A Slovenian prayer service
Those who attended any of the World Day of Prayer events throughout Glengarry on Friday afternoon were presented a harrowing view of life in Slovenia.
It wasn't too long ago that Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, a socialist-communist state that was hardly friendly to people of faith. Indeed, during the World Day of Prayer service held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian in South Lancaster, congregants heard the story of Marjeta, who had learned about God from her widowed mother and grandmother. Because of her faith, Marjeta was unable to get a grant to continue her education after her high school graduation, so she had to study abroad.
Marjeta's story wasn't the only one told on Friday. There was also the story of Ema, who was born into a family of abusive alcoholics. She swore that she would never drink and that her own children wouldn't have to face such horrors. But after she married and started a family of her own, her husband's company went bankrupt and he wound up turning to booze for solace. Soon, he, too became abusive and poor Ema is constantly praying for her husband to seek help.
There was the story of Natasha, a Romani woman who, unlike many Roma in Slovenia, had a happy childhood. She almost never ex- perienced rejection because of her ethnicity, but that wasn't the case for her fellow Romani kids. Many of them live in houses without running water or electricity, have limited access to school, and are constantly mocked in school.
There was also the story of Mojca, whose boyfriend abandoned her when she, at age 21, told him she was pregnant. Without a man, she continued her studies and eventually found a husband. She found work as a researcher, though she longs for a more compassionate society that makes it easier to balance family life with work commitments.
The women mentioned were not at the service in St. Andrew's. Their stories were read by proxy by a number of local volunteers - Arlene Kentell, Sharon Mercer, Wendy Wert, Elaine Lalonde, Karen Davison-Wood, Denise Cullen, and Betty Doonan.
The World Day of Prayer is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian women who welcome believers to join in prayer and action for peace and justice. Every year, a different country is spotlighted; this year, the program was created by a group of women in Slovenia.
And despite the dour stories presented above, the tone of the service was one of optimism. God was praised for endowing Slovenia with natural beauty, “from the Pannonian Plains to hills to green forests and high mountains; from the mysterious Karst underworld to the coast of the Adriatic Sea.”
Things took a turn for the worse after World War II when the communist government deemed religion to be counter-productive; believers were imprisoned, persecuted, and given limited access to jobs. It wasn't until Slovenia obtained independence in 1991 that things started to get better, although, the program notes, that culturally “some prejudices still remain.”
Indeed, today, many Slovenes know what it's like to be a refugee or a migrant worker. Their prayer is that they not take their freedom for granted.
“We have to confess that now we tend to forget this experience when it comes to our attitude towards people who have had to leave their own ruined homes in search of peace and a better life,” read the program.
The St. Andrew's version of the event was led by Marjorie McArthur, a member of the church. She said that the World Day of Prayer is an annual tradition in this particular section of Glengarry. Every year, four churches celebrate it together - the other three are St. John in the Wildwood, Salem United, and St. Joseph's Catholic - and that the service rotates each year among the churches.
Other World Day of Prayer events were held in Glen Nevis, Maxville, and Martintown.