Today is the World Day of Prayer – an annual event that takes place on the first Friday in March, with Christians across the world focusing their prayer on one country. This year, their thoughts and hearts are focused on Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
The World Day of Prayer is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian women who welcome global Christians to join in prayer and action for peace and justice. It is run under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action,” and is celebrated annually in over 170 countries. The movement aims to bring together people of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common Day of Prayer, as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
It’s a Bible story that rings especially true for Christians living in Vanuatu where the very literal choice of which land to build their houses on is of vital significance.
Vanuatu is a Y-shaped tropical archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean with over eighty islands, sixty-five of which are inhabited. Espiritu Santo is the largest island. Port Vila, the capital, which was also the colonial headquarters, is on the south-central island of Efate.
This year’s World Day of Prayer theme is “Building on a Strong Foundation” and the biblical story that the women of Vanuatu have invited Christians to focus on Matthew 7:24-27 – when Jesus tells a story about the kingdom of heaven using the image of a house and the land on which the house is built.
It’s a Bible story that rings especially true for Christians living in Vanuatu where the very literal choice of which land to build their houses on is of vital significance. Not only do Vanuatuans have to consider the best terrain, they also must consider exposure to the climate, with the tropical region prone to earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions and rising sea levels. The most recent natural disaster, Cyclone Harold, is a close memory, having hit Vanuatu on April 6th, 2020.
During the cyclone, Pita and her neighbours took refuge in a container.
Vanuatu’s susceptibility to cyclones is highlighted in a painting chosen to represent WDP 2021. The moving work depicts a mother bending and praying over her child. Waves crash over her and a palm tree bends protectively over them. The woman’s skirt is modelled after the traditional clothing on Erromango – the fourth largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago. On the horizon, small crosses represent the lives taken by cyclone Pam in 2015. The artwork is entitled “Cyclone Pam II: 13th of March, 2015” and is the work of Juliette Pita.
Born in 1964 on Erromango Island, Pita is currently the most well-known artist in Vanuatu. During the cyclone, Pita and her neighbours took refuge in a container. Cyclone Pam had moved to Vanuatu overnight and people could not see anything – they could only pray. In the morning they climbed out of the container to see that almost everything was destroyed. There was a hut behind Pita’s studio, built traditionally using palm trees, and it withstood the cyclone with big trees above it deflecting the wind. Pita believes God heard their prayers and used nature to protect them that night.
In partnership with World Day of Prayer, Bible Society of the South Pacific is asking Christians to pray for the work they do in Vanuatu, advocating and empowering women who are victims of domestic violence. Bible Society’s programs includes awareness workshops and healing sessions on domestic violence; providing scriptures, trauma-healing booklets and inspirational portions for them to have the Word of God as their source of strength and comfort. They also have an added a literacy dimension to the project, which provides young women the opportunity and environment to learn to read and write.