Ten countries in need of prayers for peace

“Glory to God in the highest, and peace on Earth to all mankind” (Lk: 2, 14). These words in the Gospel of St Luke were sung by the angels on Christmas Eve when they appeared to the shepherds. Centuries before, Isaiah had written the following about the coming of the Messiah: “For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given. And leadership is placed upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called: ‘Wonderful Counsellor, mighty God, father of the future age, Prince of Peace’.”

Church of Saint Saviour
Church of Saint Saviour

Since 1968, the Church has celebrated 1 January, the feast day of Mary, Mother of God, as the “International Day of Peace”. That year, Pope Paul VI called on everybody to unite for this one purpose, expressing the Catholic Church’s wish of “dedicating to thoughts and resolutions of Peace a special observance on the first day of the civil year”.

Nonetheless, in many parts of the world, Christmas and the beginning of the new year will not be experienced as times of peace. Therefore, ACN invites all benefactors and people of good will to pray along with the words that have been sent to us by missionaries, religious and bishops from ten different countries in the world, so that we may beseech God for peace in their lands and for their people:

  1. Holy Land (Gaza)

An incursion into Israel by armed militants from the terrorist group Hamas shocked the world in October. Israel’s response included bombings and a land invasion of Gaza, which has had devastating effects for 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 continued to accompany the Christian community in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict on 7 October

  1. Ukraine

Ukraine has waged a defensive war against Russia since 2014, but the conflict escalated in 2022 with a full-scale invasion. The Church has been accompanying the Ukrainian people in these difficult times.

Evening prayer at the Three Holy Hierarchs Major Seminary of UGCC in Knyazhychi, Kyiv Oblast
Evening prayer at the Three Holy Hierarchs Major Seminary of UGCC in Knyazhychi, Kyiv Oblast

“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 perished 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, be our faith and be the source of our life in the current circumstances of war in Ukraine. May the Holy Family be for us an example of how to welcome Jesus Christ at this very special Christmas.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

  1. Myanmar

The 2021 coup in Myanmar led to internal acts of resistance. The military junta has intensified its persecution of ethnic minorities, including Christian communities.

“The situation in the territory of the diocese, which has been affected by fighting, is very dangerous. We are in the midst of an armed conflict in which, among the destruction and political chaos, most parishes have been abandoned and lie empty. 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 is 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, because “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

  1. Sudan

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.

The interior of the cathedral of El Obeid: S. Daniel Comboni (1831-1881), the first catholic bishop of Khartoum and St. Josephine Bahkita (1869 – 1947) are the two saints visible in every catholic institution or house in Sudan
The interior of the cathedral of El Obeid: S. Daniel Comboni (1831-1881), the first catholic bishop of Khartoum and St. Josephine Bahkita (1869 – 1947) are the two saints visible in every catholic institution or house in Sudan

“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 from their dear homes and seek a life of peace and security, far away from their homes, 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 would earnestly desire to go back to their poor and little homes but cannot do so due to the senseless and tragic eight months and seven days old 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 people rise up to You, O Jesus, King of Peace! Shower on Sudan Your precious gift of peace! May all weapons of war, may the spirit of hatred, revenge, greed, pride be destroyed! May true peace flower once again in the Sudan! Amen.”

Father Jacob Thelekkadan, Salesian missionary in Sudan, who has been serving the Christians who took refuge in the Salesian house in Dar Mariam.

  1. Burkina Faso

Violence in Burkina Faso is part of the regional conflict which affects the Sahel, where Islamist groups have imposed strict social rules that have affected the 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 neighbours, 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, Burkina Faso

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

DRC has been experiencing episodes of violence for decades, especially in the east, with conflicts that date back to the 90s. These tensions include fighting with neighbouring Rwanda and the activity of several regional militias. 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 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 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 been bearing unjustly 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, DRC

  1. Ethiopia

Following the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia is again experiencing a delicate period, with internal tensions. In 2023, the fighting between Amhara and Oromo increased, intensifying the 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.    

Bishop Lisane-Christos Matheos Semahun of Bahir Dar-Dessie

  1. Cameroon

Since independence, Cameroon has suffered from internal conflict due to the English-speaking community feeling discriminated against by the country’s French-speaking majority. Since 2016 there has been an ongoing internal civil war, called the Ambazonia War, with fighting 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.

A sister praying in front of a statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus
A sister praying in front of a statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus

“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 instil in us the courage to take concrete steps towards lasting peace. We ask for an end to violence in Cameroon. Open our eyes that we may see You, and 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

  1. India

Already no stranger to religious and ethnic conflict, the situation in the state of Manipur worsened in 2023, with ethnic resentment intensifying, leading to religious persecution. The policy of Hindu supremacy espoused by the governing BJP has led to an increasing intolerance of Christians in recent years.

“The situation remains sombre 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 organisations 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 most need are your prayers. The power of prayer can transform the minds of those who are fuelled 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

  1. Haiti

Following the murder of President Jovenal Moise, in 2021, Haiti has been facing increasing levels of chaos, with criminal gangs controlling key parts of the country. Delinquency and poverty remain rampant, with an alarming increase 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 infernal domination of armed groups and the indifference of political actors. But our hope is strong. Let us pray that the feast of Emmanuel should be 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, men and women of the world, remain in the peace of the Lord during this Christmas, and for the whole of 2024!

Archbishop Max Leroys Mesidorof Port-au-Prince

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