February 6—International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
February 6th is a day to promote the UN’s campaign to raise awareness and educate people about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Although often thought of as a traditional practice “of the past”, the UN statistics estimate that today over 200 million girls and women are living with the horrible effects of this practice. On February 6, 2003, Stella Obasanjo, the then First Lady of Nigeria and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, made the official declaration on "Zero Tolerance to FGM" in Africa during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). The UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted this day as an international awareness day. It is well recognized that FGM can lead to serious health problems, and can also have dire psychological consequences, affecting women for the rest of their lives. It is considered a form of violence against women and women in most countries still allowing this form of violence are
standing up and speaking out against FGM. Raising awareness of the practice and its harmful effects are the first steps towards eliminating this practice worldwide.
Holy One, thank you for the wonderful bodies with which you have gifted us. As a part of creation, our human bodies reveal the wonders of your divine presence with us. These “earthen vessels” have their origins in the same cosmic stardust that birthed the earth itself. Teach us to honor our bodies as to treat ourselves and one another with respect, honor, care and tenderness as we work to create a world free of all forms of violence.
February 8—International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) has designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. After gaining her freedom, Josephine became a Canossian nun, and dedicated her life to serving the poor and suffering and raising awareness about human trafficking. Since her canonization in 2ooo, she has become a symbol of the worldwide struggle against human trafficking. Today, the International Labor Office estimates that over 25 million children, women and men are victims of human trafficking. Pope Francis has stated “Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity.” “It’s a disgrace” that people are treated “as objects, deceived, raped, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally damaged, ending up thrown away and abandoned,” he said. (Source: Catholic news Services Dec 12, 2013) On this day, let us all educate ourselves about how to recognize and report suspected human trafficking, as we pray and work for an end to this modern-day form of slavery.
O God bless all those who are suffering as victims of human trafficking. May they come to know that they are not forgotten and give them the courage to look for a means of escaping this modern-day slavery. Give each of us open hearts so that we can recognize trafficking and report it to authorities for investigation. Never let us turn around and pretend that we don’t see. Help us to act to free our brothers and sisters. Open the hearts of those who profit from trafficking. Make them understand the pain they are causing and turn away from a way of life that exploits others. Help us all to grow in love, respect and empathy for one another.
February 11—World Day of the Sick
The World Day of the Sick was instituted in 1993 by Pope John Paul II and celebrated on the feast day of Lourdes. On this day, Catholics the world over pray for those who suffer from illness or injury, that they may be healed, comforted and cared for. It is also a day to pray for those who minister to the sick and injured, and to thank them for their generous and compassionate care for those who suffer. This is also a day to pray for those who do not have access to healthcare because of poverty, war, fear, poor nutrition or hopelessness. We remember how precious a gift good health is. We are grateful each day for those who care for us when we are sick and offer our love and assistance wherever we can to those who are ill and in need.
For Pope Francis’ address for 2020 World Day of the Sick go to:
God of healing, hope and wholeness, we thank you for all the ways that we experience good health. Help us to reach out to those who are sick, bringing them compassion, hope and care in whatever ways we can. Comfort those who suffer so that they will know your love through us.
February 20—World Day of Social Justice
Social Justice is the underlying principle that makes peaceful, respectful and cooperative coexistence among nations possible. The theme for 2020 is: If you want peace and development, work for social justice. The United Nations recognizes that social justice is the main principle for bringing about peace and sustainable development. No development is possible without a sustainable peace. All lasting peace must be built on a foundation of justice. Intimidation and war only stoke fear and distrust, and only serves to increase retaliation and violence. True justice can only be achieved through dialogue and open listening, that eventually can bring us to understand and respect one another.
Holy One, bless us as we encounter one another with openness and compassion, so that together we might create a world of justice and peace. Bring us to new levels of understanding as we learn to listen to one another and to share our stories.
February 23—International Stand Up to Bullying Day—wear a pink shirt
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. International Stand Up to Bullying Day is a day when people are urged to where pink shirts to indicate solidarity in their stance against bullying. The person who wears a pink shirt is letting victims of bullying know that they are willing to with that person to provide safety and security. The pink shirts worn on this day also let bullies know that many, many people are willing to provide safety to victims and will actively intervene to stop bullying.
God, we ask that you bless us with courage as we seek to confront and stop bullying. Help us to refuse to be silent when witnessing bullying, but to step forward in a loving and respectful way to put an end to it. We ask that you comfort those who suffer from bullying so that they will not sink into despair, loneliness and hopelessness. Help us to reach out to victims of bullying and to support them.
January 1—World Day of Peace
The World Day of Peace was inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris. This day call us to an awareness of the links between peace, poverty and the care of creation articulated in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. 2020 marks the 53rd annual World Day of Peace. The theme is PEACE AS A JOURNEY OF HOPE: DIALOGUE, RECONCILIATION AND ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION. War, violence, and the ecological damage caused by climate change have all contributed to the poverty and injustice that make true peace impossible. Restoring justice requires restoring balance in our world—respecting and protecting the balance in nature, working toward economic balance and equity, and working to build trust so that dialogue and openness replaces suspicion and violence. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, violence and war, but the presence of justice based on living in right relationship with one another and with all of creation. World peace must be built on a firm foundation of restorative justice, care for creation and sustainable human and community development.
Merciful God, grant us merciful hearts so that we can live in right relationship with each other and with all creation. Give us listening hearts to hear one another with compassion and understanding. Bless us with wisdom to respond in love to the cry of the poor and the cry of creation so that world peace can become a lived reality.
January 15—Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement to end racial segregation and injustice. This day is now celebrated around the world by those who long for freedom, justice and equality. His commitment to peaceful, active non-violence as a means by which to effect social change was inspired by and based on the life and teachings of Gandhi. He worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination in all aspects of life in the United States, including discrimination in housing, employment, education, voting, where a person could eat or drink, etc. He spoke out against war, which he knew was incapable of creating lasting peace and in which the poor suffered the most. Prior to his death, Martin Luther King Jr. was harassed, jailed, had his home attacked and was threatened with death. Yet he continued his steadfast life of non-violent resistance to injustice. His example continues to be a beacon around the world to those who still struggle for basic human rights and freedom. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee where he was joining sanitation workers demanding safer working conditions and a living wage.
Holy one, we thank you for the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Give us the courage we will need to stand up against injustice, despite threats, intimidation, violence and even death. Help us to dedicate ourselves to active non-violence—meeting fear with compassion and understanding, hatred with mercy and violence with love.
January 26—World Leprosy Day
World Leprosy Day is held on the January 26th, to raise consciousness about leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease. This is a day to raise consciousness about the prejudice and discrimination still faced to by those living with leprosy. Such discrimination often prevents those suffering with the disease from seeking treatment early. In many parts of the world, leprosy is poorly understood. This day is dedicated to education and a call to dedicate more resources to the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. With early treatment, cure is now possible, and victims can live normal, healthy lives. When left untreated, however, patients can suffer severe disabilities and disfigurement which can severely impact their quality of life.
Divine healer, we pray for all those who suffer from leprosy. May they have access to early treatment so that they can live normal, healthy lives. May they know the love and support of family and friends and not be shunned or discriminated against because of their illness.
January 27—International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust
International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust is held on January 27, the date in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. This worldwide day of remembrance serves as a somber reminder of the horror that human beings are capable of. This day calls all of us to conversion of heart so that such atrocities will never happen again. The holocaust resulted in the deaths of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 5 million Slavs, 3 million ethnic Poles, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. This is a day to recount the stories so that the lessons of history are not forgotten. The powerful forces of bigotry, racism, prejudice and hatred are still with us and must be guarded against and condemned. Let us stand against all attempts to divide us from one another. Let us live as brothers and sisters, extending love and compassion to all people. As survivors of the holocaust die, let us keep their stories alive and realize that silence is never an option in the face of such evil.
God, we pray for all victims of genocide, hatred, bigotry and racism. Give us the courage to stand up and speak out whenever these forces threaten us, or anyone, with harm. Help us to treat every person with respect, dignity, compassion and love. Give us compassionate hearts and a steadfast determination to never let such a holocaust happen again to anyone.