February’s APF Prayers focused on ‘Women and Peacebuilding’. Through prayer, reflection, and song, we considered the stories of women peacemakers ranging from Saint  Brigid of Ireland, to Vera Brittain, an early member of APF to contemporary women peacebuilders across the globe, whose role in any peacemaking efforts plays a crucial role in building a lasting peace.

At the end of the session, Rev Arthur Champion contributed a reflection on the parable of the Persistent Widow, which was one of the readings. The text of the reflection is reproduced below.

Well, we’ve had a wonderful set of readings, prayers and songs but now I’d just like to focus for a few minutes on the Gospel (Luke 18: 1-8) about the parable of the persistent widow.  First of all, some background… as we all know, Jesus was very radical in His culture by being a friend of sinners and a helper of the poor.  His own disciples criticised Him for not spending more time with powerful men who could perhaps have advanced His ministry.  In the Jewish culture of Ancient Israel women were denied the status and freedom that they have won today in the Western world.   Indeed, on that first Easter morning Jesus entrusted the message of His glorious resurrection to a woman – Mary Magdalene whose life had been completely transformed. 

In the parable of the persistent widow that we heard earlier a poor, powerless widow kept on demanding a corrupt, powerful judge do what was right for her.  And we can draw inspiration from this for our own peacemaking.  By the time she’s finished with him, sure enough he was willing to do what was right.  Elsewhere, the Bible teaches that the civil authorities, such as this judge, serve by God’s authorization, whether they acknowledge it or not.

In such a corrupt and sinful world, we must remember that only God can bring about justice which is why we have to keep on praying and speaking up for those who are vulnerable and those who are in conflict situations.  I’m sure some of us will have prayed hard for people to receive God’s healing whether physical, mental or spiritual and we can recognise God’s miraculous provision on many occasions.  And in the same way God is also able to inspire and answer our prayers for peace and justice.  These are issues which are close to His heart.  Some modern examples spring to mind:

 In Northern Ireland, the women’s peace movement helped to lead to the Good Friday Agreement

 During the Cold War, the thousands of Christian prayer groups, many of them led by women,  led up to the collapse of the Berlin wall, 

Around the time of the Gulf War a million or so protesters who marched through London, many of them with a prayerful attitude,

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela and his wife and others caused the crumbling of South Africa’s apartheid regime followed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I’m sure you too can think of many other examples but in this parable the persistent widow overcame the apathy of the judge.  As Jesus says. “Will not God grant justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18: 7).  Clearly, God is the unseen actor in this story and even now He will bring about justice for His chosen ones.

God as fully revealed to us in Jesus Christ certainly affirms women as mothers and caregivers but also as peacemakers. Jesus went further by entrusting the Gospel of Salvation to Mary Magdalene, the very first person to see Him when risen from the dead.  In recent decades God has inspired and answered the persistent prayer of women peacemakers.  

To Christ alone be thanks and praise.