Christians begin Lent pondering how they can act for others

Published February 17, 2010

Christians observing the Lenten time of sacrifice are being urged to engage in acts that enable a better sharing of world resources. Eastern Orthodox churches began Lent on Great Monday, two days before Western Christians on Ash Wednesday, Feb.17. It is a 40-day period inspired by the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, a story shared in the Bible’s New Testament.Observant Christians often give up meat, alcohol or chocolate or engage in some type of fasting but this year some Anglican bishops urged Christians to keep their carbon consumption in check.The Bishop of London, the Rev. Richard Chartres, said that a “Carbon Fast” is “an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God in a practical way”. This could be done by having a day without using a mobile phone or an iPod as a way of reducing the use of electricity and thereby cutting the amount of carbon dioxide discharged into the atmosphere.In Edinburgh, the moderator of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, the Rev. Bill Hewitt, criticised Britain’s “destructive” selfish society in his message for Lent, urging people to sacrifice their time and talents in service to their neighbours rather than pursuing individual greed. Hewitt said, “This Lent I’m calling on Kirk members to take something up, rather than give something up.”In Geneva, Jenny Borden, the interim executive director of the Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, said, “More than one billion people are suffering from hunger around the world.” She noted, “Despite the goodness and bounty of God’s gifts to us in creation so many people experience scarcity: famine, hunger, deprivation and want.”Speaking at an Ash Wednesday service at Geneva’s  Ecumenical Centre, Borden said, “There are people in all parts of the world who suffer the effects of too much – too much salt, sugar, fat, calories – too much choice, too many things, too much wealth.”On Ash Wednesday many Christians display ashes placed on their foreheads to represent an Old Testament custom associated with mourning, humility and repentance, and also to remind them of their mortality.   “It is a good time to think carefully about the injustice of the world food situation, where food is unjustly and unsustainably produced, and unjustly and unsustainably consumed, and where the right to food for all people is not met,” said Borden. Christians can fast for a day from food, fossil fuel or consumption as an act of support for people who are hungry and as a means of raising awareness. Earlier in the week a joint Lenten campaign of the World Student Christian Federation, the World YWCA and the World Council of Churches was launched to end violence against women. The campaign encourages study on violence against women using videos and Bible study in local groups and churches. The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Olav Fyske Tveit, recalled at that service the release in November of a Norwegian Joint Muslim-Christian statement called “Say No to Violence”.This addressed the issue saying, “As Christians and Muslims we see women and men as equal and nobody has the right to use violence against the other. Violence in the family and in close relationships are criminal acts and against the convictions of our beliefs. We believe that there is inspiration and guidance in our religions for life in love and mutual respect.”


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