Churches and communities around the world gathered Jan. 18 to 25 for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; the event, which some churches mark on alternate dates, focused on the theme and central biblical text, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” (Matthew 18:20). An ecumenical group in Ireland prepared the first draft of this year’s prayer materials. Members of the group were “conscious of the rich spiritual heritage of Ireland with roots in ancient Christianity, and thus shared by all Christian traditions,” according to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which published the prayer resources. “They were equally conscious that the Christian churches have been caught up and ensnared in the conflicts and tensions which have shaped Irish life in past centuries. There are deep wounds that have been caused or made more painful by Christian divisions.” This was the third time over the last 25 years that Ireland prepared the draft texts for the week of prayer “against the backdrop of a decreasing level of violence and an increased hope for a Christ-filled peace.” The theme, the group said, is meant to “draw attention to Jesus as the source of unity, emphasizing that he has already shown us the way to be instruments of the unity which God desires for us.” It also illustrates “the simplicity of two or three coming together in Christian mutual love as a vital means of building up relations between divided peoples and communities.” Small prayer groups “can have a powerful impetus in creating a spirit of peace and reconciliation,” the group said. First initiated in 1908 by Rev. Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Society of the Atonement, the week of prayer gathers Christians of various denominations and languages around the world in praying and working for peace and unity.