Katie Milne, Parliamentary and Communications Assistant
Today marked the beginning of the 40th Prisons Week, an annual week of prayer for all those affected by prisons and crime, run by the Christian community and this year especially inspired by Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. The shared common prayer of ‘Lord, have mercy’ captures the crux of a campaign that aims to break down barriers between estranged prisoners and the judgement of the outside world. Faith Anderson (Public Affairs Officer) and I saw first-hand the fruits of this prayer when we visited HMP Pentonville today to sit amongst prisoners, parishioners, and church and charity leaders. The punishment, condemning and despair of prisoners was not the focal point, for the message of forgiveness of prisoners proved to be refreshingly persistent. A memorable moment was hearing a former Pentonville inmate give a spoken word performance which expressed the urgent need to centre prayer on the difficult journey many prisoners have found themselves on, and to avoid the passing of judgement and shame. The poem was especially moving when, mid-performance, he held his arms out in surrender – serving as an emotive prompt for the congregation to say ‘Lord have mercy’ together.
Throughout the rest of this week, Prisons Week will continue to hold events for other groups affected by prisons and crime, including victims, families, communities, and for those working in prisons and in the criminal justice system. At the event today also, organisers drew attention to Prison Hope. As a year of prison focus for churches, Prison Hope aims to improve the connection between local churches in and outside of prisons during 2017. This may be achieved through encouraging many more churches to pray for their local prison and developing a volunteering network to carry out great work within the prisons themselves. Essentially, the power of hope in inhibiting despair is the overriding message of the campaign, and it is largely facilitated by the sharing of stories about the hope Christianity can instil within all those affected by prisons.
The following prayer for Prison Hope reveals the pressing need for the development of the relationship between prisoners and communities, while also providing meaningful prayer:
who told us to look for you
in the isolated and the excluded,
bless, we pray, the efforts of Prison Hope
to stir up your Church.
Give us wisdom to restore the fallen,
encourage the fainthearted,
welcome the stranger
and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour –
even the redemption of our debt
through your grace and mercy.
To find out more about Prisons Week visit www.prisonsweek.org for information and prayer resources.
The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.