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Justice Prayers - February 21, 2024

When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice. - Dallin H. Oaks

The U.S. urges Israel to drop plans for Rafah ground offensive

The US has proposed a UN security council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire and for Israel not to go ahead with a planned offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza. The draft text marks the first time the US has explicitly backed a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, though it adds that the temporary truce should be begun “as soon as practicable,” leaving some room for maneuver by the Israeli military. The text is being offered by the Biden administration as an alternative to an Algerian draft resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that is due to be debated on Tuesday. The US appeal over Rafah, where about half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population have sought refuge, echoes comments made by President Joe Biden in recent days. But the significance of the draft resolution is as a signal that Washington is willing to go through the UN to put pressure on Israel and not rely solely on bilateral messages. According to a text seen by the Guardian, the US draft resolution says the security council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

We pray for a swift end to the violence that has destroyed so much of Gaza, Lord, and brought brutal violence to the doorstep of so many. We pray that arms may be laid down, forever.

Alexei Navalny, Russian politician who opposed Putin to the end, has died in prison

Alexei Navalny, Russia's most prominent political opposition figure, has died in a remote Russian prison at age 47. News of Navalny's death came Friday from the Federal Penitentiary Service in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, above the Arctic Circle. In a statement, prison authorities said Navalny "felt unwell" after a walk in the prison yard and soon lost consciousness. Attempts by emergency medics to resuscitate him "failed to give positive results." Navalny had been serving out a lengthy prison sentence for charges including extremism, which were widely seen as punishment for his years of criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Reactions swiftly poured in from around the world. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Navalny's "death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this." A vehement critic of President Putin for more than a decade, Navalny built a national following with campaigns that channeled public outrage over corruption at the highest level of government — and promoted a vision that Russians could, one day, live differently. Even from his prison cell, he was a critic of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Putin's increasingly repressive rule.

We pray for those who long to breathe the air of freedom, those who fight tirelessly with their words and their spirit for a free society. We pray for the family of Navalny and for his memory and legacy to be an inspiration to the Russian people, and freedom-seeking people all over the world.

Criminal justice bills could fuel soaring incarceration in Louisiana

Louisiana’s state legislature is poised to enact a swathe of new criminal justice measures as a special legislative session convenes on Monday, leaving reform advocates concerned about soaring rates of incarceration that may follow. The session, called by the state’s new Republican governor, Jeff Landry, will consider two dozen items including broad restrictions on parole eligibility, measures to resume executions, the lowering of the age limit for adult prosecutions, and changes to post-conviction procedures often used to remedy wrongful convictions or excessive sentences. The results are likely to undo hard-won bipartisan reform efforts in 2017, which helped shrink the state’s prison population by about a quarter and led to Louisiana losing the title of America’s most incarcerated state, with the rate of imprisonment slipping below Mississippi’s in recent years. Landry, the state’s former attorney general, came to office in January after a campaign centered on hardline law and order. A former sheriff’s deputy, he was sworn into office in a ceremony lined by flags associated with the “blue lives matter” movement that aligns with law enforcement and is associated for some with police solidarity and for others, white nationalism. In announcing the session on February 8th, Landry argued a raft of new laws would “repeal soft-on-crime policies that enable criminals and hurt our communities” and pledged to “make our state safe again”. While rates of violent crime in Louisiana have long been among the highest in the nation, the state has seen a significant decline since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lord help us to have an imagination for change.  We seemingly have endless piles of money and lines of credit for war, incarceration, weapons, and punishment, but continually cry poor when it’s time to fund schools, healthcare, infrastructure, and environment? How can this be, Lord? Help us to create spaces for healing and economic and social conditions where people can live out the talents that you've given them in a healthy way.

'Zombie Fires' burning at an alarming rate in Canada

Even in the dead of Canada's winter, the embers of last year's record-setting wildfire season remain. So-called zombie fires are burning under thick layers of snow at an unprecedented rate, raising fears about what the coming summer may bring. People driving on the highway through the town of Fort Nelson, British Columbia (BC) in the winter can easily see - and smell - the clouds of white smoke flowing from the soil around them. These plumes were still visible into February, even on bitter cold days when temperatures had plummeted to -40C (-40F). The Fort Nelson smoke is the result of zombie fires - also called overwintering fires. They are flameless smolders that burn slowly below the surface, and are kept alive thanks to an organic soil called peat moss common in North America's boreal forest and to thick layers of snow that insulate them from the cold. These fires are not unusual. In the past 10 years, British Columbia has, on average, seen five or six that continue to burn during the cold months, experts say. Most typically go out on their own before the spring, but 91 are still burning in BC, according to provincial data, and those that are not extinguished by March could reignite once the snow melts and they are exposed to air.

For the trees, the grasses, and the creatures of BC who are victims to these slow-burning fires, we pray, O Lord. We pray for residents of BC to be safe both today and in the months ahead as these zombie fires reflect a possible dangerous summer for all. 

Becoming (part of) the Answer to our Own Prayers

Canadian Multicultural Cohort Begins

Supported by a Thriving Practices grant, this group is beginning a 10-month learning journey together. Their focus is on becoming more informed concerning multicultural wisdom, sharing learnings from various experiments, and developing fresh practices that can encourage multicultural hospitality and community.  Hear the full story.

New Hearing Loop Resource for Churches

Interested in learning about hearing loop technology and the benefits of using it in your church? The Hearing Loop Training Recording includes experts in the field sharing how to use this technology in your church building and how it can benefit your congregation. In addition, we have compiled a list of active CRC buildings (both in the U.S. and Canada) that have already installed hearing loops. To access this list, click on the drop-down menu “Ministering with People with Hearing Loss,” which is a part of our Disability Resources page.  Watch Video »

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