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Justice Prayers - February 22, 2023

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.

-Isaiah 42:3a (NIV)

Israeli Lawmakers Move to Rein in Judges as Protests Fill Jerusalem

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Jerusalem for a second straight Monday as Israel’s far-right government pushed forward with a divisive plan for a judicial overhaul that critics say will weaken and politicize the country’s courts and undermine its democratic foundations. Demonstrators, many of them arriving in convoys from across Israel, blocked highways to the city, then gathered near Parliament, where legislators were preparing for the first phase of voting on two bills aimed at curbing judicial oversight and giving politicians more influence over the courts. Following hours of stormy debate, both bills passed a first, non binding reading after midnight with a majority of 63 in the 120-seat Parliament. Forty-seven members voted against. Ten members were absent. As members of the governing coalition celebrated, opponents of the judicial overhaul said the day would be marked as a dark one in the annals of the country. One bill would change the makeup of a nine-member committee that selects judges to reduce the influence of legal professionals  and give representatives and appointees of the government an automatic majority. The change would effectively allow the government of the day to choose judges. The other bill would strip the Supreme Court of its power to strike down basic laws passed by Parliament. After a first reading, bills must go back to committee for further discussion, then return to the floor for two more votes before they can become law.

God, we pray for all those fearful about what this new government in Israel may do to constrict social, political, and religious life. We pray for Palestinians, Israelis, for members of the Jewish diaspora. For democratic processes and the rule of law, we pray fervently, O Lord.

Turkey Hit by Two More Powerful Earthquakes Two Weeks After Disaster

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake and a second measuring 5.8 have hit Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, terrifying those left in a region devastated by twin earthquakes two weeks ago. Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, said that at least three people were killed and 213 wounded by the latest quakes, after a large government hospital in the city of İskenderun in the north of Hatay province declared it was evacuating patients. The latest quakes, less powerful than the 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that tore a path of destruction through southern Turkey and northern Syria on 6 February, threaten yet more devastation in a region where many people have fled their destroyed homes for the safety of other towns and villages outside the quake zone. The mayor of Hatay, Lütfü Savaş, immediately raised concerns that the latest quakes had caused yet more destruction across the province, and potentially further loss of human life in a place already dealing with some of the worst devastation in Turkey. “Some buildings were destroyed, there are some who are trapped under the rubble,” he said.

Why, Lord? Why must the already struggling be met with yet another disaster? Our prayers continue for those hurting, for those longing for relief, for rescue workers and medical aid, for humanitarian assistance to flow to both Turkey and Syria.

Canada Implements Measures to Grow Green Workforce

The Canadian government has unveiled a new jobs plan that emphasizes sustainability as the nation seeks to improve its economy. As part of the program, the government will also be trying to lead workers away from the fossil fuel industry and towards clean energy. Among the new measures of the initiative will be a “just transition” plan covering the years from 2023-2025 in which a training center for sustainable jobs will be built in addition to a new government advisory body getting established. Additionally, the government will revisit this sustainable jobs plan every five years to ensure that it maintains relevance and effectiveness. Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources spoke to the new plan, commenting: “Canada has what it takes to become the clean energy and technology supplier of choice in a net zero world. “With this plan, the federal government is taking yet another step forward to ensure that Canada’s workers have the skills and support necessary to seize this generational opportunity.” Coming as a 32-page report, the plan has been three years in the making. While it does not specifically say how many jobs are to be added, a recent report from the Royal Bank of Canada claims that up to 400,000 clean energy jobs could be added to the economy. 

God, we rejoice when policymakers and decision makers determine that the old way of doing business - one in which ecological devastation is the cost of doing business - is rejected because a new mode of being, one rooted in ecological limits, has made old ways of doing things obsolete. Lord, we pray for meaningful work that teaches us each day to live in loving partnership with our planet and neighbors.

Ohio Residents Demand Answers Two Weeks after Toxic Chemical Train Derailment

Nearly two weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, community members packed a local high school auditorium on Wednesday night wanting answers to their health and safety concerns. Norfolk Southern Corporation, the Atlanta-based operator of the derailed train, ultimately skipped the meeting, which was the first community meeting in the town of 5,000 people since the incident. “We know that many are rightfully angry and frustrated right now. Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threats to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties,” the company said in a statement. “With that in mind, Norfolk Southern will not be in attendance this evening. Agitated residents wondered aloud where the company was, with one man standing up and saying: “We’re scared, too.” The East Palestine mayor, Trent Conaway, told residents at the town hall that he is also seeking answers. “We need our citizens to feel safe in their own homes,” he told the crowd. “I need help. I’m not ready for this. But I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere.” While health and environment officials have deemed the area safe, residents say the smell of chemicals still linger. Residents have complained of having trouble breathing, noxious smells, impacts on wildlife and ongoing concerns about water and soil contamination. An estimated 3,500 fish were killed by chemicals from the derailment in surrounding waterways, according to the Ohio department of natural resources.

God of justice, we pray for the people of East Palestine, Ohio and its surrounding communities, We pray for their health, their wellbeing, for some their recovery. We pray for answers, and for resolution to the ongoing dispute between officials and residents. And Lord, we pray for all the ecosystems and wildlife that have and will be harmed by this derailment.

Becoming (part of) the Answer to our Own Prayers

Justice and Hope Sunday 

Justice and hope. Can these two words really go together? As justice-seekers whose ears are attuned to the voices of marginalized people, where is our hope when the poor are trampled underfoot and it seems that the powerful take the day every time? Where is our hope when even our churches too often turn their faces away?  We have hope because we are not saving the world, Christ is.  Check out our resources for Justice and Hope Sunday (the first Sunday of Lent).

Lent Creation Care Challenge

There are three different Lent challenges available from the Climate Witness Project.  Consider how you can care for creation better this spring while reflecting on scripture and taking action.  Read more on our website.

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