We ask for an end to violence in Cameroon. Open our eyes so that we may see You, and that our hearts that we may truly love You, the Prince of Peace, in whose hands are the keys to that peace which the world cannot give. Amen.”
Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe
The situation in the state of Manipur, no stranger to religious and ethnic conflict, worsened in 2023, with ethnic resentment intensifying, leading to religious persecution. The push for Hindu supremacy espoused by the ruling BJP party has resulted in greater intolerance for Christians.
“The situation remains somber and tense. Meanwhile, thousands of people are still in refugee camps because their homes were destroyed. The Church is involved in dialogue with other religious organizations and has called on the authorities to find peaceful solutions. Nonetheless, there is still much to do, and the needs are immense, because of the considerable destruction and loss suffered by communities and the Church. At this time, what we need most are your prayers. The power of prayer can transform the minds of those who are fueled by hatred and religious intolerance. We need to pray for our political leaders, for those who make decisions, and for all people of good will, so that they seek peaceful solutions for this communal violence and the ongoing religious intolerance. Let there be peace, harmony, and fraternity, and may those who have been deprived of their rights and dignity have justice.”
Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal
Following the murder of President Jovenal Moise in 2021, Haiti has faced increasing levels of chaos, with criminal gangs controlling key parts of the country. Delinquency and poverty are rampant, with an alarming rise in murders, kidnappings, and sexual violence, leaving the population extremely vulnerable.
“In Haiti, we will be celebrating Christmas in a context of great suffering, caused especially by the domination of armed groups and the indifference of political actors. But our hope is strong. Let us pray that the feast of Emmanuel is an opportunity to increase fraternal unity and to find release from our long nights of fear, distrust, and violence. We hope to see the support of the international community for disarmament and the recovery of our country. May we all remain in the peace of the Lord during this Christmas and for the whole of 2024!
Archbishop Max Leroys Mesidorof Port-au-Prince