Today over 3 million people worldwide are praying and worshipping together during an annual day of prayer for the church and the world, using a service prepared by Christian Women in Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is a land of many ethnic groups and over 800 distinct languages of which more than half are unrelated, say the organisers of the Women’s World Day of Prayer. “As a result, there is great cultural diversity, yet the women of Papua New Guinea have emphasised the oneness there is in Christ.”
In spite of gender inequality, women in Papua New Guinea are beginning to take their place in professions previously closed to them. There are now women who are pilots, engineers, doctors, lawyers, judges and lecturers.
“In this way, they make a very positive contribution to their nation.”
The symbol chosen for the 2009 Women’s World Day of Prayer comprises the Cross and a bilum. Bilums are hand-woven string bags, which are widely used among Papua New Guinean societies.
A spokeswoman explained: “They are very strong and used to carry everything from food to a baby (who can see out through the holes in the bag!). Sometimes a bilum is suspended on the branch of a tree and becomes a cradle for a sleeping baby. Men also use bilums to carry heavy loads. Where cultures are so diverse, this simple string bag is common to many.
She continued: “By placing the bilum on the cross in this symbol, the women of PNG seek a unity where they are not merely held together as though they were gathered into a string bag. They seek a vibrant unity where love is genuine, and where the many, many communities of Papua New Guinea are of one heart and soul.”
Further information and resources can be found on the Women’s World Day of Prayer website at http://www.wwdp-natcomm.org