Prisons Week: A call to community
Christians across the UK are being invited to pray for prisoners during 'Prisons Week' from 17 to 23 November.
The campaign, which has been running since 1975 and uses the tagline 'Stand in the Light', aims to bring attention to the issues surrounding imprisonment.
With a committee made up of representatives from various Christian denominations and organisations supporting prisons ministry, it encourages churches and congregations to get involved with schemes run in their local prisons, challenging people to say "I'm in".
The committee have written a prayer that reflects their primary concerns, and summarises their heart for the week:
Lord, you offer freedom to all people.
We pray for those in prison.
Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist.
Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends,
Prison staff and all who care.
Heal those who have been wounded by the activities
of others, especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another.
To act justly,
love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in His strength
and in His Spirit, now and every day. Amen.
Chair of the organising committee Reverend Alison Tyler, said "We want to encourage people to consider how they might support the many organisations working with prisoners and ex-offenders, as well as their families."
This campaign comes as recent figures released by the Ministry of Justice reveal that 200,000 children were affected by the imprisonment of a parent in 2009, which is a greater number than experienced their parents' divorce.
85,000 people are currently in custody in England and Wales, and re-offending rates are high. Organisers behind Prisons Week contend that the social impact of crime and imprisonment means that the future of a generation is at risk, and action must be taken.
Right Reverend Nick Holtham, Bishop of Salisbury, has spoken out about the "high price" families often pay for a relative's offence, and has encouraged Christians to think about and pray for all those affected by crime; prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and prisons staff as well as victims.
He challenged congregations to consider how they could better be a neighbour in their communities, and to support the work already being undertaken by volunteers, churches and chaplaincies in prisons all over the UK.
Each day during the week there will be specific prayer requests, videos highlighting a particular issue such as caring for ex-offenders and how best to support victims of crime, and information about organisations who are already involved in prison ministry.
Resources for Prison Week can be found at www.prisonsweek.org